Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reading Into Things


After a couple of weeks of long hours at the keyboard, I took a day off writing. So what did I do? Other than reading, I spent a few hours hanging out on Goodreads reviewing books I’d previously read.

What can I say? I love books. From the moment I learned to read I devoured every piece of text I could get my hands on. And the writer-to-be showed up because I couldn’t keep from “rewriting” in my head the things I read. I couldn’t keep from putting myself into the story. I consumed Walter Farley’s horse books and imagined thundering down the track on a fast stallion somewhere between Black and Flame. I read the dog stories of Jim Kjelgaard and Jack London and ran arid lands and ice floes with Desert Dog and White Fang and others of my own invention. I read sports stories, space stories, and westerns, and I dreamed myself into every one of them.

Even today I’m fully as much of a reader as I am a writer. I generally read at least three books at a time, and there’s no telling what genre those might be in. Right now I’m reading a poetry collection from a famous naturalist, a mystery from an old friend, a classic western, and a graphic novel about Mars and swords. I’m enjoying every one of them.

They say a writer has to write, and I agree. But I also think a writer has to read. I know I have to. If I go more than a few days without writing I start to get uneasy. But I don’t think I’ve gone more than one day without reading at least a few pages for years. I don’t even know how it would feel to go a week without reading. I don’t want to know.

I read. I write. The two feed off each other and enrich my life.

So how about you. What are you reading today that has captured your imagination? What are you reading that has enriched your life?

35 comments:

Evan Lewis said...

I'm easily sucked into a fiction/history cycle. When I read fiction I want to read some of the history behind it, and when I read history I want to retell the story through fiction. There's no end to it!

Charles Gramlich said...

Evan, I remember reading a letter from REH about how much he loved rewriting history into fiction. He said if he could make a living at doing just that he'd do nothing else.

Deka Black said...

I always believe what, if he's alive today, he would have left behind Sword and Sorcery and weird stories and dedicated only to historical fiction.

And for me... As a kid, popular tales form my birthland. Anthologies (i LOVE short stories). Must have read no less than 15 versions of "El castillo De iras y No Volveras" (more or less "The Castle of You will go But never return").

Remember above all one tale about the church of wolves. They had wolf priests, she-wolf nuns, wolf bishops, even a Wolf Pope!

As a kid this amazes me. And then came Weird Tales and REH, but that's another story.

Angie said...

Reading is a definite necessity for me too. [nod] I can go days without writing, but I don't think I've ever gone a day without reading, since I first learned how, unless I was so sick I was hardly conscious.

I get inspiration from all kinds of things -- other work in my genre, work from other genres, non-fiction including history, things on TV -- especially non-fiction there -- and movies and news. Columns like Dear Abby and Miss Manners are a great window into human behavior, although I think a lot of what gets published in advice columns wouldn't work in fiction because it's just not believable, LOL!

Angie

Randy Johnson said...

Reading has always seemed as necessary to me as breathing. I. could of course, survive without reading, but it would be a miserable existence.

Maybe I wouldn't survive. I remember telling my mother once, when she stated I shouldn't buy books, music, or go to movies once in a while, "That if I didn't do all those things I would long ago have taken a gun and blown my brains out." I'm not sure I was kidding.

Entering the first grade, I had never read a word. No kindergarten, a mother much too busy raising three children alone to read to us, I took to it, as the trite old saying says, a duck to water, winning a prize for reading the most books in the class.

Ty Johnston said...

Deka, I can agree with your view of REH. I could have seen him going a route similar to Harold Lamb, who I believe was one of Howard's influences.

Like Charles, I can't imagine a day without reading at least a few pages. Drives my wife batty sometimes. She'll spend hours watching TV, but looks at me as if I'm weird if my nose is in a book for a long period of time.

As for my writing influences, they are all over the place. The Black Stallion books were an early read for me, too. Discovered Tolkien at an early age. The Thieves' World books were a huge influence on me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Deka Black, Howard had definitely been moving steadily toward westerns and historical fiction. Some folks think he would have had Louis L’Amour’s career. I love his weird stuff though. Church of Wolves. What a great title that would make.

Angie, I was trying to think if I’d gone a day without reading. The only days I think were possibilities was a few days when mom was sick and I was with her. Even then I probably read something here and there. I’m laughing about your Dear Abby comment. Yes indeed, not believable. Lol.


