All my life, I've been a heavy pleasure reader. At times, it has seemed like an addiction, and there is little question that it has affected the course of my life in negative ways. However, that's not what this post is about. I want to talk about one of the greatest pleasures available to the lifelong reader: the rediscovery of books read and enjoyed long ago.

What prompted this post was my recent reading of the Glencannon stories, written from around 1925 to around 1950 by Guy Gilpatric. I have come into contact with Colin Glencannon, Chief Engineer of the SS Inchcliffe Castle, during three periods of my life.

When I was a child, my parents had a fairly small collection of books in the house. Several volumns of Reader's Digest Condensed Books, the Encyclopedia Americana, other miscellania, and Mr. Glencannon Ignores the War. I would say that by the time I was out of elementary school, I had read all of their books several times over, and Glencannon many times. 

I should add that my father was a Marine who had fought in the South Pacific in World War II, and that the book was given to him by my mother, probably because the story was placed there. The Glencannon book, along with other fare such as Robert Sherrod's "Tawara: the Story of a Battle", along with war souvenirs like a Japanese sword & flag, gave me a glimpse into the world as it was for my parents during the War (I was born a bit more than two years after VJ day).

Perhaps it is a tribute to my shallowness, but I related to the fictional universe created by Gilpatric much more than the real one written about by Sherrod, and while I remember almost nothing about Tawara, Glencannon and the other characters in Mr. Glencannon Ignores the War have stayed with me all my life.

When I was in college, my father died. I don't think it's an accident that some time after that, I thought of that Glencannon book, and decided to see whether the university library had a copy. I was extremely pleased that not only did it have a copy of Mr. Glencannon Ignores the War, but there were copies of a Glencannon Omnibus and a "Best of" Glencannon collection. I devoured all of those with great pleasure.

Last spring, my mother died. I have no idea if there is a connection, but I recently began to have the desire to re-read some Glencannon. I am associated with a different university now, and I was able this time around to get my hands on all three of the Glencannon Omnibus volumes. I just finished them, and it was a wonderful experience. For one thing, the effect was much greater to be able to read all the stories, but without question, the peak was in ending right where I started more than 50 years ago, with Mr. Glencannon Ignores the War.

There is no question that this is a great story and a great series. I would have enjoyed them even had I not been exposed to them as a child. But because of the linkage with my earlier life, I feel flooded with nameless emotions and memories. I suppose that this may be similar to other kinds of nostalgia -- going back to old places, smelling old smells, and so on, but I can't help but think that there is a kind of synergy from the experience of reading the story, already a kind of escape from the here and now, with the re-reading of such a familiar story from my childhood, and one that had such strong personal associations for me.

If you are a lifelong reader, I encourage you to go back over some of these old tales. If you aren't, then it's not too late to get started now, so hop to it.

Greg Shenaut
P.S. For a taste of Colin Glencannon, there are etext versions of three stories here.

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