EReaderIQ is my good friend, and it ought to be Amazon's, given how much of my business they've sent the company's way. I partially understand that Amazon might be annoyed that I'm buying these Kindle books because eReaderIQ informed me that they were on special sale, but the reality is that I've spent a whole lot more money on amazon.com than I would have otherwise, even if most of my purchases have been in the $1 to $4 range.

One of the things I've been having fun with is accumulating books that I particularly enjoyed in my childhood. There are those I can't remember well enough to find again, even though I know I found them special at the time. And there are those that aren't available as e-books, or inexpensive second-hand books. But I've been finding enough books to keep enriching someone's coffers, though quite often the authors themselves are dead.

One such author is Walter Farley, with his Black Stallion series. A friend and neighbor of mine had her own pony, and induced me to vary my science fiction reading with some horse stories. This was one series I fell in love with, and I've so far picked up three of the first four for $3 each.

Sometimes rereading old favorites reminds me of why I loved them; sometimes the pleasure is marred by things I didn't notice sixty years ago. Rereading the Black Stallion books has done both.

As a child, I loved adventure stories with young people as the heroes. I still do. The Rick Brant books and Robert Heinlein's "juveniles" were another two series that I loved. (Heinlein's adult books were a mixed bag, some good, some awful—but I loved the ones with youthful protagonists.) Looking back, I'm a little surprised it didn't bother me that it was mostly boys who had all the fun in these stories; females tended to be overly-protective mothers or weak, silly girls. But it didn't bother me; I strongly identified with the boys and ignored the girls. (And no, that doesn't mean I had any gender confusion in real life, any more than I thought I lived on Mars or could leap tall buildings in a single bound.)

On rereading the Black Stallion books, I can see clearly both gender and cultural stereotypes that were common during the 1940's, which is when the first five books in the series were written. But I don't find it objectionable; it all seems pretty reasonable for the time. If I read a book set in a particular time and place, I want it to reflect the culture and values of that location. There is little more annoying in a book than finding 21st century American values in the mouths of characters who are supposedly from a very different time and culture.

The Black Stallion Returns, for example, is primarily set in Arabia, and perhaps someone who really knows the culture of that time would find inaccuracies, but to my knowledge it is close enough, perhaps even with educational value. Certainly the culture and people, while acknowledged as different, are treated with respect.

And the culture back home? That's accurate, too. There really was a time in this country when children grew up with loving, supportive parents, where men and women married "till death us do part," and where children—boy children, at least—were given a lot more opportunities for adventure than they are now. Even if not quite to the extent that the characters in these adventure stories experience. That last part is where "suspension of disbelief" is required, but not the setting. That's the world I grew up in. Even if I hadn't, I think I'd rather read books like these than the depressing books that are marketed as "realistic fiction" today.

I'm curious to see how many of the Black Stallion books make it to the "can't pass this up" price range. I know I missed many of them as a child, being limited by a very small village library. Even the nearest "big library" wasn't all that large, and we didn't get there very often. There was no Inter-Library Loan, and buying books was rarely within the budget. I'm hoping I may have the opportunity to read some new-to-me stories.

Culturally, it may have been a more satisfactory time when I was young, but having such access to books as we have now is to me almost immeasurable wealth.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 6, 2023 at 6:21 am | Edit
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