Saturday, April 13, 2002

Authors of Yesteryear, Part VI of VI

Of all the books I read as a kid, Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game was probably the one that got the most face time. Part murder mystery and part treasure hunt, this slightly surreal book told the tale of a deceased millionaire and the seemingly random people selected to be his heirs. The entire book turned out to be as twisty and convoluted as a movie like The Usual Suspects. If you've never read it, go check it out of the public library. It'll only take a few hours to read and would be well worth it.

Brian Jacques began the Redwall series several years ago. Like Watership Down, it featured mice and other woodland creatures with human characteristics, set in a swords and battles fantasy setting. All the mice sang interminable songs and all the moles said things like "Boo hurr!".

When the series first began, I liked it quite a bit. However, after Mossflower and Mattimeo, the series started to go downhill. It became readily apparent that every book was a template copy of the previous, with a different villain and new characters. These were big books too -- as big as any Harry Potter book today. I stopped getting new ones after The Bellmaker, simply because I could get the same effect by rereading one of the earlier books. The last time I was in Border's, there were two whole shelves full of books in this series, so the author must be alive and well.

On the other side of the mass-produced book coin is Franklin Dixon. Of course, there isn't really a Franklin Dixon -- that was the pen name used by the syndicate which churned out the Hardy Boys series. Anonymous authors would churn out a story or two, leading to the uneven quality of the stories. As a kid, I eventually read all the "original" Hardy Boy books, which must have numbered in the sixties. They may not have been literary masterworks, but they were good for a quick reading fix, and predictable enough to be comfortable. You had the Hardy brothers running around solving crimes, their fat friend, Chet, sitting in his jalopy being chubby, and then the two girlfriends who never did anything but act like girls of the fifties (Chet didn't get a girl, apparently, because he was chubby).

These authors don't account for the entirety of my early reading; I haven't even cracked the surface. I could spend another week talking about Choose Your Own Adventure books, the Lone Wolf series, Philip Pullman, and all the other forgettable series from the public library. For a more balanced view of the books I used to read, check out the Fiction section of the Reviews page.

The End

I finished my final project for Fugal Writing yesterday, and I've posted an MP3 and score of it on the Music page under "Smaller Works". It was fun to do, although I'll probably get called on the carpet for the chromaticism in my countersubject.

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