The Sword and Laser discussion

Reading as an adult versus reading as a teen

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message 1: by Brad T. (new)

Brad T. | 217 comments I started reading sci-fi/fantasy when I was 14 years old back in 1980. Over the course of my teen aged years, I enjoyed what I refer to as the classics although some readers older than me might laugh at that. I think of the books that I loved the most such as Elric of Melnibone, Valentine's Castle, the Shannara series, and many more.

Recently I tried to pick up several of these books and I was appalled at how poorly written they seemed to be. Was I mistaken when I first read them or have my tastes changed that much over the years.

After a lot of thought, I believe what I have come up with is that my tastes have matured. These classics that I refer to are avatars of sci-fi and fantasy. What I mean by that is that they are the classic, "Hey guys, lets go on an adventure tale." They take the reader on a Dungeons and Dragons like adventure of start here and end there and have a bunch of seemingly random encounters along the way.

I think that what we are reading now has started down new path ways. They seem to be have characters that are multidimensional and the journey that we take is more internal than external.

What do you think? have you experienced a similar experience in reading something as an adult that you originally read as a teen and loved?

What have you tried rereading recently that you just had to put back down because you couldnt stand to ruin your original memory of it. (Thieves' World for me and The Elfstones of Shannara)

message 2: by Isaiah (new)

Isaiah | 74 comments I think that as we mature our tastes do change a lot. I can and do reread certain books I enjoyed as a kid ( The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings), but then there are some I know wouldn't be as enjoyable now. Not because they are bad books, or poorly written, but because they are intended for a younger audience, or I have changed a lot in my own tastes and preferences. For me, I have trouble reading the Narnia books now, but as a kid I absolutely loved them. I havent tried reading the Shannara trilogy again, but I think I'd have a similar reaction. I too read them when I was 13 or 14, and I dont think they'd be as enticing now.

message 3: by Aethelberga (new)

Aethelberga | 35 comments Honestly, I found that with some of the Anne McCaffrey novels. It wasn't so much that they were badly written (they weren't necessarily) but that I had gone off her style & language. I also agree with Isaiah that once loved novels are targeted at an age younger than one remembers. I wonder how that will play out with so many mainstream books being young adult nowadays.

message 4: by kvon (new)

kvon | 554 comments Ah, you've been visited by the Suck Fairy. Sorry to hear it. Neil Hancock is the one I'm afraid to go back and reread.

message 5: by Michal (new)

Michal (MichaltheAssistantPigkeeper) | 290 comments Heh, I'm fine with *most* of my teen reading, though my taste (and worldview) has certainly changed. I can't stand Orson Scott Card these days, but I didn't enjoy his books all that much back then, either. Lloyd Alexander is still one of my favourite authors. I tended to read classics back then too, so Cervantes and Jules Verne and Leo Tolstoy are still on the shelf.

However, Weis & Hickman have gone the way of old shames.

message 6: by Mike (last edited Jan 03, 2012 10:04AM) (new)

Mike Betts (michaelbetts) | 256 comments I think it's ok to say that some things we liked as children or teenagers are, indeed, of lower quality than we might remember. That isn't to say they didn't accomplish their goal, i.e. entertain a child, but they aren't necessarily defensible as adults either.

I think that as adults, our tastes do mature. What we find interesting in life is much different at age 30 than 14. And as our free time shrinks, and we possibly read more and more, our demands for quality tend to go up.

I personally hold to the arrogant view that quality is an objective attribute that can be measured to an extent. Entertainment value is subjective. So while the quality of books never changes once it's published, our ability to be entertained/intrigued by it does.

message 7: by Kris (new)

Kris (KVolk) | 796 comments I find my tastes definitely change over time and that books that held great appeal when I was a teen don't have that same attraction now. I do find that rereading them can change my perception but I also enjoy seeing what impact they have now compared to what I remembered from the intial time I read it. Michael Moorcock fantasy works are one set of books that this happened with for me.

message 8: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (Pezski) | 401 comments This is also a problem revisiting old, beloved TV shows. They rarely love up to memory.

I think we are definitely less critical when we're young - on the one hand less jaded, but also less experienced so having less references. Especially when discovering a new genre, and perhaps even more so when it is something as literally fantastic as SF or fantasy, we probably get swept away more readily.

The 80s did seem to have an explosion of multi-volume, epic sword and sorcery fantasy, that pretty much put me off the genre for a long time. My huge love was Tolkien, and I think he bears up pretty well, and I absolutely agree about Lloyd Alexander. I read a lot of old SF, too, of the tentacles and ray guns variety (EE 'Doc' Smith, etc) along with Robert E Howard, and that stuff is pretty creaky now.

message 9: by Skip (new)

Skip | 513 comments There are a couple of issues I find when re-reading books I loved. Some just weren't as well written as you remember and having read better authors in and out of the genre makes you more critical as an older reader.

Sometimes it is a matter of time, technology, and experience. For instance, Neuromancer is still a good read, but reading it as a new book was a different experience because so much of the language was new. Other books fare less well, I reread The Peace War and some of the language and technology was decidedly dated. The story was still good, but the experience was less for the disconnect.

Some of it is just me as a reader. I have different tastes than I did 10 years ago, 20 years ago, or when I started reading. I am pickier because my time is more limited. I like S&L because it gives me a reason to read something I might not have tried otherwise.

message 10: by Jlawrence, S&L Forum Mod (new)

Jlawrence | 876 comments Mod
I've had varying experiences revisiting teenage favorites.

