"Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?" he asked. "Begin at the beginning" the King said, gravely, "and go on till you come to the end; then stop." Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
"Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." said Francis Bacon. I do not know whether reading has made me a full man or not, but it has certainly given me a lot of enjoyment and has widened the areas of my knowledge considerably over the years. I know of many people who tell me that they cannot sit down and read a book but I feel that it is just that they have never come across a book that interested them. So, let me take you on a journey through my bookshelf and introduce you to some of my very old friends and some new ones too. Who knows, you may find something that interests you there.
Most people have this habit of breaking literature down in to genres. They talk about the historical, the murder mystery, the gothic horror etc. Most people confine their reading to one genre or at most to a couple of them. I however, was and am an omnivore. I enjoy a western as much as a romance and science fiction as much as fantasy. Thus, I hope to take you through the different genres and discuss some of the best examples of each genre that I have read and tell you a bit about the history of each genre too, where applicable. So come on, let's start the ride!
Let's see now, where do we start? Let me see ... I know, comics! When I was young, most people used to warn my parents about letting me read comics. They used to say that it would corrupt me and hinder my progress in learning to read "normal" books. My parents were of the opinion that any reading was good reading and they bought me all the comics that I wanted and funnily enough, it worked! I went on from comics to other books in time and later on, their biggest problem was in getting me to stop reading.
Anyway, my first introduction to comics was through Sinhalese comics as I had not yet learnt to read English. It was the time when Sinhalese comics were flourishing - now that I look back at that time, I realize that some of those comics were actually "inspired" by certain characters from Marvel comics or DC comics. The stories kept me absorbed and I used to save up just to buy another comic book that I'd seen in a shop window. They had a character called "Karzan" who was obviously inspired by Tarzan and a local Superman who didn't have any of the powers of the original DC comics version but did fight crime just like his American counterpart. There was also a Captain Lanka (as opposed to Captain America from Marvel) but I never did find a copy of his adventures only references to the comic in advertisements.
Later, when I learnt to read in English, I graduated to the
big league in comics - I began reading the stuff from Marvel and
DC as well as all the various British stuff such as Whizzer and
Chips, Beano, Dandy and all the rest. The British comics, though they
didn't have many heroes or heroic deeds were very refreshing in
that they introduced me to humour. Of course, the humour in these
magazines were at a very basic level most of the time (that is
probably why my humour still remains at that level) but it did
get me interested in puns, knock-knock jokes and all the other
assorted forms of juvenile humour. In fact, one of the things I
still remember is the first pun I learnt - it goes something like
Question: "When can you eat a door?"
Answer : "When it is jammed!"
I was thinking about eating a door which was spread with strawberry jam and laughed myself sick and then told my Dad the joke and he explained to me the other meaning of "jammed" and it was only then that I really got the joke but since then I have always loved puns (Isn't that a punny thing?). The British comics also had annuals which I loved to read as they had bigger stories and lots more fun. Those were very good times indeed, surrounded by Dan Dare, Judge Dredd, Dangerous Dan, Korky the Cat, Screwy Driver and a lot of other good friends from the comic book world.
Humour was not the only thing found in comics. I found adventure, costumed heroes and super-villains too. There was Marvel with the likes of the wise-cracking, web-crawling Spiderman; the Hulk who is really Dr. Bruce Banner who turns in to a green-skinned giant when he gets angry due to a tragic accident in his laboratory; Thor the Norse god of thunder in a new form; industrialist Tony Stark who dons red and gold armour to fight crime as the Ironman and many more. Then, there was also Marvel's arch-rival, DC comics with the man of steel, Superman; the caped crusader known as Batman and his sidekick, the boy wonder, Robin; Hal Jordan who gains his power through a mystic lantern to become the Green Lantern etc. They were a constant source of entertainment to me and they also served to fuel my imagination as I dreamt up new combinations and new teams of heroes.
Those days of comics are now gone - you don't find so many comics around nowadays and the artwork doesn't seem as good as it used to be in the good old days but my fascination with them continues...
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