June 03, 2013

An old one in between

...  It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. ... 

So says C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

I rather like this idea, but he fails to explain how old is old.  Maybe it was less arbitrary in his day when new probably extended to anything published within the first half of the 20th Century and old applied to books written before he was born. (They might even be olde in that case.)

Nowadays in the modern publishing world, even last month's best-seller might be considered old.

Just for argument's sake – and if it hasn't been remaindered or pulped within a year - let's consider a book is new for five years. When the author has whizzed through the writing festivals and TV chat shows, the book clubs have forgotten why they gushed, the reviews have been archived, and the Amazon stats have slumped down to a six figure number, then that means old.

I'd love to read more new books, but with my bed-side and study TBR (to be read) stacks almost scraping the ceiling, not to mention the virtual queue on my Kindle, there's no way I'm ever going to be reading lots of new within five years, so all my books might be considered old by the time I get around to them – if I ever do – and that's another problem I might be too old myself to be bothered. All my plans to catch up in my retirement on 1,000 page monsters like Middlemarch or Poor Fellow My Country or to re-read War & Peace or the complete Charles Dickens and Waverley Novels or the Chronicles of Narnia (sorry C.S.) just ain't going to happen. My attention span just can't cope.

I'm beginning to consider another C.S. Lewis quote

Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

I really like that idea. In fact, I've already started to remind myself of some of them now that I've got grandchildren. Only, of course, I've discovered that political correctness has wormed its way into fairy tales. 

Nobody ends up getting cooked by witches or eaten by wolves any more and even that old lady doesn't pop from eating spiders and all those other things that used to wriggle and jiggle inside her. 

I protest! Bring back oldor even better - olde - in fairy stories. It's very strange why Grimm Brothers, et al have been sanitized in new versions, because modern kids don't seem to scare as easily as we did in the past. They like big scary monsters with big scary teeth, vampire dolls, and horrible trucks and cars with wheels that turn into fangs and talons that creep me out. 

Maybe it has something to do with our imaginations back then, that they were more vivid because we didn't see monsters, vampires, and such in the normal course of an average day like they do. I wonder what they'll think if I read them The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Hm, or maybe there's a new version of that too, sans lions, sans witches, and no creepy wardrobe ...


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