Clive James and Sludge Fiction

In the "Times Literary Supplement", Clive James reminisces about his early reading habits, from Erle Stanley Gardner to Capt. W. E. Johns, from Ellery Queen to Leslie Charteris, from Ian Fleming to Arthur Conan Doyle. "It was my third year at Sydney Technical High School, and our English class was being taken by a history teacher while our regular teacher was away ill. Though he conspicuously wore the first Hush Puppies I had ever seen, I can't remember the history teacher's name. But I can still remember everything he said. To keep us in order, he had been asking us what we read at home. I said that I had been reading the collected works of Erle Stanley Gardner. He said there was nothing wrong with that, but that the whole secret with what he called sludge fiction was to enjoy it while you built up the habit of reading, and then move on to something hard. The very idea that there might be something interesting further up the road had not occurred to me before that day."

There's a lot to be said for this approach to beginning a reading career. It really doesn't matter what is read so long as something is. I was continually told off in my youth by teachers and those who didn't read, that comics and science fiction would never lead to anything. That was partly true. I didn't end up doing anything professionally with either genre but I'm still here reading and I doubt if they are.

[Thanks to Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind for the link.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 20, 2005 1:42 PM.

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