Everything I have ever written and will ever write comes out of my own mind. I cannot write anything beyond my own thoughts. My memories and experiences, then, are the most important things I own. Along with language. But that’s not the point right now.
In order to write stories we delve past the names and events and dates to see what it was really all about, to see what it meant then and what it means now. And once we’ve worked it out, or while we’re working it out, we wrap it all up in a separate package. We tell the story with different names and events and dates. Perhaps one lot of events happened over six weeks in an Australian highschool but the other will happen in Paris over a few years. Or vice versa. But at the centre of it all will always be the truth; the essence of what it was all about. At the centre of it all we’re reaching out and asking if others will join us.
Will you be brave with me? Will you learn with me? Will you suffer with me? Will you dream with me? Will you understand me?
In 3rd year uni I had a knee reconstruction right before my mid-year exams. The heay load of study combined with strong painkillers meant that the familiarity and easy reading of Harry Potter was about all I could cope with in terms of leisure activity. I read the whole series through three times. (I’m pretty sure it was three… might have been five though…) I began to think that I knew the whole thing off by heart. Although, to be fair, even before that reading spree I knew the series fairly well.
I was given the first two books for my birthday (tenth, perhaps), we bought the 3rd soon after, and the remaining 4 as they came out. Each time a new book came out I read it all the way through, without pausing, before passing it off to one of my siblings or parents. Along with this quick read through, my parents also started a tradition whereby we read Harry Potter at dinner time. Every night, after tea, a chapter or two would be read aloud. My mum read most often but I think all of us read sometimes. We kept this up until Deathly Hallows, when dinner was not a consistently five person affair.
And so I say that the Harry Potter series are my favourite books. I’ve never thought, before now, that I had a favourite book. A year or two ago I tried to decide and came up with a list that included Ender’s Game, Sherlock Holmes and Anne of Green Gables. It didn’t include the Book Thief but only because I hadn’t read it yet. So what changed my mind?
I have just spent a year without Harry Potter books. I moved to Perth and let my Harry Potter books remain with their set in Adelaide. And I have missed them terribly. Numerous times in libraries and bookshops I’ve swooned over them and wanted to take them home with me but something always stopped me: a new book I’d been recommended, or the fact that I’m meant to be saving money… whatever. Yesterday I gave in. Yesterday at the library I decided that I had missed Harry Potter for long enough and I was going to read them all again. Of course the library didn’t have Philosopher’s Stone in so I had to pick up Chamber of Secrets instead but no matter.
I loved it.
In memory I’ve always thought of Chamber of Secrets as the weakest of the books (certainly the weakest of the first 3) but it just made me so happy. I don’t know if I can really explain how happy I was to go back and remember it all. Nonetheless I am now convinced that Harry Potter is my favourite and possibly will remain so forever.
Do you ever go to your bookshelf to pick up a particular book and realise with sudden shock that you don’t own it?
Well perhaps it has never happened to anyone else but it happened to me today. I wanted to skim through Pride and Prejudice to check something. Note: I wasn’t even going to read it because I’ve read it so many times, I just wanted to check a detail. I was sure I owned it. If anyone had asked me this morning which Austen books I own, I would have listed it. But then, as I tried to recall the physical book I realised that I’d read several different copies of it: one a large print from the library, one a small print from the library, one on my kindle* and one on wikisource. How had this happened? More importantly, how was this not the first time this had happened? A few months ago I looked for Ender’s Game and realised I didn’t own a copy of that either.
So I’m going to make a list of books that I should own – books that everyone should own – and that I think I own but actually I don’t.
Pride and Prejudice
Anyone got any other suggestions?
*Yes, I’m aware that owning a book on kindle is one form of owning a book but I like to own books in physical format too.
“write people you would want to spend time with – even the nasty ones” – Neil Gaiman
Look, I’m obviously a Gaiman fan but I’m fairly sure I would find this piece of advice intriguing even if it didn’t come from him and here is why…
I love to read. I have always considered myself a bookworm. I really think books are one of the greatest things in the world. But there are books I dislike, books I hate and books I never finish because I don’t think they’re worth the small amount of time they would take me to read. And books I dislike tend to fall into one of two categories:
1. They are too wordy with long sentences I get lost in and paragraphs about nothing, or
2. I don’t like the characters.
And, if I’m honest, 2 is a much bigger problem for me. I made it all the way through Les Miserables despite finding large chunks of it fairly boring. I loved War and Peace despite, well, all the detailed War sections. I can deal with boring paragraphs if I care enough about the characters.
But if I dislike the main character the chances of me finishing the novel are slim and the chance of me liking it is basically non-existent.
Can any of you think of a novel you like with a character you dislike?
I never go in to a library and pick up what I expected to when I walked in.
On my most recent trip I grabbed some Diana Wynne Jones, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman and (the one planned novel) a Teen Power Inc book by Emily Rodda.
The strangest pick of the bunch was the Neil Gaiman book, (well, “graphic novel”): one of the Sandman series. I knew these were what had made Gaiman famous but I’d never really thought of reading them. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Asterix and Tin Tin while growing up (ok, I still do), but that’s been about the limit of my comic book/ graphic novel intake.
Well, anyway, it was fantastic. It was fun and funny and exciting and mysterious and now I want them ALL. That’s the problem with picking up one book in a series… You get hooked and then have to search the world for each and every episode. But the characters were fascinating, I enjoyed having pictures while I was reading and it was a nice change from my normal reading habits.
The other three novels I had already devoured when I was somewhere in the vicinity of late primary school and it is interesting to go back and read them just to note how much I have changed.
They are three very different books and even back then I knew that parents, teachers and librarians had a ranking system in their minds regarding which were “better”. I have it now, too, but I didn’t back then. Back then, I loved the words of Lemony Snicket, I loved his cleverness and his characters. I loved the worlds of Diana Wynne Jones and her imagination. I loved the high-stakes adventures of Emily Rodda’s gang and the way she told me that no two people are the same.
I only saw the things that held my attention. If a book was good enough in one aspect it didn’t matter if it was lacking in others.