Monday, July 16, 2012
A comfort of books
- Harry the Dirty Dog & Ping.
That was only 44 years ago!
My cousin Connie read to me from Pinocchio - the very same, battered copy I still have.
In primary school, I remember being told very firmly (and not at all gently!) by the librarian that I was not ALLOWED to touch the chapter books, I could ONLY borrow the picture books. But the yearning to move into those secret worlds of text-only was so strong.
I think it was my Grade Five teacher Mr Webster who introduced me to Ivan Southall's books - which I never see or hear of these days - Ash Road and Hills End were my favourites. They are still on my shelf. Australian stories, so different from my beloved Enid Blytons ... they sit nearby. The Chronicles of Narnia - my gorgeous, well-thumbed The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: torn apart by my first-born, replaced and her firmly addicted.
Op shops provided an abundance of vintage stories for girls - school stories, horse stories ... I would pounce upon the rows of faded blue or green covers - often suffering the disappointment of finding only BOYS stories! I still have all those girls books - stripped, by the innocent me, of their annoying dust jackets, much to the angst of the adult me as they multiply the books worth: ironically as I now collect those I never owned, at much more than op shop prices.
My first adult novel - loaned to me by the boy who shared my desk and my last-name in Grade Six. Jaws. My local beach never felt quite as safe after that. Nor my vocabulary! It sits on my shelves. Lying awake into the wee hours, too frightened to sleep, finishing The Exorcist as a teenager. My entire, battered collection of horror stories have their own shelf - Damien of The Omen, Rosemary's baby, Amityville Horror.
Historical romances, mostly from the local library, took me to another world and fed my craving for British history - and local as well. The Australian series, by William Stuart Long AKA Vivan Stuart, sit on my shelf - along with the disappointment that the author died before completing the saga from the arrival of the First Fleet to modern day.
The 80s - Lace! Harold Robbins. Danielle Steel.Barbara Taylor Bradford. Wonderful, trashy and grist for my insatiable appetite for books. I haunted the second-hand bookstore for paperbacks and consumed them - first in the long days of unemployment and later in the spare moments between caring for my small children (probably when I should have been doing housework!) I still have many of them - they make me smile to see them sitting on the shelf.
I always loved a good murder and the 90s brought so many! My shelves filled with the black jackets - Patricia Cornwell, Michael Connelly, The Kellermans (Jonothan and wife Faye: I am yet to read any of their son Jesse's works!). Inspector Morse (as big as a horse in my mind, as my brain had been infiltrated by all my children's own books!).Elizabeth George. Robin Cook (a conspiracy behind every door) most of these are still on my shelves.
Into the new century and into more cosy works. Rosamunde Pilcher. Maeve Binchy. Marian Keyes. Suddenly, the Irish were everywhere! Edward Rutherford's epic historical sagas. "Chick Lit" - followed by "Hen Lit" as I was getting older and the genre aged with me. They are all on the shelves.
I began Bookcrossing, which led to random reading. I loved the idea of releasing books into the wild for others to find, but loved my collection too much to make much of a dint in the process: I sought unwanted books in bulk through Freecycle and other sources and I bought discounted, second-hand copies of favourites specifically to give away!
Village tales and cosy murders are my current fad, stacking up nicely on the shelves. Or not. Ebooks and audio books are downloaded into my tablet. Amazon, Book Depository, Audible, Kobo - new ways to buy books in all formats.
Alongside the fiction, my collection of non-fiction grew. Biographies and memoirs are favourites. When my health restricted my lifestyle, I would take off to Provence or Tuscany, cycle around the world or hitch a ride with Michael Palin on his travels. I would choose a country for the winter and read as much as I could based there. The shelves grew.
My journey through parenthood is marked by books - and augmneted by my work in supporting parents and my fascination for the old. A collection began with my own reference books, grew to include vintage and retro and even included the "bad books" which I shelve upside down to mark my disrespect. Now my daughter is planning a family and I need to make sure she reads the most current, not the oldest! I shall sort into year of publication.
Hobbies and interests, popular culture, history, health, women's issues ... all represented, shelf after shelf.
So, you see, it was no spur of the moment decision, but a long-held dream, finally realised this weekend which led me along a pathway I have traversed for almost 50 years, which led to .....
Seven matching (Ikea Billy) book cases spanning the long wall of our lounge room. Replacing mis-matched options begged, borrowed and made-do for all the many years since I left home 30 years ago and filled with my treasures. Will I buy more books? Of course! And will I cull to make space for them - yes. I have always culled my collection, although it might seem otherwise. But some books will be with me when they cart me off in the future - and my kids have strict instructions to keep only what they want but to find good homes for those they don't.