It really is no coincidence why I became an English Teacher (for that is what I was and am) as from a very early age I always had my nose in a book. Just in the way that I find myself berating my son for always staring at a cell phone screen, my mother would constantly harangue me for reading too much, warning me that I would need glasses as it would wear out my eyesight and kicking me out of the house with an order to go and play in the woods. Inevitably, I would take a book to “the woods” and read it for a few hours.
As to my favourite authors when I was at school: just as tastes in all matters develop and change so did my taste in literature. Avoiding the teen musts of Camus and Kerouac and the angst of Keats I’ll go straight to the early books that I loved the most.
Surprisingly, I was never too enamoured by the world of Roald Dahl. I read all his books but could never work out why they seemed so mean spirited. Why were adults usually portrayed as being so cruel, why was there so much suffering going on and I wanted my plots to have a bit of realism about them. It was only when I discovered his autobiographies, especially “Boy” that I started to appreciate his work. The same could be said for all the books by Dr Seuss: they were just too strange and confusing: what did it all actually mean?
“I AM SAM. I AM SAM. SAM I AM. THAT SAM-I-AM! THAT SAM-I-AM! I DO NOT LIKE THAT SAM-I-AM! DO WOULD YOU LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM?”
I still have no idea!
Most of the books that inspired me seem to have dropped off the radar or maybe have just gone out of fashion. Books like “Watership Down” and “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” that were huge complex texts full of unanswered mystery, or the very English humour of “The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” that still resonates today. Who could not love this?
“The number 42 is, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything", calculated by an enormous supercomputer over a period of 7.5 million years. Unfortunately, no one knows what the question is…”
From there it was a short journey “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by way of every child’s dream turned to nightmare, “Lord of the Flies”, a brief dalliance with Kurt Vonnegut before making a quick pit stop at “Carrie” by Stephen King (give it a chance!), and then a total literary epiphany that defined my early teen years. Of course I am talking about “The Outsiders” by SE Hinton, and quite possibly the most beautiful poem I have ever read.
“Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.”
Now, does life get any better than this?
Have a wonderful weekend.
Tim Deyes, Principal