#56 In love with books – Sarah Frost

April 19, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

What made you fall in love with books – and how did it happen?
 
Books were a refuge from a lonely childhood. They offered solace, and alternatives, in a world that felt stark and at times frightening. I read The Lord of the Rings in a weekend, taking Tolkien with me into a Grahamstown pine forest as I went with my father to cut wood for our winter fire. I built a shelter from sticks propped against a tree, curled up against the cold and read there. I remember the way the pale light illuminated a window seat as, back home, I kept reading. Now I am reading The Hobbit to my six-year-old son, and feel a similar awe for Tolkien’s fantastical range and power.

I loved all the Anne of Green Gablesbooks, rereading them annually. So too, Little Women. These books offered a quaint, old-fashioned identity for a girl trying to find a way to be in the world. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods was another favourite, as was What Katy Did. A more modern, albeit superficial, heroine was Nancy Drew, and the American twins Dick and Dolores. I enjoyed Enid Blyton’s Island of Adventure in a jolly-hockey-sticks sort of way. Arthur Ransome’s Swallow and Amazons transported me to the world of lakes and boats and tough solitary children learning to trust one another. I adored a book about the Canadian woods, called Freckles, particularly the description of the forest as a cathedral. Any references to nature in books enthralled me.

Then there were the illicit books that lived on the white-painted tall bookshelf in my parents’ room, which I read in addition to the children’s classics that I got from the library each week. Fanny, by Erica Jong, was my first reading of writing about sex, supplemented by DM Thomas’s The White Hotel. I read The Sailor who Fell with Grace from the Sea by Yukio Mishima, amazed by his careless brutality and observant ways. I still remember the cover of Virago book, The Life and Death of Harriet Freane, by May Sinclair: a pensive woman sitting lonely next to a cast-iron sculpture of a horse. This story, about a young girl who could not cut loose from her oppressive family, felt like a personal allegory.

I loved books for the imaginative escapes they offered. Others offered respite. I kept HE Bates’s Oh to be in England, When the Green Woods Laugh, A Breath of Fresh Air, until their front covers fell off and their dog-eared pages turned yellow because I so loved to read about Pop Larkin, his fat wife, his nubile daughters, and their happy (albeit unrealistic) life in the English countryside.

I fell in love with poetry when I found The English Book of Verse and read Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale. I imagined the bird, “the light-winged Dryad of the trees”, singing in the English summer evening, and felt my heart lift in the same way as when my father discovered and shared Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill with me one night. This remains my favourite line in a book: “Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means, time held me green and dying/ though I sang in my chains like the sea.”

#55 In love with books – Arja Salafranca

April 13, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

What made you fall in love with books – and how did it happen?
 
I owe my love of reading to my mother. One of the few pictures of her as a pregnant woman in Spain shows her reading, clutching a book, and so a lifelong love of books was born in me. Finding books in English while living in Spain in the ‘70s and then Israel, wasn’t easy for her – we’re talking pre-internet, pre-Amazon, pre-Kindle – but she managed. My childhood is filled with memories of her reading, and then later the various years of my life are marked, like rings in a tree, with the various books that talked to me and opened up a world to me.

She returned to South Africa when I was five years old, and at night my soon to be divorced mother read to me from fairy tale books – I fell in love with Cinderella and her beautiful ball gown, and of course the fact that life could magically transform, if you just met the right prince, of course! Then there was a mouse starting school for the first time, and I so related to it in my new nursery school in Killarney. In big school we were taught to read and it wasn’t long before I, too, was racing through books, and on my own. I loved Enid Blyton, from the Secret Seven series, all hush-hush detective stuff, to the Famous Five, tramping through English hills and drinking lemonade. Very foreign to a South African child in Johannesburg in the 1980s. By then I was hooked – reading was comfort, the siblings I didn’t have, reading was another world, a world that TV with the A Team as prime viewing couldn’t quite match.

