I have always loved books and there are several rafters in the loft that are bearing the weight of this obsession. One day – next to the bricks and plaster, a lone copy of some once loved story staring up from the grass, the onlooker will explain to the nice policeman that there was a groan and then boom, the house just collapsed.
I partly hold my mum and grandma responsible, they taught me to read at a ridiculously early age.
At six, my mother probably regretted both her efforts and my aptitude as I got sent home from school for throwing a tantrum (and a book). The teacher had tried to force me to read one of the “Peter and Jane” series aloud to the class. I didn’t want to read this “baby” book and pointed to the story-time books designed for the educator to read (in my feverish six-year-old opinion these looked much more interesting).
“You can’t read those dear, try these first”
“I can read them..”
“Don’t be ridiculous, now stop making a fuss”
Regrettably my frustration got the better of me (as I was already reading the “Famous five” series by Enid Blyton) so poor “Peter and Jane”" went airborne.
My dad should share some of the responsibility, he used to read me bedtime stories and often over seas for months, the only way I was going to get to the end was by reading them myself. As another bibliophile, he also supplied a childhood home which had bookcases and shelves in every room overloaded with every type of book imaginable.
Third in the dock, are my two older siblings (who also have the reading bug) for leaving a supply of forbidden horror books laying about. It was the Eighties – what can I say? – Stephen King, James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Shaun Hutson and the list goes on, these fed my wish for anything in print, with the added bonus of “naughty” bits.
On discovering my secret reading of adult themed books, (I was eight) my dad asked if I understood the content. Sheepishly, I remember replying that I couldn’t understand some of the longer words. He walked out of the bedroom and I thought – wow, now I am in big trouble, he’s gone to get mum.
Returning, sitting on my bed and handing over a dictionary he said “if you don’t know something then look it up. There’s always a book that can teach you what you want to know and if anything in here scares you, please come and talk to me. Remember, these are only stories.”
I handled the dictionary and nodded sagely.
“Dad there are some things I don’t understand?” – I quickly point out one of the naughty paragraphs. My Dad turns bright red, kisses me on the head and replies:
“Ask your mother in the morning.”
But now, dear reader, I am writing. I still read but it is in a different way - I look at structure, clunky language, did they show or tell? This gives me insight into how the author achieves his/her aim of telling a story, how they put things together but I also find it difficult to switch my critical eye off. No more, am I simply reading and escaping into my imagination. I am conscious of the words on the page or the text on the screen.
WRITING is ruining my READING.
I’d love to hear if you’ve experienced something similar?