Part One: The Unveiling
I remember, vividly, how my oldest sister bought me a novel when I was eight. Up until then I regarded books with spines as something sacred for adults, more so, if their covers were not illustrated in primary colours and their pages contained no pictures, you probably needed a license to read them. I had copiously read picture books; mostly fiction, some ‘educational’, even a pictorial atlas and an illustrated dictionary, but never a novel. You are possibly thinking that I must have been a rather strange child to have been reading a dictionary, and I suppose you wouldn’t be wrong.
Part Two: The Epiphany
I spent the next week engrossed. I didn’t pay attention in class. But owing to the fact that my teacher was on maternity leave, I had no allegiance to the series of inconstant substitutes who tried to replace her anyhow. I read on the bus. And I’d secretly cherish every single delay because it meant another moment of uninterrupted reading. I stayed up as late as possible and then found refuge under my blanket with a torch. It was the first time I knowingly got myself into trouble staying up past my bedtime because I had decided the rewards far outweighed the risks. My parents punished me in a myriad of ways, but they were all bearable if I still got to read. And they weren’t bad parents for punishing my reading habits, they just wanted me to also eat and sleep and do other necessary things. But I had to keep reading. I just couldn’t believe what I’d been missing out on. I felt like my world had multiplied in its vastness and I was so excited about everything that could possibly be. It was a singular experience and I treasure that novel and everything it gave me, but really, it wasn’t just a novel my sister had given me, it was a license to imagine.
Part Three: The Dark Side
Next came a series of devious actions resting on questionable morals: I became a library monitor at school so I could manipulate the system. I was waging war with library rules.
- We could only borrow two books at a time.
- Books were due after two weeks’ time.
- You could only reserve one book at a time.
I was easily reading two books a week, i.e. falling in love twice a week and I was determined to get my hands on as many as possible which would have been fine, you’d think, if I had just returned books as soon as I’d read them. But that would be unspeakable! Each reading was forming a bond with the words in my hands and I could hardly bear the thought of giving up a firstborn, firstly because I was not a mother, but an eight year child, and secondly, because every book I loved was precious. I wanted them all with the hungry greediness of obsession.
So when I became a library monitor — which was easy because I was an overachiever and persuasive with teachers, I wroughted the system. I deactivated the books that I wanted, affectionately rubbing the magnetic strips like a comic book villain and would take as many as I wanted. But I convinced myself that I was still a good child — reading was a noble thing and I wasn’t going to take them for good, and indeed I always brought them back, just a little late. And I tried to be considerate — I knew which ones were popular and made sure they were returned first. I just wanted to hold onto the ones that I loved for a little while longer. I wanted to reread my favourite parts out loud and wanted to hold the words against my chest as I slept. And I had to fuel this new addiction somehow. In all honesty, I think it worked out rather well.
When new books were accepted into the library, I had first dibs. I put more than one book on hold for myself, and several others I wanted under fake names. Once, I saw the librarian override an overdue book status with a pin and I remembered the combination. I hid books.
But I also recommended to others. THIS ONE IS AH-MAY-ZINGGG! Younger me would bellow. Many of us would spend lunchtimes reading (when we weren’t playing downball or tiggy) and we got a little bit aggressive.
Have you read all the Geronimo Stiltons yet?
I can’t believe you haven’t read The Gizmo yet!
I finished that in three days, how many days did it take you?
Part Four: The Writers
Somewhere along the lines I discovered that books could make me cry. Books had introduced me to new dimensions with fantasy. I had read Eion Colfer and Isobelle Carmody but I hadn’t before considered that books were also vessels for our deepest longings. I read tragedy and prized the tears that stained the pages. I was moved, and continue to be moved by books of astounding sensitivity. There are human stories folded within literature and I realised that the writers of books were whole human beings. I was reading the echoes of their hearts and their loosely disguised desires. I learned to be gentle.
This nicely coincided with authors visiting my school. I thought them the world.
Part Five: The Intermittent Years
I continued to read every day of my life, refining my tastes and always finding something surprising. I remember cackling as I read Douglas Adams for the first time and redefining the concept of ‘great book’. I fell into deeper love when I discovered Jane Austen and into my deepest love yet when I discovered poetry.
Part Six: The Beginning
Then I realised I could write.
Welcome to my blog.