Last week on childlit, Monica Edinger mentioned Hope Mirrlees's Lud-in-the-Mist, an English fantasy novel for adults first published in the 1920s. I remember this book from my teens in the mid-seventies, a time when lots of long-forgotten "adult fantasy" was being republished in the wake of Tolkien's resurgence. My friends and I read tons of it--William Morris, Lord Dunsany, James Branch Cabell, Mervyn Peake, and E. R. Eddison. We were all chasing the Tolkien dragon, only occasionally finding it in these books that had frequently been forgotten for a reason, dated by style as much as anything. A lot of them went half-read, but I encountered enough books I enjoyed on their own terms to make their adherence (or lack thereof) to Tolkienism irrelevant. (One of my favorites was Jane Gaskell's trashy The Serpent and its sequels.)
But I don't think I could read any of them today to save my life. I love the Wee Free Men stories by Terry Pratchett, and recently enjoyed Julie Hearn's The Minister's Daughter, but the vast majority of invented-world high fantasy makes my eyes glaze over--and if your taste in spelling runs along the lines of faery, don't sit by me. While this of course says more about me than about the books, it has me interested in how, as adults, we reject books or genres that spoke so clearly to us at an earlier age. Interests change, certainly, and dare I say, mature. But I wonder if there is also a subconscious rejection going on, a determination to separate the grown-up self from the child self. It's different from rejecting genres/authors/themes because of indifference; I'm talking about the books from which we run screaming precisely because they meant so much to us at a different time.
I don't think I'm alone in this, and there's plenty of room on the virtual couch. How does the dynamic I describe work in/for/against you all as adults invested in books for children?