Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Mission Impossible

How am I going to read all my books?  Sometimes I despair, sometimes I am delighted, as I consider all the stories which await my discovery.  I always have at least one book that I'm in the middle of reading.  I never travel without a book.  If I need to wait, I always have the company of a book to pass the time.  And still, I know I can probably never get through all of my books, let alone the new ones I hear about and acquire or borrow from the library, or that my book group selects.  So I have no chance of getting through all the books in the world!

When I was in primary school - about grade 6 or 7 I think - I set myself the task of reading all the novels in the school library.  I started at "A".  I quickly discovered that I would have to go back as other readers returned books that hadn't been there as I skipped past and selected the next volume.  I think I made it to C.  Not very far in alphabetical terms, but there were probably about 50 books those first three letters covered.  And this was apart from the other reading which was required.  If I was to advise my twelve year old self on how to approach such a task now, I'd suggest going thematically, rather than alphabetically.

I'm not sure how I became such a reader.  I don't have particular memories of my parents reading to me, although we had lots of stories on records that had a book to read along with.  Tinkerbell would ring her bell signalling when it was time to turn the page.  Even now, I can hear it clearly.

I was an eclectic, ambitious and precocious reader right from the beginning.  On the shelves at home were hard cover editions of Enid Blyton - all of the Famous Five and the various other stories like "The Wishing Chair" and "The Enchanted Forest".  I moved onto Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries but also read "Wuthering Heights" when I was about twelve.  I discovered Ian Fleming and James Bond in my early teenage years and loved to read the parts of the encyclopaedia which were delivered weekly.  Ruth Park's "Playing Beattie Bow" was an Australian favourite and my mother always kept track of what had won or been noted at the children's book council awards.  And we had a full set of Neville Shute's novels bound in red leather with gold embossing and beautiful marbled end papers.

Not having a television probably helped cultivate my lifelong habit which I can't imagine life without.  And my parents didn't censor my choices - as far as I remember.  It's rare that I don't finish a book, even if I don't like it.  Susan Sontag's book "The Volcano Lover" was a book group suggestion which defeated me, and most of the other members of the group.  "The Famished Road" by Ben Okri nearly had me, but I finished the whole thing and then threw it down the second I had  finished.  Even "How Late it was, how late" by Scottish writer James Kelman was not as great a challenge as that one, even though it is a stream of consciousness written in a Scottish dialect!

On my bedside table at the moment, waiting to be read, are the following volumes:

"Love in the Time of Cholera" - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"American Rust" - Philip Meyer
"Last Night In Twisted River" - John Irving
"The Passage" - Justin Cronin
"C" - Tom McCarthy
"Hard Times" - Charles Dickens
"Hamlet's Blackberry" - William Powers
"Super Sad True Love Story" - Gary Shteyngart
"Imperial Bedrooms" - Bret Easton Ellis
"Whatever" - Michel Houellebecq
"Under the Dome" - Stephen King

And one non-fiction title - "Influence - science and practice" - Robert B Cialdini

As I look at this list, I've just noticed that none of the authors are female.  However I am reading "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte, "13 Ways of Looking at the Novel" by Jane Smiley, "A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan and "Dismissal" by Nicholas Hasluck.

Last year's birthday gifts were all books.  As this year's birthday looms, I suspect my mission will become even further from completion.  How fantastic!

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