One of my first and most vivid memories is of my parents saying “a book will always be your true and constant friend”. I must have been about three, sitting in my father’s lap and reading a book about butterflies, or about chocolate rain and the boy who ate it all; or about roger bear. The latter was a rather bizarre book about a bear about whom all I can remember is that he begins to drown and goes ‘glug… glug… glug’. I have not been able to find that book or any information about it anywhere else.
Anyway, what my parents said back then stuck with me. I have never been able to give away any of my books. I even kept all my old school text books in a box in my parent’s basement. How do you give away your true and constant friend?
I love books, perhaps even more than I love reading. I love to wander into second-hand bookshops, especially in London, and smell the old and yellowing pages. I love how it feels to buy a book. I love the first page, getting to know it, becoming accustomed to the way it speaks to you. I love book covers and blurbs.
And I love keeping books. I have in excess of 300 books and I keep many of them in a lovely wooden bookshelf I had bought on sale. I keep them in alphabetical order and separated into sections, such as ‘fiction’, ‘non-fiction’, ‘poetry’, ‘critical theory’, ‘reference books’, ‘drama’, and so on. It’s the one of the few things I am anal about. My life may be a mess but it wouldn’t matter as long as my books were in order.
I think a big problem with children today (and I don’t mean to generalise; nor do I mean to sound condescending) is that many of them don’t have this love of books. I know that not everybody from my generation has it either, but this fascination with the paper, with the ink and the font, with the weight and the smell, the story, the metaphors – it is being replaced by other educational tools. By software and by e-readers. No, no, no! Don’t take the simple but profound pleasure of books away from our young. It would be a sin.
Teach them books are their true and constant friends. Teach them to make a home for their books in their room, and for the stories in their psyche.