Randy Johnson, I was much like you. No kindergarten so it was first grade when I learned to read. I also won a prize for reading the most books. I don’t remember if mom and dad read to me when I was really little. I know they both told the occasional “whopper.”


Ty Johnston, I thought Howard might have gone the L’Amour route, since he wrote a few early serious westerns and was writing a lot. He certainly could have done the Lamb riff. I loved the Thieves World stuff. I didn’t actually get to Tolkien until college, but by then I’d read quite a lot of Howard and his imitators.

Tom said...

I read a lot of different genres, and at any given time I have at least two books in the reading process. Sometimes I'll get on a kick and read several books in a series or genre in a row. But often I change genres with each new book.

My latest jones has been Mack Bolan books. I've been reading those off and on since I was 14. However, I just got a reader's copy of a new fantasy novel. But, it's the third in a trilogy, so I checked the first one out from the library.

Anyways, yes, reading is as important to me as writing. Maybe more so right now.

BStearns said...

Great post Charles! I find that I can only read one fiction book at a time. I like to mix it up, with a SFF or other book, along with a self-growth book. I find that when I'm reading a book I want my full attention to be on the story that the author is telling me, I don't want to be thinking about a different story and get distracted.

-Bryan
www.sff-hub.com

Heather said...

I also agree that a writer needs to read although, sadly, I'm doing very little writing...and very little reading. This pregnancy has zapped my brain power big time!

Oh well, I'm sure the mental function will return in a few years and I'll be back at it. Fantastic post Charles, as usual!

Travis Erwin said...

I just finished Elmer Kelton's memoir and I of course am pushing to finish mine as well.

Ty Johnston said...

Hmm, hadn't ever put two and two together and thought of Howard going the L'Amour route, but that makes perfect sense. Guess I'm one of those fans who still thinks of REH as a swordslinging writer, despite the direction his career had been going before the end. His Westerns were great, and I loved his boxing stories, too, especially the Costigan tales.

Charles Gramlich said...

Tom, I change back and forth between genres a lot. Like you, I might read 2 or 3 in the same genre but then I’ll switch. I’ve not read many of the Mack Bolan books. In that kind of genre I’ve read quite a lot of the Destroyer books, though, which I like.


Bryan, if I’m working during the school year I typically will only read like one fiction, one nonfiction at a time, and maybe a poetry book or something. But when I’m off I can keep several fiction books separate in my mind. More sleep, for one thing.

Heather, my mental function comes and goes even without pregnancy.


Travis Erwin, I’ll be ordering Kelton’s memoir next time I put in an order. I like author bios and autobios.


Ty Johnston, my favorite stuff by REH is his fantasy and his historical stuff, but I like his westerns too, especially the serious westerns. I actually wrote a Costigan pastiche a few years back. It was published in Beacons of Tomorrow, an anthology from Tyrannosaurus Press. I had to really immerse myself in those stories one summer to get the feel for the character.

AvDeeBee said...

Reading was a companion for me in an oftentimes lonely childhood. I spent whole summers devouring novel after novel, barely raising my head to the outside world. Even now, that tendency follows me; I read all the time, but whenever I'm overwhelmed by outside forces, I turn to books and go on a shameful reading jag where I disappear from most aspects of reality for days on end. There are many books that have shaped my life and touch me in different ways, but no but has ever affected me the way The Mists of Avalon did. I don't know why, but there was a deep and personal connection forged when I first picked up that novel. Now, it's my go-to solace.

Deka Black said...

My influences? well, REH is the first. But also Emilio Salgari. And Jack Vance. But above all, REh, without doubt.

Charles Gramlich said...

Avery, My wife, Lana, was deeply moved by that book as well.

Deka, I don't konw Salgari's work. Will have to have a look see at what he's done.

laughingwolf said...

agree totally, charles, and read most of those you list

current read: ben cormack's 'cartoon clinic'... yup, all about cartooning :)

Mona said...

I read too. I only wish I could write a real story...

But I am turning into a stupid critic though...

Charles, I wrote a post for mark on his birthday today! I would really appreciate if you come over and wish him too! Thanks!

Deka Black said...

