Obsession in the Air

by Nancy

Obsession is not just a perfume to me. It’s more like a hobby. A lifelong hobby, in fact, though I haven’t been actively obsessed by any one thing all this time. I’ve engaged more in something like serial obsessions. The dh noticed this not long after we were married and commented, “When you get into something, you really get into it, don’t you?”

He said this with remarkable good humor, considering that the obsession of the time was Richard III and that it caused him to visit way more battlefields and castles than he cared anything about (which would be next nothing, the level of his caring about such things, especially battlefields). But he bore it with the best of good will, just as he carted home from London the many books I’d purchased as fuel. Pictured at left is the statue of Richard III in Castle Gardens, Leicester. Just finding it was a bit of an adventure, but that’s a blog for another day.

Eventually, however, I’d read everything I could find that seemed to add anything new and not support the traditional wicked uncle image. The Richard III Society offered a number of primary source documents for sale, some of which would’ve been useful for general medieval research though many were outside my price range. I particularly liked Bertram Fields’ Royal Blood, which lays out a compelling case for the king’s good reputation–as well it should, considering that Fields is a prominent attorney. At that point, the Richard III obsession dropped back to the more normal level of an ongoing interest. However, I do still keep an eye out for any novels not espousing the traditional view. I have a small collection of them.
I also have a collection of Arthuriana, having gone through a similar period of fanaticism about the Arthurian legends. The movie Camelot came out as I hit an idealistic phase. I loved it–the costumes, the ideas like might for right and the highly unrealistic but still inspiring view of chivalry and knightly honor. Regardless of its level of accuracy or lack thereof, it ignited my imagination. I visited Tintagel as a college student and was disappointed, though not entirely surprised, to find that there was no evidence of its having been any sort of warlord’s stronghold. When the dh and I went back with the boy (himself in the midst of an Arthurian binge) some years later, though, we learned lightning had caused a big peat fire on the promontory, burning away several layers of soil and exposing–oh, yes!–ruins consistent with a warlord’s stronghold of the Arthurian age.

Just as an aside, I think most of us here would agree that Clive Owen made a pretty rockin’ King Arthur. Richard Harris, in his day, was a pretty decent one, too. So was Nigel Terry in John Boorman’s lavish Excalibur.

The first of these serial obsessions hit when I was in second grade, though I didn’t realize what was happening at the time. When I was seven, I discovered Superman and his astounding universe, including the Legion of Super-Heroes. The four-color world totally captivated me and ignited my imagination. I read everything I could get my hands on, and I’m convinced my engagement with comic books fed directly into my love of science fiction and fantasy. I was active in fandom for almost 20 years and did write a fair bit of fan fiction, some of which the dh claims would be book-length if it were in real manuscript format.

One of the earliest stories I remember was one in which Saturn Girl, the telepath, discovered that one Legionnaire was fated to die protecting Earth from invasion, so she stole the election for Leader, kicked out everyone else, and went out to meet the foe alone. However, Lightning Lad (whose power is what you might think from the name) disobeyed orders, went after her, and died protecting her. The Legion vowed to revive him, eventually succeeding, and Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad became the great love affair of the Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes.

At one time, I could list the code names, real names, planets of origin, powers, and weaknesses of all the Legionnaires AND all their enemies. Really. I happened to think of this when the boy went through his Pokemon phase and could name all the stages of the various dozens of pokemon, the means by which they evolved, their powers at each stage, and which pokemon could effectively battle which others. I know nothing about pokemon, but I could probably still make a fair stab at the trivia for the Legion I loved.

I got older, which I refuse to call growing up, and my interests broadened, but I still love those heroes of my childhood and the ideals they inspired. The comic books have changed, re-doing the characters from Superman on down, including my beloved Legion, and the new versions don’t grab me the way the old ones did–maybe because I’m no longer seven years old? I don’t totally love the Legion’s incarnation on Smallville, but I’m now totally hooked on Smallville itself, as some of you may remember from last summer.

The current obsession, even now winding down to a mild level of interest, is a movie I happened to see on HBO. I’m not going to say which movie it is because, much as I enjoy some parts of it and much as they intrigue me, I think it has serious problems with story and I don’t want to diss it. It fits my pattern, though–intense interest that eventually settles into something more casual. I did like this movie enough to buy it.

So what about you? Do you have obsessions with particular subjects–time periods, musicians, books, movies? Do you have longstanding obsessions or are you, too, given to serial obsession? Or do you content yourself with more normal levels of interest?

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