Looking at old & new literature at Readercon

I’m at Readercon, and I’ve been especially impressed this year with the combination of old and new. Perhaps I’m prejudiced — no, it’s almost certain I’m prejudiced; I can’t help having my own feelings about the matter — but walking around the bookstore, I was caught between books by great new (mostly young) writers, many of whom I’d be reading for the first time, and used books by writers whom I loved as a youngster and whom I haven’t read in decades.

For example, I am sitting in my hotel room caught between A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, a book by a writer that I’m very much looking forward to starting (and who is here this weekend), and Judgment on Janus, a 1963 novel by Andre Norton (Ace; 40 cents), which I think I read when I was about 12 years old. The two books were written 50 years apart, and probably have little in common except genre and the fact that they were both written by women. But I am going to savor them both, because one will be a discovery, and the other will be a re-discovery.

And it won’t be the only literary discovery I make this weekend. At a used bookstore down the road from the hotel, Jim found a volume of Bill Mauldin’s World War II Willy and Joe cartoons, along with essays. From a time and a place that belong to my parents rather than myself, and with references that I probably won’t get, but still worth reading for the feel of the times. And because I think it may bring me just a little closer to the world my father inhabited when he was young.

The moral of this brief blog entry? I’m not sure I want there to be one. Except that I am finding value in literature of the past — my past and others’ past — and the present and, hopefully, the future. And I hope that others can do the same.


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