Reading

I’m told that I was an early reader. There’s no way I can recall my first book ever, but I do remember being four and five years old, and madly in love with Enid Blyton’s Rainy Day Stories and the like. These books came in hard covers, one colour for each. There was a purple one, a yellow one, a green one and a brown one. Such was my reluctance to part with them at night that I would stack them up beside my pillow in my cot, and go to sleep that way.

My love for reading storybooks while huddled in bed with a baby bottle was probably the main reason behind my having to wear spectacles by the age of seven. They were little pale pink plastic spectacles. I remember trembling with fear the day my teacher gave me that slip saying that I’d failed my eye test. Failed a test! That was all I understood. The test hadn’t even been fair, because I hadn’t known and hadn’t studied. I thought my mum’d kill me, and was amazed when she didn’t. That showed how silly I am capable of being.

Books were my constant, faithful companions throughout my childhood. Being shy, reserved and a tad different from the rest of my schoolmates, I always found it difficult to make friends, and after having made friends, finding soulmates among them. This still happens today. It’s not that hard to find people to watch a movie or go shopping with, but finding someone who comes from the same planet and talks the same language – so to speak – is the sociological equivalent of unearthing gold.

Rather than try my luck with human beings, I trusted in books to provide good company and interesting situations. I still have vivid memories of books I loved in childhood.

I much preferred the Famous Five to the Secret Seven. Peter in the SS was detestably arrogant, overbearing and chauvinistic. I would have liked to smack him hard.

Malory Towers beat St. Clair’s hollow every time.

Whenever there was a choice to be made, I always favoured the blonde girl. Therefore, I preferred Mary to Laura in the Little House series, and Amy was my favourite sister in Little Women. That’s not how I select my personal heroines anymore, but I still cringe at how shallow I was. 

I was briefly in love with Joe from the Hardy Boys. Must have been the blond thing at work again.

My guilty pleasure was Virginia Andrews. I was about eleven at the time and my mum had retired as book censor. Lucky for me. 

When I was twelve, my mum told me that I should have already outgrown teen novels. Although that saved me from Mills & Boone, it also gave me the false impression that Roald Dahl and Judy Blume were beneath me. I’m making up for that now.

Even now, I still re-read the books from my childhood with great pleasure and absorption. They gain fresh meaning now that I’m an adult. At the moment, I’m reading the Emily series by L.M. Montgomery. Emily has always resonated with me much more than Anne ever did, and I identify very much with her melancholy, pride, oddness, creativity and individuality. I tried to write as she does, but time and events turned me to another – and very different – occupation. Yet I still feel that itch in my fingertips sometimes.

I wonder how they started out – Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Thomas Hardy, John Irving, Kazuo Ishiguro, Natsuo Kirino, Dean Koontz – why, how, where, they began writing and ended up creating alternate realities that could reach someone like me.

I have often felt very much like Kipling’s cat, who waved his wild tail and walked by his wild lone in this world, but I think I will never really be lonely as long as I carry these universes with me. 

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. purplejake  |  July 3, 2009 at 23:34

    Thanks for adding my blog to your roll! It’s good to know you’ll be back – I find I visit the blogs on my roll on a regular basis. I’m still reeling from the pubic hair in your food, by the way – I couldn’t think of an appropriate comment to leave with that one. This time I’m replying to you under ‘Reading’ – I think you should list some recommendations here! Shall I give you some to start with? How about On Green Dolphin Street by Sebastian Faulks; We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. Happy reading!

    Reply
    • 2. Katie  |  July 4, 2009 at 16:50

      Guess what – I just read Kite Runner about a month ago! I never really took to Amir, but they say that you hate who you hate because you see yourself in them. I have been considering buying Kevin, as well as Angus, but have been unable to commit thus far, because they look like books I will either love or hate. Heh. Thanks for recommending these! My current read is Peter Carey’s Theft, and I just finished Vincent Lam’s Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, which opens up many memory lanes. The main problem, really, is that all these books refuse to be squeezed back onto my overcrowded bookshelves and have colonized the bedside, sofa and coffee table. It’s an invasion. I need a bigger place to stay.

      Reply
  • 3. Wen Sze  |  July 11, 2009 at 15:03

    Ah yes, FF > SS, and MT > SC :D

    There’re lots of fun biographies abt & letters by authors at the lib, e.g. Agatha Christie at call number 823. I was reading fascinating ones about Wodehouse and James Thurber last month. Do you read Margaret Atwood?

    Reply
    • 4. Katie  |  July 12, 2009 at 10:32

      A couple – Handmaid’s Tale and Moral Disorder (which was my souvenir to self from Tokyo). Have not read J Thurber tho – any you would recommend? I’ve heard that Agatha Christie had some interesting mysteries in her own real life.

      Reply
      • 5. Wen Sze  |  July 14, 2009 at 21:04

        If you like Wodehouse, you’ll probably like Thurber? He’s the chap who wrote the secret life of Walter Mitty. :D

        To quote from “the secret life of James Thurber”…
        “Senor Dali’s memoirs have set me to thinking. I find myself muttering as I shave, and on two occasions I have swung my crutch at a little neighbour girl on my way to the post office. Senor Dali’s book sells for six dollars. My own published personal history sold for $1.75. At the time, I complained briefly about this unusual figure, principally on the ground that it represented only fifty cents more than the price asked for a book called ‘The Adventures of Horace the Hedgehog’, published the same month. The publishers explained that the price was a closely approximated vertical, prefigured on the basis of profitable ceiling, which in turn was arrived at by taking into consideration the effect on diminishing returns of the horizontal factor.”

        Sign up with http://www.goodreads.com :) it’s a social networking cum personal digital bookshelf. You post the books you’ve read, give ratings, write reviews, and can read other people’s reviews.

        How did you find Handmaid’s Tale and Moral Disorder? I’ve read very few of her books, actually, but I really like her collection of “occasional writing” titled “Curious Pursuits”.

      • 6. Katie  |  July 18, 2009 at 14:47

        Yes, I still remember W Mitty after all these years!

        Handmaid is actually quite frightening in a possible-alternate-universe kinda way. Moral Disorder is very cleverly written – it’s short stories, but they’re all linked because they trace the main character’s life. Have not heard of Curious Pursuits, but have been considering buying Oryx & Crake.

        Do you have a blog, btw? If you do, I’d love to take a read. :)

      • 7. Wen Sze  |  July 29, 2009 at 20:08

        Ah, will borrow Handmaid’s Tale for the weekend then. :)

        Curious Pursuits has essays, book reviews. It was fun reading her “writing Oryx and Crake” after reading the book. Can lend you after you’re done with O&C. :)

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