Charles, you know Sandokan, The Tiger of Malaysia? The Black Corsair? Take a look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilio_Salgari

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, hey, I read about ay kind of wild topic you can imagine.

Mona, I will. I've written some criticism.

Deka, thanks for the heads up. I will check it out.

Oscar said...

I'm reading Jan Cleere's Outlaw Tales of Arizona this week when I'm not writing something. I think my imagination would carry me through a week or two of not reading if I had to go without.

Steve Malley said...

Right now I'm reading Saturn's Return to New York by one of my favourite writers, Sara Gran. Next up is RJ Ellory's A Quiet Belief in Angels.

But what's inspired me most lately? The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Susan Townsend!!!

Charles Gramlich said...

Oscar, mine carried me for years when I was young and didn't have many books. I like to keep it fed with new stuff, though.

Steve Malley, I've not read any of those. but I'm always happy to know of new books I might like. I'm really enjoying a book right now called Crossroad Blues

Carole said...

Reading was my life when I was young. Grew up very backwoodsy in Montana without electricity or running water. A world opened up for me through books and helped me not be as backward when I got to school. I still couldn't talk about TV with friends and they thought I was an idiot, but I knew words and how to use them and could spell.

I cannot really go to sleep at night without reading at least three chapters of something. Right now it's Connelly.

David Cranmer said...

Very well written and I agree 100%. I am reading an old western magazine, my first romance novel called UNLADYLIKE PURSUITS, and CAPTURE THE SAINT. All are good reads.

David J. West said...

I'm at the unbalanced state of a half-dozen books at the same time right now but thoroughly enjoying them. Talbot Mundy's TROS of Samothrace, Gavin Menzies 1434, Bernard Cornwell's Burning Land, Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora, Vine Deloria's God is Red, and REH's Black Stranger.

Charles Gramlich said...

Carole, we did have electricity and running water. We had a well when I was really little. I never watched much TV, but like you I had a good vocabulary and that got me into trouble at times.


David Cranmer, I’ve enjoyed a few romance novels, particularly by Rexanne Becnel and Kathleen Woodiwiss. They were all historical romances.

David J. Wes, I have all the TRos books but haven’t read them. I’m going to take a month to do so one of these days. Can’t go wrong with REH really.

Barbara Martin said...

I read diferent genres than what I like to write to provide a new look at situations and character development. Currently I'm reading The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall, a detective story that takes place in India. The next book after that will be The Passage by Justin Cronin.

As a child my life was filled with an assortment of books one of my great aunts in England would send over for my brothers and myself. So there was alot to choose from. But the books I liked best were the stories my brothers got: the adventure ones written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Mark Twain. Being a horse lover I devoured the Black Stallion series and all the other horse related books, plus the various animal ones.

Charles Gramlich said...

Barbara, I loved me some ERB for sure. when I'm working on a novel I generally read a few books in that genre but mostly I read outside of it.

Phyllis Bourne said...

I'm a romance-novel-a-holic and read over 200 a year. Now that I have a kindle I usually read three at a time, hopping from story to story.

Charles Gramlich said...

Phyllis, I find I do more hopping on my Kindle because it's so easy to switch back and forth.

G said...

Woah, I missed this one.

I did a phenomonal amount of reading while I was growing up, simply because I had no friends. I read anything and everything.

Nowadays, I still read anything that strikes my fancy, but as of late, my book reading has been cut down to about a book every 1 1/2 months though.

Still a great way to get rid of the aggravations of the day.

Starting up Audie Murphy's autobio this weekend.

Charles Gramlich said...

G, I went through a period in my middle career where my reading slowed way down, but it's sped up again now and I'm glad.

Liane Spicer said...

I'll always be much more of a reader than a writer. I read a variety of genres, but especially enjoy books with ecological themes. Blame that on the Gerald Durrell books I discovered in childhood.

Reading right now: Fear of Fifty, Erica Jong's memoir. Lots to identify with, but so much less engaging than her novels. Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood is up next, a magical love story loaned by my teenage niece.

Also re-reading Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. Lost my old tattered copy so I just got a beautiful hard cover anniversary edition. This is a book everyone should read. Great for changing negative thinking patterns.

Charles Gramlich said...

Liane, I've heard of Creative visualization but have not read it. I'll have to keep an eye open.