So, I have a confession…

I read Conan novels.

Yes, that’s right. The old-school Robert Howard Conan books with the lurid covers of gigantic barbarian man slaying Nameless Terror. Now, I know better than to read these books. I occasionally tote one of them with me on the train and giggle my way through my morning commute. Conan books, like Stephen King books and Neil Gaiman’s highly entertaining American Gods, are “train books.” They’re the sorts of books that make for easy reading on the train (if I had to count the number of copies of The Davinci Code I’d seen people reading on the train, I’d have lost count a long time ago). Are these “brilliant” books? Paragons of English literature? Will they join the English canon? Aside from, perhaps, an obligatory King book, no, they probably won’t. But damn they’re fun.

And honestly, after getting through Women and Madness, several Balzac books, and enough Hemingway to shake a stick at, we all need our candy.

Subsisting primarily on Conan books, with all their sexism, overt or subtle racism, cheesy dialogue, simplistic plots and macho-masculinity, and have I mentioned the sexism? probably isn’t good for one’s psyche. Am I a fiction elitist? No, I’m a reading elitist. I think you should read as many sorts of books possible — from Howard to Hemingway; from Morrison to Woolf; and if you’re not reading erotica and epic fantasy with your Balzac, well — you’re missing out.

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