I’ve just had a beautifully long conversation with my mother. We talked through a whole shelf of books from my childhood. It helped me discover some critical things about myself.
1. I read Little Golden Books at the same time as Thomas Hardy, because I read the same books as all the children I babysat and when I was twelve, two of them were six. In fact, I read books for small children quite happily up until age 16 (when they mysteriously disappeared from my life for a time) which means, one summer, I read the complete works of Shakespeare (which was before I discovered Chaucer, so I must’ve been between 15 and 16) alongside Winnie the Pooh, Peter Rabbit, and a child’s version of Robin Hood. This explains why I still read books for how well they’re written, rather than whether they’re written for someone my age. This thoroughly explains the joy I get from YA fantasy.
2. Thanks to Dad’s addiction to buying boxes of random books at auctions, I read a surprising number of 19th century children’s books before I was 12. And kept reading them afterwards, of course. This is what led me to the Curdie books which is what led me to William Morris and others.
3. My parents never said “You can’t read this.” This meant I read some astonishing works quite young (and was one of the kids who totally avoided drugs because of “Go Ask Alice”, which I read when it first came out, which means I was about 10). Some of the books I disliked remain with me in memory, but my library does not hold them. A friend read period soft porn, for instance, and I read the novels to keep her company (I read everything I could get hold of, so I read a LOT of books to keep friends company) and the history was so bad that teenage Gillian never chased the books for herself when the friend moved to other books.
4. My mother still has the first Abbey book I ever read (Maid of the Abbey) but never had the first Chalet Girl books I read, for the L__s had those and I read them when we visited. I suspect the L__s got rid of them when they made aliyah. I’ll ask one day, for one of the daughters (childhood playfriend) has returned, as one does. (And this is the sort of thing I’ve never seen in Australian fiction!)
5. My mother found the third book I ever owned outright, for myself (and didn’t inherit as a schoolbook from a sister). It was called “Lucky Dip.” It will be on my shelves when I next receive a box of things from Mum. So will enough other books so that I can start my work on cultural assumptions by finding out which of the books I read most often as a child gave me what kind of influence. It’s really handy coming from a family that was so very stable that those books were mostly kept. And by this you know that I’m going to be examining some rather interesting books. I might blog them, eventually, for they say some unexpected things about my background and about Australia in the 1960s.
Five things are enough. My next challenge will be dinner. Then I get to do more on my next deadline! What happened today was that all the rest of my deadlines lined up in a nice row (thank you, editors!) and, if I keep my head down and work hard, I should be through the worst of things before teaching begins.