RARA-AVIS: Re: You're HOW old?

From: Greg Swan ( greg@swans.org)
Date: 06 Jan 2000

An autobiography of my reading, eh? Nice to meet all you people.

My reading of novels started in third grade with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Elementary school was pretty much fantasy and pulp adventure like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Roger Zelazny or Doc Savage, shading into more noir works like Moorcock toward the end. Junior high added a bit of the counter-cultural: Vonnegut, Casteneda, Woody Allen. Highschool added dreary Eastern Europeans and existentialist writers: Camus, Sarte, Kafka, Dostoevsky. In college, I piled on the non-fiction in most categories. In my thirties I read lots of third world stuff, paying particular attention to folks like Garcia-Marquez, Amado, Frere and the works of French post-modernists.

These genres have pretty much made up my reading pallette, until the last several years. Despite dogged effort, I've not learned to like spy fiction or mysteries. Mysteries, in particular, annoy me. I've always believed that, once the guy was dead, the story was over. I'm uninterested in who did it. This used to frustrate my spouse, because I'd watch one of her mystery programs until the murder occured, then go do something else. Instead, I'm more interested in the whys, both psychological and cultural. Unfortunately, "motives" never seemed to provide a satisfying answer to the why? question.

For some reason, however, I have found Max Allan Collins' work to be very enjoyable. And that has brought me into the mystery aisles once or twice a year.

A few years back, the cover art on the Vintage Black Lizard reprints caught my eye as I walked past. I bought a few at a used bookstore and read Willeford's Pick-Up. This "mystery" lacked both murder AND detection. Instead, it was a psychological exploration and, while about death to some degree, was also about existential life. Since then, I've acquired and read a lot of similar books. My eyes still glaze over if I read a detective book by, say, Agatha Christie or Ross McDonald. (Although, I think someone's mention of McDonald's Freudian therapy will probably prove the key for me to understand and appreciate the next McDonald I read.)

Greg Swan, now forty-something.

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