Excuse me for being Captain Obvious here, but: aren’t libraries amazing?
This is the library I grew up in: probably the place that made me want to be a writer. The children’s section was underground, accessed by a wrought-iron gate, a staircase coated with slippery green moss, and a dank, dripping tunnel. Going to borrow books was like passing into the underworld – except you got to come out the other side, clutching fistfuls of Roald Dahl and Lucy M Boston.
The tunnel has been replaced by wheelchair and pushchair-friendly slopes – for which hooray, obviously: now the book-borrowing there is done by my smallest niece and nephew, who are a bit wee to appreciate a cod-gothic intro to Story Time. My borrowing takes place in Oxford, under the amused gaze of a librarian who (correctly) suspects I am not taking out Meg Cabot on behalf of an absent teenage daughter. But I still have the same sensation of being in a vast papery sweet shop. There are books! I can take them away without paying! And if I bring them back – ok, get this, no, really – they’ll let me have some more!
My last visit did remind me of two downsides of my childhood adventures in that underworld:
I reread a lot as a kid. The instinct is still there: my hand reaches automatically for the familiar titles, because I trust them. And I didn’t know how to move on. Downstairs the names on the spines were old friends: upstairs books were sorted by genre, and I didn’t have a clue where to start. I fell into a gap: not quite ready for Austen, and deeply scared that I might borrow something too challenging or, erm, porny by accident. (My pre-teen brain: oh, sigh.)
And now? I’m not sure that would’ve happened. There are SO MANY GOOD BOOKS – and so many ways to find out about them. You kids these days, you don’t know how lucky you are, with your gigantically varied YA universe, and your well-informed librarians, and your new-fangled reviewing blogthings on your interwebs…
I take it back. That is me in the picture, and apparently I am that old. Now get off my lawn, you whippersnappers! *waves stick* *throws cat*
I started Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush: lovingly written, and if YA paranormal romance is your bag then I suspect this is cream not milk – but it’s just not my cup of tea. Alice Kuipers’ Life on the Refridgerator Door fascinated me in a writerly way (how much of a conventional novel can you strip away without losing the fundamentals?) but I was left disappointed, mostly by the thought that we as readers probably need those conventions after all. And then I read Anne Cassidy’s Forget Me Not, which blew me away. The story of an missing child, which becomes the story of another missing child from almost 20 years before: multi-layered, suspenseful, all in deceptively simple prose that takes you by the hand and won’t let go. I want to read everything she’s ever written.
I keep leaping out of bed at 2 am to write down ideas. Then leaping out of bed at 8 to write them properly. I’m making wrong turns, and there’s still lots to do with the opening chapters before they are on-the-nose right, but the voice is sorted, and it’s all a bit lovely, this new thing.
Raising a glass of Luigi’s finest to Gene Hunt and the Ashes To Ashes crew, who went out with a blinding finale and will be much missed (I’m still not over the departure of The Perm: this is going to be a slow break-up); ducking Lost finale spoilers (cos I’m only on S5 and that’s too many hours of having my brain broken to ruin the ‘ending’); wondering if my life will ever stop revolving around television about wonky time-travel (while watching Doctor Who, obvs).