I guess it was about 1980 or so, on one of my routine trips to the local book store on Main Street in Longmont, that I spotted my first Xanth novel.
Back then towns actually had Main Streets and they were actually the main street through the town – as odd as that is now. And most of the stores along the street in Longmont were 1800’s era shared-wall brick hallways about a hundred feet deep and maybe 15 feet wide… Essentially two-story mercantile closets.
I need to detail the book store as well, as they have pretty much gone the way of the dodo in the current millennium… Book stores back then tended to be mostly hobby shops; someone with a joy of reading would open up a shop and fill it full of physical tomes – most of which they had read. The one in Longmont was a maze of mismatched shelves holding a visual cacophony of books in disjointed piles that constituted a “system” only decipherable by the old gnome who ran the place.
This book store always reminded me of a cave made of books; it was dimly lit via the two small front windows and a smattering of early-industrial hanging lights, was preternaturally cool even in the hight of summer, and had a pleasant smell of old books, older bricks, and pipe tobacco.
Anyway, this was where I had found my first copy of “The Last Unicorn” by Peter Beagle a few years before, and since then I had been coming in every week or two to pick up a new book to vicariously live through. I’d picked up Jack Chalker’s early Well World books here, as well as the start of John Varley’s Gaea trilogy. But for this entry it was a chance encounter with Piers Anthony’s “A Spell for Chameleon” that got me into the Xanth series.
What really intrigued me with the book was the cover art, done by Michael Whelan. It made the book really stand out in the piles and it had the look of a story being told – and I wanted to know more about that story.
Over the rest of the early 80’s I picked up the Xanth novels as they came out; The Source of Magic, Castle Roogna, Centaur Isle, Ogre Ogre, Night Mare, Dragon on a Pedestal, and Crewel Lye.
In 1986 I went into the Navy and this more or less ended my association with the Xanth series as I got into esoteric comics, girlfriends, BBSing, and the Internet, in that order. And through all of this there was my own fantasy settings for my various role playing games that I spent a lot of free time working on.
Well, here we are in the bright and shiny future, and a month or so ago I decided I’d read the Xanth series from chronological cover to chronological cover; a daunting task as there are, as of this writing, 46 Xanth novels.
So I picked up the entire series in Kindle format and have been plugging away as time permits… I’m currently a few pages into “Night Mare,” which was probably my favorite of the nine books I’d read all those years ago.
Normally I don’t re-read books, just like I don’t normally re-watch movies; my memory is good enough that after the first time through I retain all of it and re-reading/watching it is mostly a waste of time. But it’s been, what, over 40 years since I read those early Xanth novels? And while I can still recall various plot points in them, the finer details are gone. So it’s been a pleasure to dive back into the setting.
Piers also has a very simplistic style, so the novels are literary candy and generally just a lot of casual fun to read.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to outside of work, cars, second life, etcetera, etcetera. 🙂
Listening to "The NeverEnding Story" by Limahl