Over the years my reading has expanded along what might seem predictable lines--lots of scholarly nonfiction, novels set in India, mysteries, and current nonfiction. I rarely read historical fiction though I enjoy history. Recently I read Ursula LeGuin's National Book Award speech, and was reminded that I had never read anything by her other than a few short stories.
As a child I read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, and was put off by the governess's clearly unhinged state. In my view there was no ghost, just an unreliable woman losing her mind in an isolated country house. I told my older brother this and he remarked, you won't like science fiction or ghost stories. I took him at his word and happily entered the world of mysteries.
LeGuin's speech convinced me I'd been too quick to judge, and I picked up her first novel, Rocannon's World (1964). In a preface to a new edition the author remarked on how much her writing has changed, and as I read the story I could tick off the stages in the hero's journey without any effort. Still, I liked the author's robust attitude and her imagination.
Since I had no idea how LeGuin compared to other writers of science fiction, I decided to try C.S. Lewis. I had read Till We Have Faces (1956) in college, and knew about the Chronicles of Narnia, though they hadn't appealed to me as a child. I selected Out of the Silent Planet and fell in love with Dr. Ransom. When he sees the strange creature emerge from a body of water and begin talking, he loses all fear, and "his imagination leaped over every fear and hope and probability of his situation to follow the dazzling project of making a Malacandrian grammar." Of course! You laugh but I didn't. I knew exactly how Ransom felt. What Lewis shows us in the next several chapters is laid bare in language at the end, when Ransom discusses the nature of life on earth with Oyarsa after all three humans are brought before him and the people of the planet.
For several years I was a member of a book group, where I read authors whose works had never appealed to me, and for the most part still don't, but I found it very broadening to read and think about their words and articulate just what I didn't care for.
Last night I joined several other writers for the annual Mystery Night at the New England Mobile Book Fair. Not many readers in my area read about India, but I was pleasantly surprised when a few patrons listened to me talk about my Anita Ray books and decided to try them. India and Indian mysteries are as alien to many readers in this country as science fiction has long been to me. It's nice to pull down some walls, and get a closer look at the other side, from wherever you are standing.