Friday, July 02, 2004

After my first two stabs at writing a novel, I entered graduate school at The University of Texas at Austin (the school considers the word "The" part of the official title, so the capital "T" is appropriate, in case you were wondering, which you probably were not). I didn't make any attempts at fiction because I was so busy writing term papers, teaching classes, and starting a family that I didn't have time.

Also, I was reading. Boy, was I reading. Not only did I read books for class (and if you like reading, sign up for a class in the Victorian novel sometime), but I read books for fun. And what books! I discovered that the library had bound issues of THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, so I read all of Anthony Boucher's review columns from the beginning. And like a good grad student, I took notes. What interested me were the paperback originals that he reviewed, and I started haunting the used-book stores, trying to find every one of them. When I found an author I liked, I then wanted every one of his books. (There's no end to this sort of thing, of course, and most of you know it as well as I do.) I wasn't worried about condition (to my sorrow at the present time). I just wanted the books.

The good news is that I managed to accumulate quite a pile of books for half the cover price, or sometimes even less, that would cost me a bundle today. Jim Thompson, John D. MacDonald, Charles Williams, Harry Whittington, Day Keene, and on and on. Great stuff. I was familiar with some of the writers already (the Gold Medal ones, especially, and I'd already read Thompson's THE KILLER INSIDE ME in the GM edition), but the others were equally interesting. How I managed to read all those books, and all those Victorian novels, and other stuff that interested me (John Barth was a big favorite at the time), I'll never know. I wish I had time to read that much now. Those were great days.

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