writing

Reading Tastes

rhubarb, strawberry, and both!

Jammy Goodness

I have successfully converted my dear First Reader into a ‘jelly snob,’ as he puts it. From being satisfied with strawberry, and sometimes for a change to have grape, store brand colored wiggly sweet stuff in a jar, we have gone to eyes lighting up at the idea of blackcurrant preserves. Today, he said as he opened the jar, it’s special jelly. Tomorrow it won’t be special any more.

And you are looking at your screen reading this and wondering if I have lost my pea-picking mind (oh, yeah, I need to plant the peas, thank you for reminding me) and what this has to do with reading, or writing. Well, I was thinking about this the other day, and the jelly comments cemented the ideas in my head (or is that gelled? LOL). Our reading tastes change. Not to say mature, even, because I have been reading ‘grow-up books’ since I was about six or seven.

We may start out happy with plain old store-brand strawberry jam, and then someone shares their wild-strawberry handpicked and made with love jam, and the world stands on its ear. Books that did this for me often got read to pieces, they were so well-loved. I think I have owned a half-dozen copies of Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October. Nearly that of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cordelia’s Honor (currently I have Shards of Honor, but not Barrayar thanks to a loan never returned). Dorothy Sayers – all of hers, and it’s spoiled me in many ways, reading her and then trying to read other mysteries. Kipling, but especially Kim and Captains Courageous.

What books have affected you that way? Broadened your mental taste buds, and made it hard to go back to the bland books that are so popular? For me, sometimes it is entirely unexpected. I will never forget my first reading of Dave Freer’s Rats, Bats, and Vats, it was so real I could almost smell and taste the action, and enhanced by my immediately recogizing what the alien was (it’s a marine creature! so cool to my sealife geeky side). Oh, and… but there are so many. I’m not making this into a list of my favorite reads and authors, I’d like to hear what some of yours are, and why.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, its that the special jelly is delicious, and some authors are unforgettable and head-and-shoulders above the others. As a writer, I challenge you to re-read some of your favorites and think about what it is that makes these books better. Why is this book wild-strawberries and not generic red jelly that is labeled strawberry? Not films, or TV, but books… as a writer, the one thing that will improve your writing is more reading, and furthermore, thoughtful reading of the good stuff. Go on, be a jelly snob. And if you can’t find the jelly you like in the store, make it yourself!

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24 thoughts on “Reading Tastes

  1. Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia Wrede…

    With Pratchett especially, I know why I love him because I’ve had to defend my obsession to my brother 😉 But all of them–well-written tales, invisible authors, amusing quips, fascinating worlds.

    Beau Geste, to go old-school. Honor before (possibly without) reason, manly men doing manly things, and the stupid, funny jokes all the characters make without batting an eye…

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    • I have not yet read enough Diana Wynne Jones – an ommission I mean to rectify! – but Pratchett is like a scone with jam. All the nuts and surprises hidden in his writing make him perfectly delicious.

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  2. Rachel– Beau Geste was the first of the “ancient” plasterboard books with the pretty cover that I read on my grandmother’s bookshelves in the Club Room. I LOVED it,
    though I was expecting it to be boring. 🙂

    Making home made jam is a big deal in my family. Mom had a raspberry, strawberry, currant and rhubarb semi-filtered jam (the berries with seeds were filtered, but still had pulp from the currants and rhubarb) that we all called “Power Jam”. It created a whole new flavor that you can’t quite describe, but is berry like and surpassingly delicious. Mom may have snuck some mango in there, too, but that’s just a guess.

    Also “Plugies” (pronounced ploogyz) a small wild plum that was purple tinged with apricot with a jelly like interior, made excellent jam, too. My favorite when I visited grandma, and I was spoiled with wild red raspberries, black caps (black raspberries with a very different flavor), strawberries in the spring, and blueberries, too. All tiny, all wild, made in two quart batches. Oh, and I forgot the dwarf cherry tree on the front lawn, which gifted us with cherry jelly and pie every year, too. It had white bark like the birch, and some years the cedar wax wings would come and land on it. Grandma was so enchanted with them she’d leave some cherries on the tree just for them!

    Some years we were brave enough to get choke cherry jam, though that stopped when I was ten. I tended to pick the wares, and that year my hands swole up and I felt like I was gagging even though I didn’t eat them. I got the uncooked juice on my hands, and maybe on my face. That effect goes away when you cook them.

    Mom made crab apple jelly, too, which is like apple jelly but with a point. It’s not just sweet, it has a flavor that’s aggressively apply and something else– tart and velvety.

    Oh, wait, this post was supposed to be about writing?

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      • My other allergies came later, and not to rose plants. There was a bit of consernation from my grandmother about it, because she was concerned that I would be allergic to rose. It’s one of the few perfumes I can wear, provided its’ genuine. I have to use essential oil to be sure.

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        • *gasp* Someone else who read Beau Geste?? Never before in my life has this happened! Did you know there are two sequels, “Beau Sabreur” and “Beau Ideal”?

          …now I really want jam. Your descriptions have my mouth watering!

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          • I did not know it had sequels! 😀 I loved those elaborate, brightly colored covers on the turn of the century plasterboard. I’ll have to see if I can find it and get a picture. It’s out of copyright by now, I’m sure.

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  3. *deep breath* Here’s some fiction of mine. I think I detect (in re-reading) some inspiration from Vulcan’s Kittens. It’s contemporary fantasy, in two snippets. It’s not the most skilled writing I’ve ever done, but it is the funniest. http://wp.me/2B5fM

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      • Actually, the second snippet is below the first picture of the twin towers. It is separated by a little tag [Stuff]. You probably have read both. The conflict part doesn’t have an ending yet.

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        • …oh. I did read both. Soooo…what happens next??

          Cedar, comprehension depends on caffeine, a concept I concur with. (I dunno what it is about alliteration that is so fun. Maybe I need more coffee.)

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          • I won’t know what happens until my fingers start dancing! Oh, I’ll probably wind up fitting in a malfunction of a portable hole generator. This piece originally came about because someone (on CLFA) was distracted by my *excuse list* about why I didn’t get to the review of “A Pius Man” sooner. http://wp.me/p2B5fM-GZ She wanted the full story about how I was attacked by gnomes, and this was my first stab at it. 🙂 I’m glad you like it!

            Oh, and the narrator is not much like me, though we share a few personality traits.

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          • Good news. This story has taken over my brain. LOTS of stuff has happened. Don’t worry, I’ll portion it out and post it. Though I have to see where this next riff goes…

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              • Ahh, and to think I was a foolish enough to sign up for Camp NANO this year… fun fun… I’m thinking of just saying ‘screw the rules” and continue writing this thing if it’s still trying to get to me after April 1 rolls around (April Fools! No, really, I mean it…!)

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