Remember that old Dan Fogelberg song “Same Old Lang Syne”? When his album The Innocent Age came out in the early ‘80’s, I bought it immediately and must’ve listened to those lyrics thousands of times – “Met my lover in the grocery store. The snow was falling Christmas Eve. I stole behind her in the frozen foods. And I touched her on the sleeve. She didn’t recognize the face at first. But then her eyes flew open wide. She went to hug me and she spilled her purse. And we laughed until we cried…”

 

Well, I’ve been hearing “Same Old Lang Syne” a lot on the radio lately and those bittersweet lyrics about two former high school lovers fatefully meeting again got me to thinking about how I too have recently been reunited with an old high school love….

 

…and his name is Dorian Hawkmoon.

 

For me, certain books remind me of very specific moments in my life. Jon Armstrong’s Grey, for example, is forever connected with the birth of my first daughter. Ken Schole’s Canticle is the book I was reviewing when my second daughter was born. Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt takes me back to the months when my mother’s battle with cancer turned her into a skeletal husk, a demented shadow of the loving person she once was. And Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion novels – specifically his Elric saga and his History of the Runestaff novels featuring Dorian Hawkmoon – brings me back to the dark days of ninth grade, when a confluence of unfortunate events (my father losing his job, my parents’ already turbulent relationship imploding, my sister dropping out of school and running away, the onset of a plague of acne of Biblical proportions, a trio of sadistic bullies bent on my destruction, etc.) pushed me, a quiet introverted kid, to the brink of suicide. When I literally had no where to go and no one to turn to, and killing myself seemed inevitable, I could temporarily escape the madness of my existence through Michael Moorcock and his classic adventure fantasy novels.

 

Set in a realm where heroes really could save the day – and there was such things as hope and salvation – I would lock myself in my bedroom and journey to a fantastical realm filled with fearless warriors, beautiful maidens and nightmarish monstrosities: “The thing struck out with both taloned hands, its gibbering cry a mixture of hatred and terror. There was a metallic squeal as the talons scored gashes in the count’s armour, sending him staggering backward. The monster’s mouth opened and closed an inch from the count’s face, its huge black eyes seeming to consume him with their rage. He staggered back, taking his sword with him. It came free. He regained his footing and struck again….”

 

I am not exaggerating when I say that Moorcock’s novels featuring Elric of Melnibone and Dorian Hawkmoon von Koln played a significant role in saving my life. They were literary escapism – sanctuary – when I needed it most: and the theme of perseverance in the Runestaff novels inspired me to persist in my own wretched adolescent existence and work to find ways to not only improve my life but to make sure that the ones I loved would never experience the sense of hopelessness and loneliness that I had….

 

Needless to say, I felt like that surprised lover in the Dan Fogelberg song when I recently received a copy of Michael Moorcock’s Hawkmoon: The Jewel in the Skull – originally published in 1967 – in the mail. Tor Books is reissuing the first four Runestaff novels in 2010 – all unarguable adventure fantasy classics – and I couldn’t be happier. Reading these timeless novels today, as a middle-aged man with a wife and children of his own, will undoubtedly be a joyous (and surreal) experience for me – the last time I read The Jewel in the Skull, I was a suicidal kid whose life was unraveling before his eyes…

 

So, with a glorious new year upon us, here’s to remembering – and rereading – all of the significant books in our past: and discovering profoundly moving new ones in 2010... (Cue the Fogelberg song!)

Comments
by on ‎01-04-2010 01:56 PM

Books have gotten me through some very bad times. One can really lose oneself in a story. A well written story captures you (doesn't matter if it is sad, adventurous, romantic, etc). Books also are good to undo all that stress. Yes I can forget everything around me, while I read.

I am looking forward to reading The Jewel in the Skull. Paul, another good choice.

by on ‎01-04-2010 06:21 PM

(Mildly Shocked) Is Moorcook the 9th grade keep your mind sane across the country?!

 

Him, Anne Rice, and Pat Benatar; got me through my Dad dieing, mom having a nervous break down, and the entire world falling into bloody burning chaos. Elric, Hawkmoon, Cornelius, Courum, Count Brass, Luis, Lestat, and "All fired up" with the volume all the way up; were friends I couldn't do without. 

 

When the new republishing came up I didn't really think when the first time was. I had the first Elric book in the car the week before and hadn't read it yet. But thankfully it was there or me. I fell into that book. Made dealing with all the everyone's acting so freaking odd now Dad's dead days, less than I must be going crazy experience it would have been.

 

Perhaps a copy should be issued to every child the first day of school for that grade. Might just push the suicide statistics down.

 

by 1lovealways on ‎01-04-2010 07:03 PM

Happy New Year Paul!

 

First, I must pay homage to Dan Fogelberg.  He was and still is one of my favorite musical artists.  When the holidays arrive I yearn to hear that song and at times have played it when the Season was over.  To Dan Fogelberg, thank you for a great song and a true song that touched us all and will always live in our hearts and bring remembrance of you.

 

Oh, the glory of books and the power that they wield.  I, too, have been saved by them.  So many times when the real world intruded and I just needed a little peace or just some escapism.  When my Mom died, all of my loved ones were around to comfort me and vice versa, I did the same for them.  But, when I was all alone and my mind was going off on so many tangents, I found peace between the pages of a book.  I could go to a faraway place, walk on a sandy beach, look at the beautiful blue of the water meet the horizon or go on a grand adventure. 

 

It is still true today what the power of books can do.  I think more so than ever.  We are all entrenched in the realities of the world we live in.  Just a few hours to steal away to somewhere different and unload the stress of the present is a wonderful and relaxing thing to do.  It's books for us book people and for others it maybe something else.  I definitely believe we all need something to calm our minds, hearts and souls for a few hours.  To bring us down and soothe our spirits, put a smile on our face, laugh out loud or comment on something outrageous that we have read. 

 

To all of the wonderful and imaginative authors whose stories have been a panacea that I use to help me soothe my soul in times of craziness, I thank you. At the end of the day, I look forward to snuggling down with your words and indulging my mind with glorious adventures that have been and will continue to be a part of my life.  I can't imagine anything better than a good book.  It's right up there with Calgon.  Remember that commercial?  That's exactly what books do.  They take me away!  :smileyhappy:

 

by Chomp on ‎01-05-2010 02:54 PM

Paul,

 

Your post demonstrates clearly the true power of literature and the written word to positively impact lives.

 

Reading this makes me wonder which books have had a profound effect on me. I will think about this and return.

 

Carol

by Joan_P on ‎01-08-2010 10:33 PM

I was just catching up on UB and saw this post and was quite touched. You share not only your professional knowledge but your soul. Thank you.

-J

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