Reading banishes the blues, sometimes; at other times the power of a story can bring on the tears, or force us to confront ourselves, like looking in a mirror of the future. And that’s of course the true power of art – whatever form it takes, writing, movies, music – that evocation of emotion, that tug, that makes us sit bolt upright. We’ve learned something, been changed by it, and remain forever altered.

What’s your favourite line from a book, play or poem?

I love most of Lorrie Moore’s short fiction. She’s an American author. I could pick any number of lines from her stories. But here’s the delightfully witty and droll beginning from her story “How to Become a Writer”:

First, try to be something, anything, else. A movie star/astronaut. A movie star/missionary. A movie star/kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserably. It is best if you fail at an early age – say fourteen. Early, critical disillusionment is necessary so that at fifteen you can write long haiku sequences about thwarted desire. It is a pond, a cherry blossom, a wind brushing against sparrow wing leaving for the mountain. Count the syllables. Show it to your mom. She is tough and practical. She has a son in Vietnam and a husband who may be having an affair. She believes in wearing brown because it hides spots. She’ll look briefly at your writing then back up at you with a face blank as a doughnut. She’ll say: ‘How about emptying the dishwasher?’ Look away. Shove the forks in the fork drawer. Accidentally break one of the freebie gas station glasses. This is the required pain and suffering. This is only for starters.

I love, too, Eva Royston Bezwoda’s poetry. She was a South African poet and reading her at 14 opened up a world of confessional, personal, sometimes intensely psychological poetry.

Here’s the poem “A Woman’s Hands always Hold Something” collected in One Hundred and Three Poems

A woman’s hands always hold something:
A handbag, a vase, a child, a ring, an idea.
My hands are tired of holding
They simply want to fold themselves.
On a crowded bus, I watched a nun’s empty hands
Till I reminded myself that she clutched God.
My hands are tired of holding.
I’d gladly let them go, and watch a pair of hands
Run ownerless through the world,
Scattering cooking pots and flowers and rings.

  • Arja Salafranca is the author of The Thin Line (Modjaji Books, 2010) as well as a published poet.

 

#54 In love with books – Richard E Grant

April 13, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

What’s your favourite line from a book, play or poem?

The quote is from the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended.Tthat you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear.”

 

#53 In love with books – Harry Owen

April 13, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

What made you fall in love with books – and how did it happen?

What is the matter, my Lord?

While everyone around me (including Shakespeare’s Polonius) seems to be crowing about the glories of Kindles, iPads and e-readers, here I am, the perennial luddite, huddled with my … what’s it called now? … oh yes, my Book (replete with paper pages, a dust jacket and a cover), deep in another world, not just of imagination (that goes without saying) but of touch, sound and savour too. It also has a title: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. Can you taste it? I can. Delicious.

Just yesterday I overheard someone extolling the virtues of his new iPad which, for regular travellers like him, provides the ultimate in compact reading – literally hundreds of volumes reproduced for his private delectation on every long-haul flight without any extra bulk or weight; and at home he can suffer as much insomnia as he wants to without disturbing his wife because now he is able to read until he falls asleep, again without having to switch on the light! What’s the matter with that? Surely nothing: it does indeed sound wonderful. But I won’t be buying one any time soon. Like any other holic – alco, choco or otherwise – I’m hopelessly addicted … Yes, hi, my name is Harry and I’m a biblioholic.

Most of my earliest memories are of reading: I’d read anything – Enid Blyton, Arthur Mee’s encyclopaedia, the Liverpool Echo, labels on HP Sauce bottles – but I remember with special affection my Glyn Carr period. I have no idea who Glyn Carr is (or was) except that he wrote a series of detective-style novels whose hero was a Shakespeare-quoting actor-manager from London’s theatreland with a passion for climbing mountains in the Snowdonia range of North Wales. This character, a wealthy and aristocratic creature who gloried, I seem to recall, in the magnificent designation of Sir Abercrombie Lewker, inevitably found that he had some heinous crime to solve and a murderous criminal to apprehend every time he returned to his beloved hills. Fabulous stuff – I was hooked, reading by the light of a torch long into the night with my book held reverentially beneath the sheets. But now I wonder what ever happened to Glyn Carr, or indeed to that young fellow who once read him with such unbridled enthusiasm.

