I’ve always been a ‘nose in a book’ girl. I don’t know what started it, but it may well be that from quite early on I preferred words over pictures.
As with so many readaholic children my parents’ book buying speed couldn’t keep up with my reading habits, so they enrolled me into a library. The Petra library was run by our local church. It of course no longer exists. Throughout my primary school years, I nearly read their entire collection. The complete Biggles series and many of Jules Verne’s books: ah, Captain Nemo! I preferred books for boys but there were not enough of them so I graduated to books for ‘older’ girls.
Each Saturday my father took me to the library to stock up on books for the week. One time the librarian, remember she ran the library endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church, asked my father full of concern, quite certain he would agree with her: “Do you realise she reads books for girls over sixteen”? Even though I was not yet twelve my father just asked: “Do you like them”? “Yes,” I answered. “Well, that’s OK then,” he said.
Reading books is easy, unlike swimming. This, too, was my father’s task: taking me to daily swimming lessons. I was about to leave primary school and still hadn’t been able to get my basic swimming certificate. Something had to be done, so my father came to the rescue. Well, he didn’t joined the swimming, but took me there and gave me confidence. It was actually quite nice to go with him to the swimming pool before the others were up. Not the swimming though, I eventually qualified for the basic certificate, but I still can’t do a decent backstroke or breast crawl.
Books were much more my thing and from an early age I encouraged others. Actually, I taught one of my authors, who is also my brother, to read. I can still picture him in our kitchen struggling to read a ‘Dick Bruna’ book. “You have to finish it” I instructed, “reading is fun!” He looked unconvinced, but he finished the book, and became not only hooked to reading but a published author as well. So I rest my case.
Upon leaving primary school I graduated to proper literature. The exhilaration when you can’t put a Jane Austen book down, or discovering DH Lawrence. Consequently, I’m quite ambivalent about Young Adult books.
I’ve never had a ‘readers block’, though my secondary school came close to giving me one. Suddenly there was a ‘right way’ of interpreting a book to pass your exams. Nonsense!
Apart from that I’ve kept on reading though I’ve been challenged by circumstances.
When I moved to the USA for a couple years I couldn’t take my books, or take many new ones back. Yes, an ereader (they didn’t exist back then) would have helped, but not for books with dedications or notes.
When I fell in love with the theatre, yet this introduced me to Shakespeare. I’m in the privileged position of not remembering much about Shakespeare from English literature lessons, unlike Dutch literature lessons, see above. So I encountered the bard first on stage where he is meant to be heard. Such a revelation! Nothing beats Twelfth Night or Midsummer Night’s Dream for a feel good factor, but my favourite is King Lear, the play that acquired a new meaning after my father died.
I was introduced to many other playwrights, far too many to mention, through Harold Pinter’s plays made a big impression, especially now I’m working with Laura Del-Rivo on her very Pintereque short stories. Sebastian Barry I first encountered through his plays. So many playwrights, in so many theatres up and down the country, or even the world. So catch them if you can.
Finally, I’m kept from reading published works by the many manuscripts that arrive in my inbox. But I don’t mind at all! It’s lovely to see that so many people not just say, “I could write a novel about it”, but actually do.
For me reading is essential, it gets you away from humdrum everyday existence at a bargain, even without the current zeal for discounting. The author decodes his visual reality into words and you, with your own unique decoder, translate it into pictures again. What could be more exciting? Well, the next new book!