My love affair with books began the day I walked into a library for the first time. I was five. I remember the hush. It wasn’t an empty hush – but one brimming with boundless possibility. And to this day I still remember my most favourite sensory memory – the smell. There’s something intoxicating in that combination of paper, ink and the magic of words strung together by a rich mind.
Shelves and shelves of books, some with pictures – to which my five-year-old self gravitated, and some without. Those looked so important, I wanted to reach out and touch them. I was not at all intimidated by the number of pages between the plain covers. Strangely enough, they became a goal. Not just to read them. To lose myself in a world I could only imagine.
I was Anne of Green Gables being teased for her red hair by Gilbert Blythe, and then attempting to dye it black which only turned out to be disastrous green.
I was neat and perfect Nancy Drew with her investigative mind, solving the Mystery of Lilac Inn.
I kept looking for the Indian in my cupboard, Little Bear, why should Omri have all the fun?
Then when the teen years hit and a friend gave me a Sweet Valley High book. I became hooked. That was short-lived when I realised they were virtually the same story churned out with slightly different circumstances.
When I grew weary of happy endings and my mind was opened to more than just the plot and characterization, I embraced the world of literature. I was exasperated with, yet fond of Emma and her poor matchmaking skill in Jane Austin’s Emma. I was seduced as Bathsheba had been by Troy in Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. It was then that I haunted the moors in search of my Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.
I fell in love with flawed heroes placed in unique yet plausible situations. I fell in love with the words that conjured them to life. And then pursued that process of creation, hoping just a sliver of that magic would make its way onto paper so that I could share my stories too.
Books have been my greatest joy, my escapism from the mundane and blasé, and more importantly the ignition to my own journey as a writer.
Today I can appreciate all books. There are no bad books, are there? Maybe disappointing ones. ( I can remember when I had finally built up the courage to sneak a peek at the Kama Sutra, a rather well-worn book on the second floor of the varsity library – there was a handy nook where one could keep in the shadows and not get caught studying it – and being utterly disappointed, and perplexed by the rather crude sketches that depicted the different positions.) Perhaps the only time I would have preferred pictures to words.
Well, I think I’ve been disappointed a few times. Disappointed in the tastes of my fellow readers. I’ll concede that, yes, perhaps Fifty Shades of Grey was a sweet love story but you have to admit it was badly written. I do enjoy the odd Mills and Boons novel, though. I find their predictability comforting. A good romance is always good for the soul. Some of my friends think this is hilarious. If only they knew my secret ambition.
Of course I have to mention my contemporary loves:
Prize-winning author Anne Michaels has an impressive lyrical writing style. The Winter Vault sits on my bedside table – it’s my favourite piece of writing at the moment.
Ken Follet for his epic penmanship.
Dori Ostermiller for her profound emotion wrenching storytelling. Her book Outside the Ordinary World is a gem.
Then there’s Eleanor Catton. The Luminaries is perhaps the best piece of fiction by a contemporary writer I’ve ever read. All I’m going to say is that it won the Man Booker award and shortlisted many top literary awards.
I can’t imagine what I’d be without books. I just can’t. It has coloured my world. Made it bearable to live in. Broadened my perspective so that I know it can be more.
“…when he looks at Beauty in the only way that Beauty can be seen – only then will it become possible for him to give birth not to images of virtue (because he’s in touch with no images), but to true virtue [arete] (because he is in touch with true Beauty). The love of the gods belongs to anyone who has given to true virtue and nourished it, and if any human being could become immortal, it would be he.” Plato, The Symposium. (One of the old plain covered books I finally had to read at varsity.)
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