Thursday, March 27, 2008

Growing Up With Goosebumps...

On R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series, long summer afternoons, sacred texts, Stephen King, and, of course, Harry Potter:

Was anyone else pleased by the NY Times' article "Goosebumps Rises from the Literary Grave"? This former R.L. Stine fan was anyway. The afternoons I spent fighting slimy monsters or conversing with aliens all from the comfort of my bed are too numerous to count and almost all courtesy of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series. The occasion on which I handed those books over to my younger siblings was frankly ceremonial, attendant with solemn promises that they absolutely would NOT wet them, tear them, draw in them, get food on them or in way disrespect my former sacred texts of horror.

I had, by this time, moved on much more scarier things than Stine's really only slightly frightening Goosebumps series. Apparently, during the height of his popularity - a popularity I was completely unaware of until reading the Times article 20 minutes ago - Stine was called the "Stephen King of children's literature." As a twelve year old, I must have thought so too since King is exactly what I started reading when I decided that evil ventriloquist dolls were just so elementary.

That doesn't mean, however, that I don't greet the news of Goosebumps' rebirth with not a little hint of nostalgia - and a bit of chagrined surprise since I wasn't aware Stine had stopped penning them in the first place. Which only goes to show just how completely I left the Goosebumps series behind when I decided to move on to more "adult" material.

I don't know how well the new Goosebumps books will go over with this new generation of children, especially following the Harry Potter series, which I can admit has a more sophisticated plot and better character development than most of the Goosebumps books. But what Goosebumps lacked in sophistication it made up for in the kinds of scary thrills that come cheaply and most welcomely on long and hot summer afternoons. Those it did well. Even now, thirteen years later, I'm still not too old or sophisticated for cheap and scary thrills. I'd like to hope that a large portion of today's children aren't either.

Stephen King wrote an interesting article for Entertainment Weekly some time ago on Harry Potter and his unacknowledged predecessors - the books by R.L. Stine.

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