When Old Favorite Titles Disappoint You

Posted on 06/23/2015 in Discussion / 9 Comments

Bookshelfery - Discussion Time

When I was a kid, I read a lot of science-fiction and fantasy, because that’s what my stepfather had on his bookshelves, and rather than incuring library late fees because I perpetually didn’t turn books back in on time, I perused his shelves for new reading material.  Looking back, I realize that this was such a good thing, because I found the adult science-fiction/fantasy genre challenging to my 13-year-old mind.  Those books demanded I think about more than the trivial and often minute happenings of a child’s book like Sweet Valley High. (And by no means am I claiming that YA is a trivial genre; it isn’t, which is proven with wonderful literature enjoyed by many adults.  But when I was 13, the messages and deeper meanings of those YA stories were lost on me.) SFF required I pay attention and give it my all, and I did.  The first science-fiction/fantasy book I ever read was Being A Green Mother by Piers Anthony.  It was the fifth book in the Incarnations of Immortality series and I was hooked by the beautiful woman on the cover who portrayed an air of mystery and sexiness. I went on to devour that entire series, so many times over that my stepdad’s copies began to get curling pages and broken spines (ahhhh, the life of a mass-market paperback…).  He eventually bought me my own set, brand-spanking-new, for Christmas.  Because I loved that series so much, I also read The Blue Adept series by the same author.  In some respects, I loved that series even more,  because it was so fantastical that I just got lost in the worlds (yep, worlds as in plural!). So imagine my excitement when I received an email with a list of audios I could review and the Blue Adept series was on it!  I asked for all three books, and was happily obliged. After receiving them, I immediately began listening. And not enjoying it.  🙁 disappointed Traber Burns is an excellent narrator with a wonderfully deep and rich voice, so he wasn’t at fault for my lack of enthusiasm.  But what was?  I struggled for weeks trying to figure out why I wasn’t liking one of my favorite series as a kid. As I listened to it further, it occurred to me: Piers Anthony wrote incredibly sexist novels.  In the 90s, I wasn’t very aware of sexism.  I came from a moderately traditional home, where, for the most part, my mom stayed home and ran her own home business and my stepdad worked.  Back then, sexism to me was some a thing people may have talked about (and not really, because I grew up in a Southern community where many moms stayed home to maintain their households), but it wasn’t something that I thought about all that much, because I didn’t need to.  As such, my enjoyment of all kinds of books was prety vast and there wasn’t anything that actually made me take pause of its material. Listening to the obvious gender stereotyping Anthony used in his story, right down to the description of naked women of such fine features that they are obviously the only kind of women that men like to look that or are attracted to, I became…well, kind of sad, actually.  I didn’t want to keep listening to it, because while I wasn’t offended, it kind of miffed me to think that he put all women in that box.  So I DNF’d a book I enjoyed so much in my youth.  A book I was really looking forward to reliving once again. So one of my favorite titles disappointed me more than I can even articulate.  There is a kind of sadness in that.  Like the magic is gone from it. I don’t really blame Anthony.  He wrote for his demographic in a time when readers were much more tolerant to such obvious tropes as his.  He is a product of his generation, but his books – or at the very least, this particular series – is no longer relevant to me. Have any of you ever experienced this?  If so, let me know in the comments, because I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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Jennifer became addicted to books when she randomly picked up a Sweet Valley High book in grade school. She never looked back. After blowing through the SVH and SVU series faster than her parents could put them in her hands, she began perusing her stepfather's bookshelves and reading fantasy like Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series, which she still maintains is some of the best fantasy ever. She collects books like the Duggar family collects kids and began waiting for her Hogwarts letter at the tender age of 33.

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9 responses to “When Old Favorite Titles Disappoint You

  1. Not really. I tend to listen/read my old favorites with the fact in mind that the 80s/90s were very different as far as male roles and female roles. I don’t usually suggest them to people though and that is the difference between then/now. I am fine with the backwards roles that would drive me nuts in lit today but then again I was a fan of bodice rippers. That being said I am currently reading Kristen Ashley’s me man, you woman series and it is very harken back to 90’s type of alpha man. It is like crack to me but I can’t say I like them. Maybe that is how I read the old ones. I love to read them but can’t say I love the actions of the characters.
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    • That’s a good mindset and a way to put it. I may revisit them, but I think I was just startled, because I didn’t remember them that way. I remembered the worlds and the plot, but not the finer details that would appall me now lol.

  2. I’m not much of a re-reader but I have had one experience. Whitney, My Love. It’s a historical romance with quite a bit of controversy at the time. I LOVED it the first time I read it but I was still naive at the time. The most controversial part is a scene where the very alpha male beats the heroine on her backside with a horse whip. I don’t remember now why he did it but reading it the second time was a bit harder. 🙁 For the most part though I just try and remember that the world wasn’t as enlightened/politically correct as we are now and there may be things that I don’t like or agree with. Great discussion though I am sorry for the cause of it!
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  3. Great post! I’ve never had this problem so bad that I have had to DNF but I have had a couple of series that I cannot be as enthusiastic about as I once was, which is bitterly disappointing. I hope this never happens to me with one of my favourite series, otherwise I won’t know what to do :/
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