Reading's a drug. Used in the right quantities it can be beneficial, but over used it destroys, the world it takes you to taking place of the one that, in the end, we have to live in. We live vicariously through imagined characters. We thrill to dangers that we wouldn't dare face. We thank our lucky stars we're not the one at the wrong end of the gun.
At any rate, we all have different relationships with what we read. We identify. Or we say: Thank God I'm not like that or caught in in such and such a situation, or isn't he a bastard; I'm going to make sure I don't behave like that. Or we just escape into another world.
Harold Robbins belongs to my adolescence, a time when I did not have a clue who or what I was. I lived in a bubble: there was no world outside mine. I was safe, contained, comfortable. I didn't have any understanding of the world outside, or what other people went through, except from what i read in books. And the books of that time were those of John O'Hara, Nicholas Monsarratt, Leon Uris and Irving Wallace and yes Harold Robbins. American novels with sexy covers, so much more "real" than those of Charles Dickens, H G wells and Far From the Madding Crowd that we were forced to read at school.
We too were going to be adventurers, we were going to haunt the back streets; we were going to take wild risks and become successful; we were going to be inducted into the world of sex, and, if need be, perhaps into the world of love
. But as we know, youth is wasted on the young. They have it all - energy, enthusiasm, attractiveness and a mind that remembers where they left the keys- yet they fritter it all away. They drink too much, or do drugs; turn over partners like pages in a book. Play, as I did, a great deal pool. Drop jobs as quickly as they take them. Make lifelong commitments with nary a thought of consequences.
Reading Danny Fisher from my septuagenarians pinnacle, I think, yeah, well... Did it do me any good? How different is it reading it today? Above all does it last? Or like some literature , is it dated?
To me Danny Fisher shows a man in a huddle with himself. There is no wider world than the streets of New York. There are no other concerns that matter other than his own.
There is a good side and a bad side to Fisher. He has good luck and bad luck. He has chances, some of which he makes the most of. others which he throws away. He is strong and he's also weak. He makes a muck of things as we all do. And in the end he dies.
>Still and all, he is real. Robbins entertains but he also teaches. Be a good boy, he says, but not too good. There is evil out there, but succumbing to its charm brings dire consequences. Be warned.
And reading Danny Fisher now, I feel warned. We are accidental, each one of us. A stray sperm How much choice about what happens to us and the decisions we make are actually up to us as individuals? If we were born black in the United States or stateless in Syria, how different would be our options. Do we decide thew course of our lives or does accident decide it for us? What I am warned about is not to expect too much from writers, they are reflecting life as they know it, perhaps jazzed up a little.
>Robbins tells a good story, This one is about morality. But its also about the exigencies of accident. Your country, your family, your talents and then the accidental forces that come into play. Its a cautionary tale told well. We like the love bits, and caring about the character, we are appalled by the decision he takes. We are entertained and we learn from it.
Critics are snobs. They can also be vastly ignorant. Books like this one are not regarded as literature even though it does the job. We take what we want from books and I took both the expectation of willing women and the warning of a morality tale. Would my life have been different with out such books? That is the question.