The books of my youth

Lately I’ve been rereading a lot of books I read when I was a teenager. It has to be said that this is more through accident than design. I just happened to download a bunch of stuff that was familiar to me. It surprised me how much my tastes have changed while my style has stayed the same. I still dislike Charles Dickens. I still find Shakespeare hard to read. I’m still putting other books on my tbr pile ahead of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I still love fantasy epics. I’m still a sucker for an embittered hero. It’s the writing style where I’m seeing the change.

I used to adore Stephen Donaldsen. I had all his books. I loved his characters, how immensely complex his worlds were. He was one of my favourite (if not THE favourite) authors all through senior school. A decade later I’ve come back to The Gap Sequence and somehow I’m finding it incredibly hard going. I’m finding the language pretentious, the constant breaks for ‘ancillary documentation’ both irritating and boring and the constant sexual denigration to be a little…well…it grieves me to say it but it’s almost peurile. I don’t understand how I’ve changed so much. I find I want to read his other books all over again to see how far the rot extends.

I have on my kindle 2 epic fantasy series that I read as a young teenager, or at least started reading. I think each got to book 6 or 7 in each series before I could no longer afford to purchase books! Now I find I’m scared to read them. My teenage years were a difficult time for me. I was monstrously ugly and a nerd to boot. I was unhappy at school, unhappy at home and very unhappy in my own skin. Books kept me together by keeping me apart. Life was bearable when all I had to do to run away was turn a page.

So now I have this very real fear that the one bearable part of my formative years is maybe not as great as I remember it to be and I don’t know if I’m brave enough to embark on this once familiar journey now that I am older, wiser and with more scars.

What if these books, that have been carefully stored away in case my heart one day requires a refuge, are no longer as transformative for me as they once were? Will my safety blanket be ripped away or will I grow and adapt, find new worlds of refuge? I guess only time (and a second or third reading!) will tell.

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