I remember how magical books seemed to be when I was little. I’d go to the bookshop or the library and get to pick one out, and I’d agonise over the choices because it had to be perfect. My mum would let me buy a book every few months, because she’s blind and absolutely loves the fact that I’m a reader, and has always pushed me to make the most of what she’d to terrible things to do. Anyways, she’d let me pick one or two, usually from a bookshop chain that sadly doesn’t exist anymore (Angus and Robertson, if you’re wondering. I worked for them for two and a half years and I’m still traumatised by their downfall *weeps quietly*) I’d sit on the floor in the kid’s section and pick out the book and take it home and devour it.
I would usually re-read that book many times… some of them I can still quote offhand. I was discussing a particular series of fictionalised historical diaries called My Story with a friend the other week and we had both adored them and both remembered so many of them fondly. I’d get so involved in their lives, would be fascinated by the historical events they portrayed and, particularly with the Australian series, beg my parents to take me to those places. Sometimes I was lucky and they’d take me, like when we went on a holiday to Ballarat to go to Sovereign Hill, which re-enacts Ballarat’s gold mining history and the events that led up to the Eureka Stockade in 1854. I was in seventh heaven and read A Banner Bold by Nadia Wheatley like a mad thing in the weeks leading up to going.
Sometimes, I feel a bit sad about how some of the magic has left. I was so contented reading and re-reading the same books over and over, gleaning everything I could from them. Of course there were disappointments in my book buying or borrowing choices, but I’d shake it off and jump back into reading- none of this six week slump business.
I was desperate once I hit about 12 or 13 to grow up and out of children’s novels, as I had been when I was 7 and wanted to stop being talked down to by what was deemed “age appropriate”. I was reading things like “Burke’s Backyard” magazine in year 1, for heaven’s sake! My primary teachers thought I was some kind of reading prodigy! I don’t think I even really did the whole YA thing, as I’d been reading what would now be YA from the time I was 10 and had moved on to bigger things by 15.
But where did that happy re-reading magic go? Is it the continuous desire to read something bigger, better, the new thing, the smart thing,
ALL OF THE THINGS? Is it just curiosity and growing up? Is it consumer culture getting at me, with me wanting more more more more books, with my own funds/library card and surrounded by infinite choice? Where did the happy contentment go, exactly?
I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just jaded now. Maybe it’s just the nature of growing up. At least I still have the memories of it. I also have an amazing knowledge of The Eureka Stockade, various historical princesses, Model T Fords, the Snowy Mountain Scheme and the Titanic. That knowledge has got me everywhere.
Well… okay. It’s got me a bottle of wine for winning trivia, tops. But I enjoyed the hell out of it.