Sometimes it's pretty painful - re-reading bits of Piers Anthony's science fiction and his Xanth series for example (...but, if I'm completely honest, some of the later books in that series even annoyed back then when they became a collection of bad puns barely strung together by a shoddy plot).

When I've re-read Harlan Ellison, I don't find his stuff bad, but kind of over-reaching for effect and not having the impact it did on me originally.

Some I've revisited are still quite good but I am more aware of where they are clunky - Dune and other Herbert books are like that for me now. Still strong and interesting but I will also find myself thinking "ah, here the Baron chortles and explains his plan like a cardboard-cut-out villain" (though (view spoiler)), "ah, here again two characters explain something they already both know intimately, purely for the benefit of the reader", etc.

A Wizard of Earthsea was an example that was just as solid upon the re-read as I had remembered.

There's many factors that go into the experience of reading something. Like others have said, the more I've read, the more I've been exposed to some really good writing both in genre and mainstream fiction, and that makes it harder to swallow poor or even mediocre writing -- often a big stumbling block when revisiting something that held a nostalgic glow in memory. And, like others have said, some of it is simply my tastes having changed.

Paul 'Pezski' wrote: "This is also a problem revisiting old, beloved TV shows."

Oh man, when I tried to re-watch Space:1999 episodes...

message 11: by Al (new)

Al | 159 comments Rereading:
Doc EE Smith was painful.
Andre Norton not so bad.
Conan still rocks it.

Read Lloyd Alexander to my son: big fun for all ages.

message 12: by Quasar (new)

Quasar | 33 comments I pretty much never notice this. At least when it comes to stories I'm rereading. Or at least it does not impact my reading enjoyment.

Thus for instance I reread last year Dragonlance Chronicles and Dragonlance Legends and had as much fun rereading those as I expected to.

message 13: by Esther (last edited Jan 07, 2012 12:53AM) (new)

Esther (eshchory) | 148 comments I read a lot of John Christopher as a pre-teen/teen and thought they were fantastic. A reread of The Lotus Caves dissappointed me as it was too slow moving and had a 1960s-1970s vibe.
As an older teen I read his The Death of Grass which I think would stand up better to a reread.

Most disapointing is Penelope Lively. Her children's books The Ghost of Thomas Kempe and The House in Norham Gardens are just as good on rereading but she wins awards for her adult novels which for me are that nasty mix of boring and annoyingly pretentious.

message 14: by Therazor (new)

Therazor | 15 comments Have you ever gone back to watch those movies that we all held dearly as a child. Most do not hold up and are cheesy, poorly acted, or are predictable.

message 15: by Micah (new)

Micah (onemorebaker) | 1071 comments Therazor wrote: "Have you ever gone back to watch those movies that we all held dearly as a child. Most do not hold up and are cheesy, poorly acted, or are predictable."

you should listen to "The Film Sack" podcast from Scott Johnson and friends. Its on the same "network" that provides us S&L. This is basically the premise of the show. Watch the movies that everybody thought was great back in the day and review them. Its great. One of my few must listen to items nowadays.

message 16: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 5014 comments I thought that said 'reading as an adulterous'.

message 17: by Jason (new)

Jason Bergman (loonyboi) | 166 comments I decided that this year I'm going to re-read a bunch of my favorite fantasy novels from my childhood...gonna start with The Hobbit and then move on to C.S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander. We'll see how much all of that holds up.

I last read The Hobbit about ten years ago, so that seems pretty much guaranteed to be fine. The others...we'll see.

message 18: by Therazor (new)

Therazor | 15 comments Micah wrote:

you should listen to "The ..."

Thanks will give it a listen.

message 19: by Bree (new)

Bree (breeatlast) | 52 comments I think the books that were my favorites are ones that have held up over the years -- definitely the Earthsea Cycle, the Prydain Chronicles, and most Robin McKinley books. I still re-read The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown annually. :)

message 20: by Sam (new)

Sam | 32 comments I agree with the OP here that I tend find some of those early fantasy books (for me it was the key Dragonlance trilogies) are of a theme that I don't find as interesting anymore. I haven't tried to reread them in a few years now, but I recall the last time I went through them, it was really more a skimming and reminiscing about those old characters. Actually I found that it was as much about the nostalgia of it as much as anything. I find similar feelings listening to CDs from that time frame and the memories that come forth.

message 21: by Bryan (new)

Bryan | 18 comments I had a similar experience with Terry Brooks. I probably first read him at 14ish too. I liked his books and read them all. I just think that as we read more we are better able to recognise the good vs the mediocre. And mediocre writing can be fine early on.

message 22: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 1075 comments Bryan wrote: "I had a similar experience with Terry Brooks. I probably first read him at 14ish too. I liked his books and read them all. I just think that as we read more we are better able to recognise the goo..."

I agree. A lot of people discover him as a teenager as a gateway to fantasy, but once people read more deeper into fantasy, they always see there are better authors. Plus all his books are still the same in structure, even after all this time.

message 23: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (Mistborn22) Even as I mature some of the ways I read novels change but not my overall taste. I remain in an interesting mental state. A state where I can appreciate things targeted at younger audiences but can enjoy more 'adult' books. I've always had a mind that was more mature than my years yet I'm always able to bend my mind to appreciate books of lower quality. If a story is good I'll ignore the flaws. If not they'll be a wall in my way.

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Books mentioned in this topic

Thieves' World (other topics)
The Elfstones of Shannara (other topics)
The Peace War (other topics)
Neuromancer (other topics)
A Wizard of Earthsea (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Michael Moorcock (other topics)
E.E. "Doc" Smith (other topics)
Robert E. Howard (other topics)
John Christopher (other topics)
Penelope Lively (other topics)