Thursday, 11 June 2009

DANGEROUS READING


I now bring you a heartening school story.


Message from an English teacher to me today: "Some of my pupils were reading Deathwatch under the desks last lesson as they needed to find out what was happening next - very gripped! (No I didn't tell them off!)"

Hooray for teachers who so much like the fact that their pupils read that they turn a blind eye when they read in the wrong place!

But it leads me to ask you: what books did you risk punishment to read when you were young? What stories helped turn you into the readers and writers you now are? What exactly was it about those books that tranpsorted you to a place where detentions were worth courting?

One of my favourite reads, which I read over and over again and would certainly have gone to many detentions for, was The Black Tulip, by Alexandre Dumas. Oh, the romance, the swords, the horrible torture, the blood-curdling pain, the honour and bravery and all that bejewelled swash-buckling!

So go on, share your favourite books from your youth, if you can remember that far - and maybe jog our memories so that all those illicit moments of dangerous reading come flooding deliciously back.

Whatever it is that you identify as the must-read factor, I bet you that if we all put a bit more of it into our own writing, we'd end up writing stories that more people would want to read. And publish.

Because it is my firm belief that it's not just kids who want to be gripped by a book, gripped so that the real world fades away for a while.

16 comments:

Cathie said...

I read To Kill a Mockingbird during Geography. We moved from room to room back then and it was in the desk at the back. One week it wasn't there and I was quite desperate. I got my own copy from the library but I will always remember the extra frisson of anxiety given to the text by my reading it in class.
You can guess my Geography result.

dan powell said...

I read Treasure Island late into the night when at primary school. I would get told off by my folks for staying up until the early hours. Reading under the covers with a torch is a particularly child-like pleasure.

I still love that book and re-read it every few years :)

Ebony McKenna. said...

The Clan of the Cave Bear book turned my maths classes into anatomy lessons (hurrr, hurrrr) and I inhaled The Belgariad too.

Elen Caldecott said...

I used to read and walk - it's a habit I've had to abandon as a result of many smacks-into-lamposts and treads-in-dog's-eggs.

I remember reading lots of Robert Graves in this way; book up in my face, stomping along, assuming that all other pedestrians will get out of my way!

Jen Campbell said...

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit... I loved (and still do love) that book with all my heart.

lacer said...

The Dark is Rising Sequence, I devoured that at every available opportunity, repeatedly and it's that sense of adventure I deliberately aim for now with my writing.

Having said that, I'm now equally inspired by modern children's adventure stories, how I'd have loved to have got my hands on some Eoin Colfer or Anthony Horowitz when I was a kid!

Helena Halme said...

When I was fourteen I spent the summer holiday working in an ice-cream kiosk - just me and a freezer full of ice-cream. It was a wet and cold summer in Helsinki, so I had no customers, but read a library-full of books. The manager used surprise me every now and then, once standing behind a rare customer, waiting for me to lift my gaze from Exodus by Leon Uris. He told me they'd been outside the little booth for ten minutes without me noticing...I don’t think the Paulig ice cream company made any money out of that kiosk that summer.

BuffySquirrel said...

I don't think I ever read a book during a lesson, unless it was a textbook. If only I'd thought of it! lol I do remember that when I was doing A-levels I once wrote a poem during History.

I also remember that when I was young--maybe 8 or 9--I hit on the bright idea that when my mother had put my light out, I could go out into the corridor next to my room and read there. I don't remember the book, but I do remember that when I heard her approaching I thought it'd be okay--maybe I imagined she'd be impressed by my clever ruse, or perhaps that she'd let me off because I was reading. No such luck! I got told off, sent back to bed, and never did it again. lol!

My parents never tried to stop me reading anything, although they did direct my reading to an extent, but I do recall that a Victorian porn novel disappeared while I was still halfway through it. Coincidence, of course! lol

Lexi said...

I was constantly told off for reading as a school child.

I have a clear memory of reading The Bull from the Sea on Bournemouth beach at the age of twelve, totally riveted. It was years before I got my hands on The King Must Die, the first novel of the two. I still love Mary Renault's novels, and wish I had written to tell her so before her death in 1984. I didn't want to bother her; but now, writing myself, I know she'd have been pleased.

N Lumiere said...

I read the Saint books under the sheets and other mild penny horribles which gave me a double thrill, forbidden books at midnight whoo hoo!

Flixton Mum said...

When Marnie Was There by Joan G Robinson and Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer completely shaped my life. I spent years trying to recreate them both in my real life.
I re-read them as an adult and cried buckets when I read When Marnie Was There.

HL said...

I was in classes where the teachers would have stopped me from reading--so I wrote. I wrote a LOT--even through grad school I usually had two notebooks going, one for class notes and one for whatever it was I was actually thinking about/working on.

Michael Malone said...

Dan, I did the torch thing too. Used to save up my pittance pocket money to make sure I was stocked up with batteries. And I'm sure it was Treasure Island that I was reading. As I teenager I graduated onto walking with a book in my hands, reading on the way to school. It's a wonder I wasn't bullied. Roots, was a biggie for me at this point. Then it was The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson. Ahh, the memories.

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

I remember reading Yolen's The Magic Three of Solatia till the light was gone in summer-- desperately hoping my parents wouldn't come downstairs and see I was sitting up till 2a.m.

My heart was pounding and my eyes were racing to finish before the light was gone (I didn't dare turn on my own light), but I finished in the twilight/murky dawn and swore I'd never do that again.

I don't remember what it was about, or even particularly liking it in the end, it was almost as though I just kept going because I could.

(I live in the middle of Alaska, and summers here are light all-hours, especially come June. DH and I like to say-- about a certain time of year-- that if you must turn on a light to keep working you're staying up too late.)

BuffySquirrel said...

Why did I never have a torch? So unfair!

Stroppy Author said...

One from the other side of the fence, as it were... When my daughter was about 5 she had Marcia Williams' Iliad and Odyssey which she read all the time. One day I found myself shouting at her 'Will you stop reading the Odysssey and go to school?' She's now just finishing 6th form. A few months ago, I found myself saying 'Will you stop reading the Odyssey and go to college?' Plus ├ža change...