Posted on October 5, 2013
Since childhood, I have been an avid reader. My appetite was honed on Enid Blyton’s library of endless imagination, the Grimm Brothers fairy tales (oh so very grim!), What Katy Did, What Katy did Next, Black Beauty, Trixie Beldon, followed later by the overly interesting adventures of the Wakefield twins in Sweet Valley High, and then by my mothers fat romance sagas. At age 16 or 17, not knowing where to begin, I asked for my friend Heidi’s recommendation for a book to introduce me to literature, having learned that there was a distinction. Her choice was Helen Garner’s quintessential Melbourne novel, Monkeygrip, and from there, I have never looked back (thanks Heidi).
Books make me feel home when I am far, and far when I am home. I am a chronic rereader, some of favourites being Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, The English Patient, and Fugitive Pieces by Canadian poet Anne Roberts, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt, and most of Cormac McCarthy’s body of work. I came to love poetry as a natural extension of a longing for words, and so my shelves are also well spiced by volumes of the poems of (among others) Micheal Ondaatje, Pablo Neruda, Federico Garcia Lorca, ee cummings, and of course, Leonard Cohen, my Sage.
I used to devour books. Then I became pregnant. Nobody warned me that getting pregnant would leave me unable to follow a sentence to it’s end, or that I would need to read a paragraph a hundred times over before I could take it in. I was reading Micheal Ondaatje’s Divisadero at the beginning, and could not finish it. I learned that non fiction in small bites was all that I could manage, Marieke Hardy’s You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead and Women of Letters, Sophie Cunningham’s very evocative Melbourne, and Richard Flanagan’s superlative And What Do You Do, Mr Gable (I wrote about the way that I was affected by his piece Out of A Wild Sea here ). Those were the only books that I could manage, over the period of the whole nine months, and when Perry was born, well, the situation only became worse.
With my brand new iPad in hand, I certainly read a lot, but most of my reading material involved social media. I read Stephen King’s The Stand quite early on, because anything too finely nuanced was absolutely beyond me, followed a few months (!) later by a Dean Koontz book whose title aptly eludes me. For the first time in my life I had a decent, wonderful stack of unread books on my shelf, and no time or mental energy to read them. A few months ago, the Game of Thrones series became my guilty pleasure, and then it slowly began to dawn on me that if I could read these books,then it must be time to dive back into some beautifully crafted sentences. Serendipitiously, I saw a flier in my local library for a reading and appearance by author Chris Womersley for his newly released book Cairo. I bought the rather fetching looking novel the following weekend on a trip to St Kilda, and read it in four days. It was like diving back into a pristine wilderness river, so refreshing and enlivening. Like Monkeygrip so many years before, Cairo tastes of a Melbourne of a particular vintage, in every drop. I drank down the words, and my appetite only increased.
Now that I am thirsty again, I am trying to choose which book will next slake my thirst. I won a competition on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and received a copy of Kathryn Heyman’s Floodlines, adding to the stack, and then I have just learned that Richard Flanagan has a new book The Narrow Road to the Deep North, described as “savagely beautiful” in the first review that I happened by. That’s my kind of book.
What is your kind of book? Did you lose the inclination to read during pregnancy?