This is Lili's OLD WEBSITE! Go to for the shiny, better, more up-to-date, awesome version.

06 July 2008

The Bookshelf of Shame

I've been re-reading a lot of Diana Wynne Jones lately. She was an author I adored as a child/teen, and I still adore her today. In fact I think I adore her more, as her books seem to get better every time I read them and unpick another thread. I read Fire and Hemlock once a year, and every time I discover something new.

But it's been making me think of some of the other books I devoured and worshipped as a child. And I must say my reading choices were not always as inspired. Here's my top three books on Lili's Adolescent Bookshelf of Shame:

1. The Clan of the Cave Bear (and sequels)
Yeah, you can say that you're reading it for the Realistic Prehistorical Blah Blah, but let's face it. We read it for the sex. For the throbbing members and Pleasures (particularly in later volumes) and the rest of the rather limber and creative lovemaking that those wacky cavemen got up to. Also, are we really supposed to believe that one girl invented the needle, the spear-thrower, the bra, firestarters, surgical stitches, domestication of animals (including horseback riding), and was the first person to figure out that sex = babies? For serious?

2. The Mists of Avalon
This came in the very deepest part of my crushed velvet, crystals, Loreena McKennit-loving phase. I loved it. Celtic jiggery-whatsit. Strong feminist themes. Mythology. Except, on revisiting it as an adult, I realised that the so-called Strong Women are in fact, weak, indecisive, antagonistic, manipulated and manipulative, and all seemed to be completely obsessed with Lancelot, whose barely-sketched character was just the wet, empty husk of an underwear model. (although, Arthur/Lancelot/Gwenhwyfar threesome? hot.)

3. Everything by David Eddings
This was my real obsession. I read those books over and over. I eagerly awaited the next one, and shelled out all my hard-earned pocket money for a shiny hardcover big enough to beat someone to death with. Oh, Garion. A pig-keeper with a secret destiny. A fiery-tempered redheaded princess. I WONDER IF THEY WILL GET MARRIED. Meh. And don't get me started on the racism. OH the racism. The western world is ruled by a tiny tiny island up in the top left hand corner of the map where it rains a lot. My, how very much the Chereks are like Vikings. What nice, loyal people they all are. Like those nice French Mimbrates, so noble.
But wait! What happens when we move further east? Snake-worshipping poison-loving jungle-dwelling eunuchs, that's what.
Oh-ho, and now what? Further east? Self scarification? Worshipping evil gods? Ritual sacrifice? We'd better KILL THEM ALL gently encourage them to become more like us! Because we're better! Hurrah!

What about you? What once-loved books now make you cringe?


Susannah said...

ahh Clan of the Cave bear. Ayla, you are so much woman.

I have to admit to devouring a couple of the Flowers in the Attic books. Even at the time I knew it was an unwholesome pleasure, but totally irresistible.

On the LITERATURE side of things,
I LOVED Garcia Marquez at high school. The intensity spoke to my teenage heart - if you're not loving enough to set something on fire, then are you really living? But now he kind of bugs me. I can't enter into the spirit of it any more and it seems self-indulgent and a bit patronising and, so help me, I can't bring myself to read a book called My Beautiful Whores - or whatever the latest one is. Even if it is a METAPHOR for his country.

Melinda said...

Hey spooky, I'm re-reading 'Fire and Hemlock' right now. Its a tricky story but most compelling.


MooseGuy said...

Ah yes, the Belgariad, so very, very racist. Still enjoyable, though, (for me at least) despite the predictability and the prejudice.

Emmaco said...

I'm with you on the Eddings and the Mists of Avalon :) In fact, I remember the love I felt for my hardback Eddings so much that I can't bring myself to give them away!

Other embarrassing teen loves included Mercedes Lackey and Piers Anthony.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I LOVE Fire and Hemlock. Like you, I find something new every time I read it. One day I will work out exactly what happened at the end! (Thanks for reminding me: I'm due for my annual re-read.)

My teenage shame authors include Auel, Eddings and Anne McCaffrey. I wouldn't take back having read these, though, because they gave me a great background in certain genres (so I could recognise better books when I saw them).

Possibly shame-worthy series that I loved: Animorphs. Those books were my earliest lesson in character and plot arcs.