So the bug was caught early and, like some benevolent virus, it could never be lost. Since then, of course, I haven’t stopped; reading for me has become one of life’s most profound and lasting pleasures.

I’ll mention just two very different books (or really two authors) that have affected my life significantly: Derek Tangye, whose warm-hearted series of autobiography called The Minack Chronicles persuaded me that dreaming is not necessarily ridiculous, despite what other, more “realistic”, individuals might say to the contrary. And the South African biologist and anthropologist Lyall Watson, whose fame began in the 1970s with the controversial Supernature, had a similar influence, especially with his investigatory travelogue called Gifts of Unknown Things. Both of these writers, although derided in some quarters, seemed to me to be open-minded, inquisitive risk-takers, and I loved that. I still do.

I read these works in the traditional, perhaps old-fashioned, way – as printed books. I do wonder whether their effects would have been quite the same had I encountered them on Kindle. Yes, probably so in the intellectual sense – but I can still feel those pages in my hand, still hear them turn, still smell them. Their flavour lingers in my mouth.

And poetry has always felt physical, tangible for me, despite the opinion of some who seem to think it ethereal and disembodied, touched with the muse, or spirit or something. Maya Angelou, Ted Hughes, Wilfred Owen, Sylvia Plath: these are intensely grounded, physical poets and I encountered them through the intense and sensual intimacy of books.

But it seems to me that the truly important thing is that one way or another, whether via paper pages (books, newspapers, comics, magazines) or electronic screens (e-readers, cell phones, the internet or anything else), people should discover and share in the sheer joy of reading. I may be a luddite, but perhaps, despite the tongue-in-cheek poem I’ll share with you here, I’m not yet fully-fledged. Happy reading!

Screens

All we ever see is image:
retina with its retinue
of stand-on-their-heads gymnasts,
an upside down world of surface
and mirage reinterpreted.
Like it or not, we screen and are
screened from the outset. Cinemas,
cellphones, cctv, skype-hype,
internet and intercom, i-
sockets, i-balls, eye-pods, eye-pads
to measure, hide and camouflage
as only screens know how.
Stare then till ur x-i’d, till ur

screen-self n ur seen self r da same.

#52 In love with books – Monica Rorvik

April 13, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

What made you fall in love with books – and how did it happen?

I fell in love with books through the magic they wove. Books magic awakened my imagination and began a lifelong love affair with reading. I could read as soon as I could see that these marks meant something. OK, even before I knew how to read, I remember telling myself the story from the pictures. My siblings would read out loud to us and thus we all learned to read before attending school. Do children get read to out loud anymore? Even though we are often alone, with a book one had many good friends. This was and still is important. I most enjoy reading for access to comrades who have wrestled with both political and personal demons and won, showing that everyone can make a difference.

Reading still gives me immense pleasure through the beauty of language, image and story, so the love affair hasn’t ended. It has extended into my work with the moving image – another form of text. A good film has to “read” well, surprise, entertain and carry enough aesthetic beauty to generate an engagement with the characters, the issues and the story.
 
What’s your favourite line from a book, play or poem?

I work with documentary selection for the Durban International Film Festival and was asked to mention reading and film – yes, one can read the image and story, but as a selector I also love reading loglines. A good one will make me want to watch the film. The Dawn of a New Day (www.thedawnofanewday.co.za) logline: “Recovery is not skin deep.” Doesn’t this generate intrigue and make you want to watch the film? It will premiere in South Africa at the 32nd DIFF in July (http://www.cca.ukzn.ac.za/Durban_International_Film_Festival.htm).

