Monday, 17 November 2014
Guilty Reading Pleasures
When I was a high school senior my English teacher liked to talk about a friend of his who was a professor of English at Trent University. Dr. Gallagher was, according to him, just an ordinary, unpretentious guy who liked to read ordinary, unpretentious stuff like murder mysteries and westerns along with James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. At the time, because of my own personal reading habits, I thought he sounded like a good role model to follow.
Encouraged to be an omnivorous reader, I remember devouring a large bag of my mother's Harlequin romances out of curiosity as an undergrad at Trent. These were novels published in the 1960s, and I remember several doctor-and-nurse stories and a couple of mysterious houses and tall, handsome widowers. Already an avid fan of the highly-formulaic Doc Savage adventure series, I recognized in the Harlequins a similar dependence on well-established conventions and an even better approach to plotting. I haven't read any romances since, I must admit, but I'm very glad I took the time back then. As an aspiring writer, I learned quite a bit about basic storytelling from these books.
What I have continued to read, though, are what were referred to then as sports juveniles. As a youth I read almost every book in the Young Adults section of the public library, and the sports novels were among my favourites. As an adult I've built up a small collection of them that I regularly raid whenever I want to read something light, dependable, and fun.
These books include Junk Pitcher by Bill Knott, Rookie Running Back by Cliff Hankin, Throw the Long Bomb! by Jack Laflin, Scrubs on Skates and Boy on Defense by Scott Young, and Batter Up by Jackson Scholz, just to name a few. These books appealed to my budding sense of right and wrong, my appreciation of the difficult challenges faced by young people trying to succeed as athletes, and my love of a simple, good story, well told.
So I happily admit it! I still love to curl up with a bag of chips, a glass of juice, and one of my favourite sports juveniles. The room is quiet, my brain gurgles contentedly, and, once again, all's well with the world.
Say, it's been a while since I re-read Throw the Long Bomb! I think I'll grab that one tonight!
What about you? What are your favourite guilty reading pleasures?