My Dad's Saturday routine includes going to the Westside branch
of the El Paso Public Library
, where he enjoys researching investments. This routine had been interrupted by my brother's death, but last Saturday we were able to follow the routine. The last time I went to the library with him, probably twenty years ago, his research was conducted with print materials, but now he logs onto Value Line
, to which the library has a subscription. I suspect, but don't know for sure, that he was reading a print version of Value Line two decades ago.
Wanting access to the computers, as well as to the books, I spoke with one of the librarians about my situation and was granted a library card, even though I didn't have any local IDs. Hooray! for a system that works on a human basis and doesn't throw bureaucratic rules in the way.
The first thing I did with my new card was to sign up for a computer and, once I'd dealt with my email, to visit LiveJournal. My Saturday post
(sorry, currently friends-locked) was made from the library. When my hour was up, all too quickly, I wandered the shelves in search of new reading material, having completed everything I brought with me, either on the train trip here, or in the all-too-limited bedtime reading I manage before I fall asleep. I could have perused the home library, but there's something alluring about a public library whose shelves you haven't wandered in decades.
I wound up checking out two books. The first was White Night
by Jim Butcher
. Jim Butcher and his wife, Shannon
, will be co-Guests of Honor at TusCon
, this year, so this seemed like a good time to reacquaint myself with his work. Besides, my eldest son and a number of his friends are huge Dresden Files fans, and my son has been at me for years to read more of his work. (I'd only read the first in the Dresden Files series, Storm Front
, and while it was fun enough I hadn't kept up with the series. I enjoyed White Night
and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I'd retained enough of the first book that there was a sense of continuity. I was also pleased that I didn't feel that picking up a book mid-series was a problem, as any references to prior events were handled so that they left me neither confused, nor feeling that the story had been interrupted for an infodump of the backstory. I read the first half of the book that evening, in the living room of some of my dad's friends, while he and they played Bridge. Most of the rest of it I finished Sunday morning, while my dad slept in. I really needed the relaxation and I was very grateful to have something to keep me happily occupied while I relaxed.
The other book I picked up was the second edition of The Annotated Wizard of Oz
. (The cover isn't as decorated as the one on GoogleBooks, but it's still a very attractive book.) I've been enjoying it immensely, although I doubt I'll finish it before I return to Tucson.
In the Introduction—which may just be the longest introduction I've ever read, finishing on page cii
(102) and including a brief biography of Baum, a history of his many publications with an emphasis on the Oz books, and a discussion of criticism of the Oz books— the editor Michael Patrick Hearn
writes, "Of course, fairy tales and especially American
fairy tales are not for everyone, for, as E. M. Forster wrote, 'Fantasy asks us to pay something extra.'"[Emphasis ] 
As a reader and writer of fantasy, I found that line intriguing. Intriguing enough to write this long essay, as much to be able to mention the extra cost or effort required of fantasy readers, as to share with you the events leading up to that mention. It seems to me, that if fantasy (and its close cousin science fiction) requires greater effort upon the part of readers, that readers would read such works only if they feel they get something more from fantasy or science fiction.
1. Hearn, Michael Patrick. Introduction. The Annotated Wizard of Oz. By Baum. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000. xcix-c. Print.
2. Hearn's footnote for the Forster quotation, 38. on page c: "In Aspects of the Novel
(New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1927), p. 109." You can see the quote in context in the electronic version
on Google Books.