Monday, March 23, 2009

Good Bad Books*

About five years ago I got very ill very suddenly and got rushed to hospital; it was all very dramatic and a terrible worry for family and friends.

After a day in intensive care and another couple of days in critical care, the hospital released me and that was that.

But then a really strange thing happened; I stopped reading books for pleasure and only really looked at the pictures in magazines. For a total reading addict#, (pretty much a book a week, every week, from about the age of 13) this was a terrible shock.

After six months of no reading, and a strange kind of life that revolved around the gym and sleeping a lot and struggling terribly at work, I thought I must have sustained brain damage (I called it drain bamage ho ho) whilst unconscious and before intubation. Oh dear…

But the medics checked their records carefully and denied this; instead they spoke of how the body had sustained a massive physical shock and that IC outpatients often report psychological or physical after effects that last for months, and sometimes years after their discharge. Oh better…

Perhaps this reassurance was all that was necessary; within a month or two more, and without really realising it, I began to read for pleasure again. Part of that process seemed to involve revisiting the books of my childhood and early adolescence. There was nothing planned about this, at least initially – it just happened. The healing process is interesting and poorly understood...

So the next few entries in the blog are going to be about the pop literature of the 1970s – for some reason at around the age of 9 or 10 I went straight from Enid Blyton (The Famous Five, The Five Find Outers, The Secret Seven, etc etc) to Alistair MacLean, Brian Callison, Douglas Reeman and the slightly more respectable C.S Forester and Nicholas Monsarrat. That lot were my favourites; I think I’ve read every Alister MacLean novel but for the last few, which were poor anyway.

Interestingly, all have little or no sexual content what-so-ever (pre-adolescents find sex boring and incomprehensible) and the choices reflect my obsession with ships and the sea, which has never entirely gone away.

There were three exceptions to all this sea battle stuff:
And incredibly,
I re-read all of that exceptional group of three, along with a solitary Brian Callison, called A Ship is Dying (1976) – find out how they stack-up over 30 years since the last reading.

* The title of this entry is of course nicked from a famous George Orwell essay on the popular fiction of his day.

# Those that know, know; reading for pleasure is as addictive as heroin.