Tag Archives: literature

A man’s best friend is not (just) the dog

“One of the most unusual is ‘Cucemoru’, deep purple, grey and cream, the colours of the gris-de-lin that Sir Thomas Hanmer had valued so highly in his Welsh garden a hundred years earlier.”

This is International Book Week: Grab the closest book to you, turn to page 52, post the 5th sentence as your entry paragraph in today’s blog entry (the rules actually said Facebook status, but I’m changing it). Don’t mention the title. Write anything else you want below. Copy the rules.

I wasn’t much of a reader when I was in school. The last thing I wanted to do after a whole day of studying, solving algebra equations and memorizing text was…to read some more. I was desperate for some activity. I wanted was to go out and feel the sun on my back, walk, breath the fresh air and talk to a friend. The only printed material I read was newspapers and magazines. It was not until I finished school – and with it all the obligatory reading material associated with it – and my parents had given up trying to convince me to read literature (“extracurricular books”) that I discovered how entertaining books can be.

I’m not sure what brought about the change of heart. What I do know is that once I finally escaped the pupil mentality, I decided to start reading writers whose name somehow came across my path. For example, I came across some of Oscar Wilde’s funniest epigrams and decided to read The Importance of Being Earnest. After that, I watched an interesting Russian movie and thought I might read Dostoyevsky. The choices were thus random and I never read more than one book by the same author in a row. I followed this rule for a while, but I broke it when I read Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul. I told myself this was an exception, but I did it again after Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children,  and then again with Nikos Kazantzakis’s  Report on Greco. At that point I dropped the rule altogether and just followed my reading appetite.

There was one rule I managed to follow: I wanted to focus on old and modern classics (thus the aforementioned titles), thinking that since I had decided to read, I might as well start with the best stuff around. Since then, my repertoire has expended to include history books, essays, plays, travel guides, books on gardening, art, architecture, philosophy and a bit of poetry. I’m always reading something – long or short, funny or serious, in English or Greek. 

Lately I seem to have been influence by a trip to Berlin and decided to (finally) read Gunter Grass. I started The Tin Drum in the brilliant new translation by Breon Mitchell (unfortunately I cannot read German). I’ve only reached page 46 but I already know I’m going to remember this book for a long time.  That’s the thing with good reads. You know you’re going to establish a long-term relationship.

Note: My opening paragraph is not from The Tin Drum. The challenge says to grab the book closest to you, not the one you are actually reading at the moment. Mmm, mystery.

My mice were not rodents

Daily Prompt: Bedtime Stories 

What was your favorite book as a child? Did it influence the person you are now?

My parents have always been avid readers. Every free second they have, they spend it reading something: A newspaper, books, magazines (my mum), pamphlets; anything made out of paper is there to be read.

I, on the other hand, as a kid, felt a certain repulsion towards books. I believe it had to do with the fact that I spent all my school days – and evenings – studying, which basically meant reciting pages upon pages of boring text. We didn’t have to know what the hell we were reading, or  as long as we knew it by heart. Six years of that can ruin anyone’s love of literature.

Whatever little free time I had, I wasn’t going to waste it reading more. No. I wanted to get out of the house, walk, talk to friends, socialize (with my close friends of course, as I was very shy – see Always the introvert). Books, to me meant boredom, lack of imagination and daily agonizing moments waiting for the teacher to choose me to recite our homework.

That was until my parents bought me four little books depicting the lives of a bunch of cute little mice. The books were Jill Barklem’s Brambly Hedge series “Spring Story”, “Summer Story“, “Autumn Story” and “Winter Story”.

The lives of these families of mice, dressed in human outfits, attracted my attention like no other book had done until then. The thing I liked most about these stories was the amazing, detailed illustration which wildly fueled my imagination. I saw myself strolling in these forests, picking blackberries, talking to the friendly mice (of course I could talk to mice, I was seven!), helping light a fire in one of the huge stone fireplaces of these homes.

I would ask my mother to read these books again and again, month after month. After the fifth read, I had learned them by heart. By the real heart though, not the standard recitation mode I employed for homework. My mum attempted to introduce me to other books but I would have none of it. I always wanted the same bedtime reading.

These books allowed room for my imagination to flourish, to think that everything is possible. Later on, I slowly started reading more books, all similarly imaginative, like The Little Prince and Alice in Wonderland.  Slowly but steadily, I stopped considering reading as a waste of time and started seeing it as a gateway to something bigger than me.

I still have these four books, safely stored in a box, in my storage room. And I still like mice!