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Dinosaur Comics tackles the suck fairy

Today's Dinosaur Comics takes on that painful experience, the rereading of a childhood favorite and the discovery that it's not at all the book you remembered. A lot of times in SFF circles I see this talked about in terms of tripping over biases or stereotypes that you didn't notice or question when you were younger, though sometimes people also talk tone or writing style disappointing them on a reread. But Ryan North gets at a more fundamental fact of rereading--that our experience of a story isn't determined entirely by the text.

Original location is here


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 8th, 2016 12:26 pm (UTC)
Yes, exactly! On the rare occasions when the suck fairy has visited something for me, it has always been that what i loved and wanted in the piece was something spurious, self-chuffing, and sickly.
Apr. 8th, 2016 12:32 pm (UTC)
I haven't really experienced it with childhood favorites, I think because the only things in my box called "favorites" are things I kept on checking up with over the years, so I came into knowledge of their flaws slowly and gently, and still loved them for whatever reasons I loved them. But I've certainly had it happen just with books (and songs and places) in general--I'll read something (or taste something, or go somewhere) in one frame of mind, and it's a staggering experience, and then I go again in a different frame of mind, different circumstances, and the experience is different. ... I guess by bringing in other kinds of experience, I'm getting away from what Ryan was really focusing on, which is the interaction between text and reader, but what makes that an ever-changing experience is changes in **us**. We never step in the same river twice, but we're never the same person twice, either. Lots of continuities, sure, but differences, too.
Apr. 8th, 2016 02:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes. I went to a panel on Alan Garner at the recent Eastercon SF convention and I had to admit that I hadn't dared re-read The Weirdstone of Brisingament or The Moon of Gomrath because I feared that the suck fairies had been at them since I fell in love with them in my mid-teens.

Partly that's because they were his first novels and he became a better writer later, but also because as well as being very much a writer who is very strong on place, the books are very much fixed in time too. I only managed to re-read The Owl Service (which was a Carnegie winner and thus definitely good writing) recently by treating it as a period piece.

Whereas The Hobbit and even the Narnia books haven't suffered in the same way, perhaps because (as you said) I'd read them to my children so there hadn't been that yawning gap between being in love with the story as a teen and then re-reading as an adult.
Apr. 8th, 2016 10:47 pm (UTC)
I think too, you can love something with a different sort of an affection when you read it as an adult--sort of a more knowing, encompassing, but also forgiving way--like loving someone as a complete person rather than loving in an infatuated way. It sounds sort of like that's what you did with The Owl Service.
Apr. 8th, 2016 03:22 pm (UTC)
This is so true!
Apr. 8th, 2016 10:47 pm (UTC)
Yeah--it's brilliant, isn't it?
Apr. 8th, 2016 03:51 pm (UTC)
That's brilliant!
Apr. 8th, 2016 10:48 pm (UTC)
Definitely, definitelyQ
Apr. 8th, 2016 04:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, so true. Once in a while I can see what thrilled the kid me, but I'm watching over my shoulder, not experiencing the thrill.
Apr. 8th, 2016 10:56 pm (UTC)
I haven't had it happen in quite the painful way that some people have, but I think it's because the only things that I've kept in my category of favorites are ones that I keep on revisiting, so my appreciation of them has evolved.

But I've definitely had the shine go off things that *weren't* big favorites.
Apr. 8th, 2016 05:08 pm (UTC)
I must be odd, because I re-read these books to remember young-me's headspace, and derive great pleasure from the ability to live in what would otherwise be a lost memory to me. I don't expect Middle-Aged-Me to enjoy The Black Stallion books in new and different ways... I expect to remember Young-Me's excitement with them, and what things they made her ponder, and how they fit into her life. And I do, and I think: "How wonderful that I can store myself in these books, like a time capsule."

Nostalgia has a useful place. :)
Apr. 8th, 2016 06:28 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's exactly how I experience the rereading of childhood favorites. I might cringe at my younger self sometimes, but that was mostly a phase that passed as I got older. Now it's just part of history.

Apr. 8th, 2016 10:59 pm (UTC)
There's a lot about my younger self that makes me cringe, but not her reading material!
Apr. 9th, 2016 02:11 am (UTC)
I went through a time when I dismissed a lot of my childhood favorites and even got rid of some books. Then I just had to find them and buy them again. I also did suffer from the discovery that the richness and length of some books read when I was quite young was an artifact of my youth and vivid imagination. So it wasn't quite the suck fairy or anything like that, but I had to reimagine how to love those books in my thirties; that's when I really managed to recapture my original reaction and use the memories. I read them in a layered way now, because I do pick up on things I didn't get originally.

