Why I like Jane Austen and E.E. “Doc” Smith.

I do.  I like ‘em both.  For different reasons, of course.  I like Austen for her humor and her insight and the way she makes the most everyday events affecting and important.  I love her characters’ wit, and laugh at the way Elizabeth falls  into her own trap of loving Darcy every time I read Pride and Prejudice.  Life is wonderful when you’re reading Austen, and that’s a good thing.

I like Smith because I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.  Even after reading the Lensman books four or five times I’m still amazed by the sheer wonder of them.  Planets with opposite rotational velocities  hurled at one another through hyper-spatial tubes?  And he came up with this in the 1930s?  Wow.  Cool.  I wish I had a lens.

I’ll admit, I appreciate Smith a bit less now than I did when I was thirteen, and I appreciate Austen a bit more.  But I’ve read the books I love by both of them about the same number of times.  The people I know who love Austen usually look at me like I’m out of my mind when they see me with a copy of Gray Lensman in my hands.  And the people I know who love Smith usually don’t even notice when the book is Persuasion.  A few folks I know (mostly writers, but not all) like both, but they tend to be few and far between.

The bottom line is that I read Austen and Smith because I think they’re fun.  They write stories I enjoy.  Catherynne Valente wrote in a column here a few days ago about how she disagreed with Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millenium because the virtues Calvino defines are not the only virtues.  I agree with Cat.  Despite what a lot of critics and academics have argued over the last several thousand years, there isn’t one “grand unified theory” of aesthetics.  Different people like different books.  And some people like more than one kind of book, too.

Boy do I appreciate having the choice.

Anyone else out there have a soft spot for the good and the (ostensibly) not-so-good?  What are the bookends of your reading spectrum?

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S.C. Butler

Butler is the author of The Stoneways Trilogy from Tor Books: Reiffen's Choice, Queen Ferris, and The Magician's Daughter. Find out what Reiffen does with magic, and what magic does with him... Visit site.

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