Saturday, August 02, 2008

Day two - Appreciative August

Top Reads

By 'Top Reads' I don't mean my family (although they're likely to become another topic during my self-imposed 'Appreciative August' blogging challenge), but books.

I've loved reading ever since I clapped eyes on J Eastman's 'Go Dog Go' and gazed in awe at the wonderful dog party illustration on the last page. I also wanted the little birdy to find out 'Who is My Mother?' and felt very sad when 'The Diggingest Dog' looked likely to be returned to the brutally cold cement floor of the pet shop.

Later, Mum found boxes of her childhood books from the 1940s, which I devoured. Enid Blyton (who I thought was 'Gnid' Blyton due to the weird signature logo she had on each tome) was very dated and English but anything the Famous Five, Secret Seven, folk from the Faraway Tree or Naughty Amelia Jane did, I read. Over and over again, blowing away the squashed, dried dead moths and dust from each page. I did wonder why the kids in her books were always really excited to be eating "Bread and jam, and lashings of ginger beer" for picnics or when they got an orange in their Christmas stocking, but the evil smugglers and nasty men who hung around in the darkness with torch lights and bad manners deserved everything they got. "Oh do buck up Timmy!"

University disappointed me greatly in terms of the 'literature' I was required to read (at breakneck pace, thus with no chance to truly enjoy or feel the beauty in any of it) and pontificate on uncertainly about each one in painfully hand-written essays for three years, so afterwards I sought out the novels that I had really wanted to read and learn about. Old classics were discovered such as Catch 22, Exodus, Shogun, everything by John Steinbeck, James Michener, PG Wodehouse, Thomas Hardy and the delicious intelligence of Jane Austen. Dad and I made a further connection through our love of the same books and I ventured further. Nabokov's Lolita, Tennessee Williams, Oscar Wilde, Dickens, Anne Tyler.

As an adult, I frequented second hand book shops, book exchanges, libraries and stores. Still do. Norwood's Angus and Robertson has seen a lot of valued custom from my wallet. These days I'm even luckier. The kindly Redcap noticed my blurbings here and asked if I'd be interested in writing some book reviews for her paper. Would I.

I've read some fantastic books this year - two in particular stand out. Karen Maitland's 'The Company of Liars' (better than Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders) and Nick Harkaway's 'The Gone Away World' - like Douglas Adams and Frank Herbert had a love-child who was better than the both of them. What a pleasant way to call myself a 'writer', by reading some brilliant works by others.


Baino said...

I'm not a great reader except on hollies unfortunately and have three books sitting on my bedside table STILL in various stages of unreadness. Had similar tween tastes to you tho. However, I've kept all the kids books for some reason including all six versions of Hairy McLary, Beatrix Potter's stuff, stacks of Jenkins and Dahl and a number of others. I think Uni and all that literary analysing put me off!

Naomi said...

Oh soo loved Enid Blyton and the Magic Far Away Tree - spent more than a few hours reading that one to my youngest son too, when we was but a young'un....

Anonymous said...

Er, is that Frank Dune or Frank Herbert that wrote Dune?


franzy said...

I have discovered a new literary hero. I have one and a half. Dahl and Salinger. Dahl for obvious reasons and Salinger because, daggy as it is, I still rate Catcher as Favourite Book Eva.

My new hero is Raymond Chandler. Read Phillip Marlowe and know what beautiful writing really is.

ps. I know you say that J Eastman wrote 'Go Dog Go', but my careful research has revealed that was actually P.D. Eastman.

Kath Lockett said...

Baino yep, Hairy McLairy, Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl and are in my reading heart too, as are some rather hilarious 1960s-style Trixie Beldens....

Naomi you do realise, therefore, that you are at liberty to tell your son to 'buck up' whenever you feel like it, and to serve him 'potted meat sandwiches' as well

Anon - er yes, I meant Frank Herbert, who *wrote* Dune. Will amend now (blush blush)

River said...

Shogun! One of my favourites. Did you see the TV series that was on several years ago?
I quite like James Michener too, but when reading one of his tales I tend to skip over pages and pages of dreary retail and pick out the actual story. If I like the story enough I sometimes go back and read the whole thing dreary details and all.

gigglewick said...

I've just finished reading 'Battle for Bennelong' and a biography of Lucrezia Borgia that's over fifty years old, both of which I rate very highly.

I have a nasty addiction when it comes to books, but luckily for me my dad's appetite for reading is even more voracious than mine, so as long as I'm happy to intersperse 'The Kite Runner' and 'Mao's Last Dancer' with pretty much everything by Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson, then I am set.

Helen said...

I also thought it was "Gnid"! I'm so glad it wasn't only me! My brother and I read the whole lot, sharing the books (7 pages for him, then 8 for me) from when I was 5 and he was 7.

Thanks for making me remember!