My cringing is mostly of the, "How did I not notice that?" variety, and includes a complete failure to see how funny Middlemarch is until I was in my forties.

Apr. 9th, 2016 05:42 pm (UTC)
I've definitely had it be that what I loved about something in the past was just the straight story, which was exciting and rich, and when I read it later, I see that the writing is pretty pedestrian--but it was clearly plenty good enough to conjure worlds and characters when I first read it.

Regarding Middlemarch, I think a *lot* of classics are way funnier than we can recognize if we're first brought to them as brow-beaten students. The healing angel has to read Brave New World for class. I read the opening scene (I've never actually read it, myself), and it has students furiously copying down word-for-word things that the instructor is saying to them. It's funny! But I doubt I'd have noticed it if I was being taught it in high school.
Apr. 8th, 2016 10:58 pm (UTC)
That's neat--it's like reading the books unfolds memories for you. Like when smells suddenly yank you back to a past time and place (but probably more cerebral, less visceral?)
Apr. 8th, 2016 11:02 pm (UTC)
Exactly. I have a very bad memory, usually, but I can anchor memories in paper, either words or visuals. When I go back to these old books, I am blessed with flashbacks that otherwise would never come back to me, like a glimpse of the library I checked it out at, or a schoolbook it was sitting with, or a drawing it made me want to draw, or the smell of summer in the sunroom where I liked to read.

I remember being young-me then, and I remember her, too, through those little flashbacks. Maybe these books hold nothing for adult-me on re-reading. But I remember how much they meant to young, formative me, and young-me and old-me meet and smile, and for a while we are cognizant of one another.
Apr. 9th, 2016 12:01 am (UTC)
Maybe these books hold nothing for adult-me on re-reading. But I remember how much they meant to young, formative me, and young-me and old-me meet and smile, and for a while we are cognizant of one another.

That makes a lot of sense to me. (See comment below, if desired.) I can also often remember where I was the first time I read something, or even the second or third, which is impressive considering that most of my childhood was marked by the ability to tune out all surroundings in favor of whatever I was reading at the time.
Apr. 8th, 2016 05:22 pm (UTC)
Those are smart dinosaurs. I told you of a movie I loved because it captured my memory of night in big city bus stations. I think I saw an entirely different movie from what others saw.
Apr. 8th, 2016 10:59 pm (UTC)
I've had that happen too--it's very disorienting.
Apr. 8th, 2016 11:59 pm (UTC)
I told you of a movie I loved because it captured my memory of night in big city bus stations. I think I saw an entirely different movie from what others saw.

Which movie was it?
Apr. 9th, 2016 02:07 am (UTC)
Miracle Mile from 1988.
Apr. 9th, 2016 02:17 am (UTC)
Miracle Mile from 1988.

I have not seen it, but I will assume it is not primarily about bus stations.
Apr. 9th, 2016 04:29 am (UTC)
Here is Ebert’s review.
Most of the movie was set between midnight and dawn.
I traveled by bus across the country and spent several nights in big city bus stations. The atmosphere of the movie was the atmosphere I felt in Kansas City and Chicago at three in the morning.
Apr. 8th, 2016 06:34 pm (UTC)
I had that experience when I listened to some tapes I made back in high school.
Apr. 8th, 2016 11:00 pm (UTC)
You didn't like the music anymore?
Apr. 9th, 2016 12:05 am (UTC)
Right. This was in the days of 6 gigabyte hard drives. So I think it has to do with the music I was exposed to in those days vs the music I'm exposed to now.
Apr. 8th, 2016 11:59 pm (UTC)
I feel lucky: I have very rarely had the experience of a book I like being visited by the Lukewarm Garbage Fairy. If I loved something as I a child, I can usually see what I loved in it as an adult, even if it doesn't affect me as powerfully or even in the same way. It may be weird or embarrassing or no longer one of my priorities! But I can't remember the last time it was a complete disappointment.
Apr. 9th, 2016 05:44 pm (UTC)
This is pretty much my experience too. If it was that important to me as child, I can still appreciate it for those reasons now, even if I'm also aware of other things that I wasn't aware of when I read it initially.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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