The Dirty Joy of Books
Learning to read was never a great deal. It’s not something I remember my parents particularly laboring over. It just happened!
Books simply were! Large piles of them waiting to be taken somewhere – the library, a charity shop, or upstairs to the makeshift study to be placed carelessly on mismatched shelves – eventually! Nobody seemed to mind and it’s a habit you pass on to your own children. When I ask my own daughter to tidy her room it usually involves creating piles of books – kids books just don’t sit prettily on shelves.
At 5 years old, I was as likely to pick up a study-guide to Jane Eyre if only to marvel at the cover design or my dad’s beautifully penned annotations as I was to catch up with my school copy of Roger Red Hat. Books weren’t lovingly organized as I discovered when I picked up a copy of The Joy of Sex whilst looking for a thesaurus. Needless to say my quest to find the right word for an English essay was delayed for a few hours!
Books were not sacred. You were allowed to write all over them, fold down the corners to mark pages, and leave them unfinished, open and face down, on any free surface around the house. There were scores of books on-the-go. Books used as bookmarks for other books. Books inside books piled on top of more books. Sneaky library books, running up huge fines, lay dormant, hidden inside the piano stool.
There were even books reserved for reading during ablutions. We were pretty good, on the whole, about leaving those books in the bathroom – and washing our hands after we had perused!
The dirty joy of books!