I have a history of avoiding books I should buy. Or dithering about buying them.
Of picking them up and putting them down in book stores or seeing someone talk about them online and thinking “that sounds like me” and then not following them up. I have met some of my fave books this way. Sort of sidling up to them, becoming unconvinced and wandering off again before finally buying them and then kicking myself for putting it off for so long when they turn out to be awesome. I did this with Robin McKinley’s Sunshine (one of my all time fave books), with the Black Jewels books by Anne Bishop, with Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. I think I even did it with Pratchett (and him I didn’t even buy initially, I had a friend with his books and borrowed them relentlessly until I started set acquiring my own). Put off by odd covers or uninspiring blurbs or, these days, by lack of an e-book. I was probably better about taking a chance on books when I was a more regular library user (when I changed day jobs a few years back I left a day job location that was only a block from a library) and when there were more bookstores to wander into and browse.
Anyway this is a round about start to a bit of a book rave about the latest in my “why didn’t I buy this years ago book”. I have been aware of the existence of Tam Lin by Pamela Dean for a quite a long time. I mean, another of my all time fave books is Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones which is also a re-telling of Tam Lin and you often here the two mentioned in close proximity. Maybe that was part of the problem. It’s hard to believe you’d really like a second re-telling of a story when you like one version so much. Still Tam Lin is a book that has been brought to my attention many times. But it’s also a book that’s not easy to hunt down. I don’t think there’s a e-book version (at least not for Aussies) and I’ve never found the paperback in a bookstore.
But it came up in a conversation online a few weeks ago (I can’t remember exactly where, I suspect it may have been Kathleen Jennings aka TanAudel who is a lovely artist and writer who mentioned it. Or started the thread in which it was mentioned. So I decided to look again. For some reason, even though I knew it existed, it had never really registered with me that it was a book set in a college. I have a distinct soft spot for books set in schools or colleges (too much Enid Blyton and Susan Coolidge and L.M. Montgomery etc as a child and Guy Gavriel Kay and YA and Harry Potter as an adult). I also have a distinct soft spot for the kind of what I call old-fashioned semi-mythological/folklore-ish urban fantasy in the vein of Wynne Jones or early Charles de Lint or Susan Cooper where ordinary people get dragged into adventures and there are magical or mythological goings on that are sometimes hinted at more than fully explained and everything is a bit more gentle and slow-paced (as distinguished from the kick butt vampire slaying brand of UF which I also vastly enjoy). So this book seemed as though it should be right up my alley. So a few weeks ago I finally gave in and ordered it. It arrived last week and I devoured it happily and will be reading it again once it’s sunk into my brain a bit.
It did, as many of those books do, make me wish I’d had the sort of meandering liberal arts degree college experience that book characters often have have (I studied something practical…I’m not entirely sure that kind of liberal arts degree really exists in Australia anyway). Even though I know that the sort of literary analysis that such degrees involve often sets my teeth on edge in real life. I am the school of writer for whom overthinking it and trying to analyse every little detail of my story and worrying about themes etc will kill the story. There are writers who revel in such things and need it for their process and writers who don’t want to look to closely at how the sausage is made as long as it’s a tasty sausage in the end. But still, it would be nice to have studied mythology and faerie tales and old languages and literatures a bit more (though preferably not while having to fight off mythological creatures with evil intent). So, Tam Lin. Thumbs up from me. Must acquire Ms. Dean’s other books. Must remember to stop resisting books. Must get back to the library 😀
Any recent random book discoveries to recommend?