Reading India and Africa: Or Why Alma is a Bit Odd, Part ???

What happens when a child grows up reading Kipling, and hearing the stories of Jim Corbett and Peter Capstick while reading the Old Mother Westwind books and The Song of Hiawatha and Seabird and The Tree in the Trail? They might start reading other things on their own, books like John Masters’ Bugles and a Tiger and The Road Past Mandalay or Viscount Slim’s Defeat into Victory. And reading Capstick for themselves, leading to Karamojo Bell, and H. Rider Haggard and Talbot Mundy and Boys’ Life Book of WWII Stories and Korea Stories And circle back to Kipling and M. M. Kaye! Oh no, you’ve created an Alma!

Somehow I accidentally grew up in the British Empire in the 19th Century. Explains a lot, doesn’t it? I’m certain my parents did not intend for that to happen. After all, they raised me in the central part of the US, with Southern and western customs, and lots and lots of books. Books about India and Africa, books about exploring the American West and Canada, books about big-game hunting and making a fool of yourself in hunting camps, books about the British Army in India, and all kind of places.

I think I was in grad school before I realized just how influential those early impressions were. You see, I wrote using British punctuation and spelling, 19th century punctuation and spelling. I had no trouble reading “old” books because they weren’t old, not to me. They were friends I’d grown up with, stories I’d learned by heart, oh Best Beloved. Why had I not twigged onto this before? I was too busy in college, and my instructors (two of whom were British) didn’t really notice. When I was flying, I was also immersed in western American culture and horse stuff, and there’s a lot of 19th century wrapped up in that still today. You never put humans on top of the food chain after flying someone to Big City Hospital because “the bull came back to get even.” Or are stalked by Something in the tall grass beside a trail (I think it was a bobcat). Or chased by a pack of feral dogs and have to climb a cliff to get away (southeastern Colorado.)

But that’s normal in Kipling’s world, or Haggard’s or a Capstick story. Jim Corbett stalked tigers and discovered that they were stalking him.

When I read S. M. Sterling’s The Peshawar Lancers I was grinning from ear to ear checking off all the old friends he nodded to or borrowed from.


7 thoughts on “Reading India and Africa: Or Why Alma is a Bit Odd, Part ???

  1. Next time you come to visit, you’re going to have to take a year or so to go through my bookcases. I’ve got most of what you mention, plus a large number of others. I suspect we’d have to use a cattle prod to get you to put them down long enough to eat now and again!


  2. I’ll have to check out John Masters, most of the others I already have. πŸ™‚ Growing up I leavened those with a strong dose of L’amour and ERB, so that diluted the British punctuation and spelling. Not the sense of adventure, or nineteenth century values, though!

    • Since I have (so far) survived all such close encounters, and eaten a number of the ursine involved in said encounters; I’m fairly confident of my position on the food chain.

  3. I have to confess: I didn’t read Kipling and Burroughs until some time in the last 10 years. I replaced them with other books and authors, especially science fiction from Asimov, Campbell, Clarke, Heinlein, H. Beam Piper, and van Vogt. I supplemented those with biographies, WWI and WWII histories and stories (my dad had an autographed copy of “Up Front”). My parents had a pretty good library, and I enjoyed it. I can’t say I read the ENTIRE American People’s Encyclopedia, but there wasn’t much of it I missed. Thanks to Project Gutenberg, I’m filling in the holes of what I DID miss.

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