Thursday, December 10, 2015

All I want for Christmas is . . .

By  Catriona

Do I read differently now from when I was a teenager?

Not really. Then, as now, I read voraciously, constantly, and one book at a time. My dad used to have an upstairs book by his bed, a downstairs book by his chair and a book at work for his breaks. They were often all thrillers. I still don't know how he kept them straight.

And while I'm dobbing in my nearest and dearest, I didn't then and don't now read the end first. Who does that? My oldest friend, that's who.

I've always been a big re-reader too, especially in times of stress. Back then I would re-read Enid Blyton school stories and DLS. Right now, I've got Juliet Stevenson purring Mansfield Park in my ear at bedtime, so I can stop editing the WiP and, if I'm lucky, not dream about it.

Audiobooks didn't really exist when I was a teenager. (Listen to this kids: I remember cassette tapes being invented.) But I always loved listening to stories read aloud, if I could find someone to read them to me, and have been hooked on BBC readings since I first missed poptastic Radio 1 on the dial and stumbled across the ear-cuddle that is Radio 4. If anyone hasn't yet discovered Radio 4, this week's Book at Bedtime is Nancy Mitford, Book of the Week is Stephen Fry's autobiography and also currently online are Ruth Rendell's final novel, contemporary scientists' letters to Darwin and Bono's tribute poem to Elvis. (And new shorts from the Arab world, and "Meet David Sedaris" and Some JG Ballard and Muriel Spark and that's just this week.)

Is anyone still here?

One thing that has changed is - when I was young, I always finished every book I started.  I remember clearly the moment that ended: I was in the Borders (Barnes and Noble? Okay, I don't remember that clearly) flagship store at Lincoln Center Square in New York on Christmas Eve sometime in the mid 00s (again, cloudy on this detail!). And I wasn't enjoying the book I was reading. It struck me that on the day I died, the world would full of great books I hadn't read. Since then I've read 100 pages of anything I pick up and if I'm still checking page numbers at 100 I put it down.

And another thing that's changed is this: I had so much time when I was a teenager. I was a lazy school pupil, winging it and chancing it through all six years of secondary education. I didn't do much in the way of chores and didn't play any sports. And of course there was no internet. Telly was grim too. So I just read, all the time, hours every day.

These days I recreate teenage bliss for two weeks every year, between knocking off for Christmas and going back after twelfth night. I start gathering these books around my birthday in October and hoard them like a miser, looking forward to hitting the couch and devouring them. I keep them by my bed and sometimes I stroke them.

Here's this year's final pile:

Not long to go now . . .

1 comment:

Cathy Ace said...

Happy reading - this year you really deserve that pleasure :-)