#51 In love with books – Helen Moffett

April 13, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

What made you fall in love with books – and how did it happen?

Hmm, a bit like asking me what made me fall in love with breathing, or eating, or sleeping. Books were always just there, and because I learned to read very young, I can’t remember life before books. Or imagine life without books.

What’s your favourite line from a book, play or poem?

I still think the most perfect short quotation comes from a piece Colleen Higgs wrote for LitNet, when she said, “Poetry is a psychic resource, like good parenting.” I think that all good writing and books are a psychic resource. Books for me have always been a parallel form of good parenting.

#50 In love with books – Louis Greenberg

April 13, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

What made you fall in love with books – and how did it happen?

I never was in love with books. I find library porn like The Shadow of the Wind a little cloying, and I nearly came out in hives when I visited Hay-on-Wye. Too many dusty books. I remember sitting next to my mother, breathing in the plumes of dander as she slapped the books in our house together, flipped their pages, flapped a dust-cloth over them, cursing the fish-moths heartily as she went. The memory makes me long for nothing more than an e-reader with all my novels on it.

In my house, books were like another member of the family, getting in my way, tripping me up, and offering me unexpected respite from my houseful of siblings. We didn’t have many children’s books. It was the picture books – the ones you can’t keep on a Kindle – that first grabbed me and sheltered me: illustrated books on the sea, on space; books on animals and stones and patterns in shells; health manuals and art books. And it delights me that my older son’s current bedtime story, between Paddington, Winnie-the-Pooh and Julia Donaldson, is a book – for grown-ups  – on the universe.

My transition to fiction was a gradual one, via Tintin and Asterix … I clung to the pictures for a long while. I started flirting with detective novels that my mother liked, and stories by Poe. Only at university, when I started enjoying the novels I studied, was my relationship with fiction consummated.

Watching my parents lay out their weekly newspaper the old-fashioned way, with big sheets of paper, scissors and glue, gave me a sense of the heft and the shape of words. Books, words, paper, were inky, earthy, dusty companions throughout my childhood, not the object of a delicate romance.

#49 In love with books – Rajesh Gopie

April 13, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

What made you fall in love with books – and how did it happen?

I have loved books for the stories they contain. Stories make me stop what I am doing and listen. Language, used descriptively, conjures up mind food, vitamins for the brain.

What’s your favourite line from a book?

My favourite line in a novel – The English Patient, I think the last page: “My scars are a map of the life I have lived.” Favourite poem/sonnet: “Two loves have I of comfort and despair”, Shakespeare.

#48 In love with books – Richard de Nooy

April 13, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

What made you fall in love with books – and how did it happen?

My mother was and still is an avid reader, even though she is 87 and her eyesight is very poor. If she wasn’t running the household or coaching kids at the pool, she would be sitting in her comfy chair with a book. After I’d raced through the Hardy Boys series I swiftly moved on to her Alistair MacLeans and Agatha Christies, carefully avoiding Georgette Heyer and Catherine Cookson. My parents also subscribed to the Rand Daily Mail, back in the day. Before dinner I always had to wash the ink off my hands and forearms. My love for heavier reading began to develop only in my early twenties, when I came to Holland.

What’s your favourite line from a book?

My favourite sentence is the third sentence of Nabokov’s Lolita, which reads: “Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” It’s as if the narrator is savouring the object of his infatuation. The sentence has a sublime rhythm. To be honest, I always thought it was the opening sentence to the book. I’m quite disappointed to find that he gives the game away so early on, with his opening: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”

#47 In love with books – Helen Brain

April 13, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

What made you fall in love with books – and how did it happen?

In my home books were everywhere. Piled up behind the doors, falling out of bookcases in every room, a huge tower of them on my father’s bedside table. Almost all non-fiction. Then I discovered the library and there were books for me. With pictures and stories. About children. I was in love.

What’s your favourite line from a book?

“Where he found his supper waiting for him, and it was still hot.” – Where Wild Things Are

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