This week’s question at the literary blog hop caught my eye.
How did you find your way to reading literary fiction and nonfiction?
Now there’s a question!
The journey started when I was a very small baby in a pram. My baby book records that my first outing took me through the Morrab Gardens to the public library. well, my parents were great readers too!
I use that same library today and, although the layout has changed totally and library technology has taken a number of steps forward, I can still see exactly how it was and I could still take you straight to my favourite books if only we could travel back in time.
Dick Bruna …Little Grey Rabbit … Milly Molly Mandy… Mabel Esther Allen… Sue Barton… Noel Streatfield… Ruby Ferguson…
They bought me books too. Lots of classics, and I can still see the corner unit with a long line of Puffin books in my bedroom.
And I had books with a very special kind of magic. Books that my mother loved as a child and saved, hoping that she would have a daughter to inherit them and love them one day. She did.
Little Women, What Katie Did, The Girls of the Rose Dormitory …
Of course I loved books – how could I not?!
But let’s get back to the “literary” question.
I started with the traditional classics. When I was in the top class at junior school we were allowed to borrow books from a small collection. It included a number of abridged classics, and I picked up Lorna Doone. It was love. I read it over and over again, returning and re-borrowing the same book and hoping that the teacher wouldn’t notice and tell me off.
A couple of years later, at grammar school, we read Far From The Madding Crowd and I was entranced. It set off to read anything else by Hardy, and then I moved on to the Brontes, Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot …
The grammar school introduced me to modern classics too, when we read The History of Mr Polly by H G Wells. I learned to look closely at orange Penguins as well as the black ones.
And then there were the forgotten classics. I was drawn to a copy of The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter. Why was that title in the adult section of the library? Why was in presented like a classic, wrapped in dark green? I had discovered Virago Modern Classics, the literary love of my life.
And I learned an important lesson. That the great books weren’t necessarily the ones you saw in every bookshop, that so many wonderful old books were just waiting to be discovered.
Modern literary fiction snuck in somewhere too. I don’t remember where it started, but a key book was Perfume by Patrick Suskind. People were talking about it at work and I went out in my lunch break to track down a copy. It was wonderful, and like nothing I’d read before.
And, now I think about it, Perfume must have been the book that made me start looking at translated fiction too.
What I’m trying to say, is that there are so many books out there, and that the more I read the more I find. Which should I pick?
I want to meet interesting people, and I want visit wonderful places. I want to lose myself in wonderful prose and fine storytelling. I want to learn, I want to think and I want to understand. Most of all, I want to care.
I seek out the books that can offer me all of that.