I recently finished reading T.H. White’s book, The Once and Future King. It was a blast from my past. I distinctly remember, as a girl of about 14, discovering a book called King Arthur’s Daughter by Vera Chapman. I picked it up because I was horse-crazy at that point in my life and there was a unicorn on the cover. It was a fateful meeting. The romance of the Arthurian legend really got its hooks into me. I read every King Arthur-related book I could get my hands on. And since it is such a good framework to hang a story on, there are always authors willing to retell it in various forms. I’ve read Arthur as a Celtic chieftain, Arthur as a Roman officer, etc., etc.
I had forgotten the joys of those tales, until I started reading TOAFK. Suddenly, I was right back in that time period of my life, burying myself in a book and just absorbing the goodness and romance from it: wrestling with the whole Guinevere and Sir Lancelot question (as only a teenage girl can agonize over it), mourning the treason of Mordred, and swanning about, imagining myself as a lady in King Arthur’s court. (This may explain later dabbling that I did in the Society for Creative Anachronism, the medieval re-enactment group).
I came to the realization that the Arthur yarn is a darn good one and the T.H. White version is an interesting variation. I found the asides to the modern reader (about golf or horse racing, for example) to be a bit jarring at first, but that faded as I got into the spirit of the story. It is a classic and certainly deserved its place on the list of best speculative fiction that I am currently reading.
The best part, however, was that it whetted my appetite for more King Arthurian tales. This summer, at the When Words Collide writers’ conference, I had the good fortune to become acquainted with the work of Jack Whyte, a historical author, who has also produced his own version of the Arthur story, The Camulod Chronicles. I am torn about whether to read these volumes immediately or to wait for the audio-book version, read by Jack himself (with his lovely Scottish brogue and deep, resonant voice). [I know—the girlfriend who came with me to the conference kept saying “Down, girl, he’s too old for you.”]
There are many good things about my current reading project and my program to give up television, but so far the best part is discovering all these happy memories from the past and re-discovering subjects that I haven’t thought about for years, maybe decades. King Arthur, life on other planets, astronomy, mythology….who knows what else I’ll run into on the journey?