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November 7, 2002
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November 12, 2002
AUTHOR QUOTES ON
I have no doubt that the continuous and intense diet of Biggles and William, together with the 'story comics' Champion, Rover and Hotspur (also available in individual issues and anthologies from Mrs Murphy's [a "penny lending library"] ) were crucial in my learning not only the mechanics of reading but also its intense and solitary plearures. You don't have to read Anna Karenina to find that out.
It just that when you do read Anna Karenina you discover how exquisite the delights of reading can become. Like sex, it sounds pretty good to start with and only improves on closer inspection.
In the 1950s no one worried about the effect Biggles or William or, if it comes to that, the masculine George and her mates, might have had on youthful readers. This was partly because people just didn't think that way then. They were, in that sense, innocent days (how innocent might be gauged by the fact that Richmal Cromton's attempt to approximate boyish sloppiness of speech in print resulted in "couldn't" being rendered as "c'un't" without raising an eyebrow, or anything else.)
Captain W.E. Johns and Richmal Crompton and Enid Blyton were powerful if unintending propagandists for the English way of life - for its class system, its entre les deux guerres triumphalism, its imperialist idioms, its assumption of moral and intellectual centrality. No doubt it was comforting in Anglophile Australia to know that such was, by and large, the perspective Australia's young readers were coming across in the days of the empire and, even more importantly, in the days of its decline.
Mrs Murphy, the provider of these exotic world's of print, was built to put up with no nonsense. Standing in her vast shadow ws like being in a Greenpeace dinghy under the scything bows of an oil tanker. It was from Mrs Murphy that I got the idea that librarians were stern and minatory and could enunciate with a velvet fluency the labyrinthine rules which theoretically governed, but mostly rendered impossible, the borrowing of books.
Despite their shortcomings, Biggles and William were the territory where many of my generation started their reading. My father, I think, suspected that there was a degree of improverishment behind the adventures of Biggles, but he approved of William and I think, in subsequent years, I worked out why. Both Biggles and William transported a youthful reader to another world: but whereas the world of Biggles was the stuff of suspenseful escape, and rather routine suspenseful escape, William's world was possible. Your life was not going to formulate itself along the lines of those amazing plots, nor would you be likely to live amid such privilege (especially coming from St. Kilda), but on the other hand you might have the good fortune to live in the country, to play as a child in a beautiful garden, and so on. My old man valued such possibilities highly: he had a vegetable garden in vats in our postage stamp backyard, he read gardening books with avid interest, he planned for the garden he would have when we moved out to the margins ... I think I sensed that this most practical of men (and I don't just mean down-to-earth, I mean brilliantly practical, an ideas man whose ideas worked in the real world) was also one who willingly suspended his disbelief, who was open to the call of imaginative worlds; and in sensing this, I became open to them too.
|To correctly cite this page:
Credaro,A.B.(2002). Author Quotes on Reading, Libraries and Books. Warrior Librarian Weekly [online]
https://warriorlibrarian.com/CURRICULUM/quotematthews.html [Accessed:insert date]