Reflections on re-reading favourites

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Alia

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« on: March 05, 2014, 07:42:21 pm »
So, I've decided to write a longer post based on something I talked about in the Quorum - that is, re-reading books that were my favourites when I was a teen (let's say, secondary school age, 14-18). And re-reading them in English now.
This idea came upon me some time last year when I suddenly realised that Howard's work is now in public domain. So I downloaded everything that was available on Project Gutenberg and got to reading. And I was surprised. I quite liked Conan when I was a teen, but on second reading (in original) I was rather disappointed. Now, it's possible that when I was younger, I did not notice rather obvious racism and naive glorification of our honest, if sometimes amoral barbarian, as compared to degenerate civilised races. But I'm pretty sure that our translators improved at least the language - quality of language is something that I've been very sensitive to, even as a teen.

And then I decided to try my all-time teenage favourite, that is Karl Wagner's "Kane" series. Also in English. I'm halfway through it now and I'm astonished at my own enjoyment.
First of all, Wagner's books had really awful translations (yes, that's something I could notice even then). In early 1990s, after the fall of the communist regime, a lot of small publishing houses opened and they started literally spewing out translations of books that were not available earlier. Some chose LeCarre, Follet and McLean, and some chose fantasy and s-f. And they were in such hurry that they sometimes divided one book among three or four translators - you can guess the results. Now, reading in English, I'm really impressed. Wagner's language is very rich (sometimes surprisingly so - but then, Kane is not your average dumb sword-wielder) and vivid, really fascinating.
But that's not all. 20 years later, I have a lot more reading experience, not to mention some formal education in it. Which means that I notice much more. Like - if a book has a motto from Lovecraft, then you really should not expect a typical sword and sorcery. And then, there is this lovely little detail - when we meet our protagonist for the first time, it's a dark and stormy night.   8)

Next in line - Zelazny's "Amber Chronicles". Here, on the other hand, I am sure that the translation was OK, I know the translator and he's really good. But I wonder how much more I will notice, things that I missed because I was too young and too inexperienced.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

Royce

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« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2014, 12:07:54 pm »
I know for certain that the stuff I read 20 years ago, has practically zero value to the person I am today, so I never bothered with catching up like that. Although I can see the fun in it for nostalgic reasons.

Alia

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« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2014, 06:01:13 pm »
Yes, it's mostly for nostalgic reasons. And I also wanted to check, in a way, what I would think about my literary taste from that times now. As it turns out, it wasn't that awful.
(Fortunately, there were no paranormal romances then. I'm sure that if I were 13 now, I would love the likes of Cassandra Clare or Lauren Kate. And that would be embarassing later.)
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

EkyannusIII

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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2014, 06:40:15 pm »
This seems like a good thread to ask a devil's advocate question. 

We're talking about reading things from twenty years ago. Which makes me wonder about authors that have been working for that length of time. Is there such a thing as a career that has simply lasted too long? I overheard a radio ad for a Jimmy Buffett concert not to long ago and thought, "This man has been making music for longer than I have been alive. Shouldn't he have gone on to something else by now?" What if a decades-long career indicates a failure of growth, and a sort of fixity of personality that is unhealthy and prevents further development?
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if Kellhus was thinking all of this, he's going to freak out when he get's back and Kelmomas is all "i lieks to eatum peeples da"

the whole thing is orchestrated by Kellhus who is wearing a Bashrag as if it were a suit

Alia

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« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2014, 06:43:54 am »
I don't agree with that, as long as your life-long career in one medium is not just rehashing the same old stuff that your readers/listners/viewers love.
Now, I'm a huge fan of late Lou Reed. His career lasted 40+ years, but it certainly does not indicate a failure of growth. He moved from genre to genre, he involved himself in different musical projects, including "The Raven" (a concept album about Poe) and "Lulu" (a collaboration with Metallica). And while I dislike the latter very much, it certainly shows his ability to grow. And the other thing - he always had something important and often painful to say.
As for writers - if you follow a career of one writer for some years, in some cases you may get bored and finally stop reading him/her. But then, there are writers who are constantly developing, improving their writing and you can only admire that. I've been reading Pratchett from the very beginning of his writing career, from book one of "Discworld". And while it's a very long series, taking place in the same world, with some characters reappearing, it's changed so much over the years that I can only admire Pratchett (and ultimately mourn his untimely illness).
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

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« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2014, 01:12:29 pm »
Now, I'm a huge fan of late Lou Reed. His career lasted 40+ years, but it certainly does not indicate a failure of growth. He moved from genre to genre, he involved himself in different musical projects, including "The Raven" (a concept album about Poe) and "Lulu" (a collaboration with Metallica). And while I dislike the latter very much, it certainly shows his ability to grow. And the other thing - he always had something important and often painful to say.

...

(and ultimately mourn his untimely illness).

+1 the music analogies. I think there is so little art in the world anymore and if there are people who want to commit themselves to being a medium for profundity, let them do so. Stagnation, or destruction, is an inevitable risk of any obsession with an idea.

And I am also saddened by Pratchett's slow demise... :(.
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Alia

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« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2014, 05:26:32 am »
So, I was recently at a convention. And on a panel devoted to science-fiction Charles Stross said something that fits very nicely to this topic. He said that it's not a problem really, if science-fiction gets outdated due to advancements in science (take this famous quote from Gibson - "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." I can still remember what it means but how many people in 10-20 years will?). But he also said that it's very sad when you return to a book you really liked and realise it's grown outdated in ideological terms - for example, in its carefree treatment of racial or gender issues. And that really struck a chord with me.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

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« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2014, 01:41:40 pm »
Neuromance quote :). And I agree, outdated ideologically is far worse for a book and might make an otherwise great novel nigh unreadable.
One of the other conditions of possibility.

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« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2014, 04:09:04 am »
@ Alia - Three cheers for Pratchett!!!  I like him so much I got a Pratchett tattoo.  I have read/listened to the Moist books multiple times.  If you like TP in English, see if you can get a hold of his audiobooks.  Stephen Briggs reads them and they are just amazing!  Especially the Tiffany Aching books.  :)