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Confessions Of A Bookworm
A Literate Generation?
Member Name: MALU
A Literate Generation?
Date: 11/10/02, updated on 12/10/04 (94 review reads)
I’ve always lived with books and I can’t imagine life without them.
I read everything and all the time, when queuing in the supermarket it’s the list of ingredients on food containers, in the post-office the text on other people’s postcards. I can read from all possible angles, so beware when you’re standing in front of me!
I still have got some of my earliest children’s books, my mother saw to that and I’m grateful. I’m living now in the sixth town and tenth flat of my life, they’ve always moved with me. Even if I don’t read them any more, it’s good to have them.
When we were still living in the GDR (German Democratic Republic), one day something wonderful happened: out of the blue we got a parcel from West Germany with some books, sender unknown. For me it contained Tom Sawyer and The Canterville Ghost, I read the books so often that I soon knew them more or less by heart.
I got to know more books by British and American authors (translated into German, of course) after moving to West Germany where we came to a small town in the then American sector to which a library bus from an America House came regularly with Robinson Crusoe, Captain Ahab, Kim, Mowgli, Huckleberry Finn and the Enid Blyton kids. They all became my friends, thanks Yanks!
When I was 14 years old a friend gave me a bag full of thrillers, that stock lasted me for a long time as I exchanged them with other thriller fans for years.
Thrillers are an Anglo-Saxon thang, after WW2 many translations appeared in Germany (Germans started serious thriller writing only in the 1970s), Agatha Christie, Edgar Wallace, Eric Ambler, Dashiell Hammett, Ellery Queen...name them, I’ve read them all!
But not only the great names, when I went off with my friends for a canoeing and camping weekend we took loads of pulp fiction with us. What a nice way of whiling away a (rainy) Sunday
: lying in a warm tent and reading trash.
My mother was desperate, behind my back she went to my teacher of German and told on me, he - wise man that he was - didn’t talk to me, though, but made the class write down what we had read recently. Assuming that he wasn’t interested in ‘Wedding Night in a Hearse’ and the like I wrote down titles by Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus I had devoured as well and discussed with my classmates (we were between 16 and 17 years old, wore black and smoked, of course!). Again behind my back he informed my mother, who told me about the whole conspiracy years later, that there was no danger of my gliding into mindless stupidity.
As a student of English and Russian literature I had no time for thrillers or French existentialism, unwisely I had chosen the 19th century as my main subject and had to plough through thousands of pages of never-ending novels. George Eliot! Dickens! Dostoevsky! Goncharov! The main character in Goncharov’s novel ‘Oblomov’ needs about 50 pages merely to get out of bed!
After my exam I was fed up with literature and changed over to non-fiction, newspapers and magazines, for a long while. However, one result of my studies was that I had learnt to read English quickly and when I had recovered and didn’t freak out at the sight of a book any more I went back to thrillers, now the original English versions. Being of age then I didn’t have to justify my reading matter for my mother any longer, I had to justify it for myself and I’ve found a very good excuse which has been valid ever since: no matter what I read in English, it’s good for my vocabulary!
As you, my dear and faithful readers have noticed, I’ve diversified, I’ve noticed that the question, “whodunnit?” doesn’t interest me as much as it did before, if a thriller hasn’t got more to offer than the answer to this question I g
et bored. What I don’t want to do without now are quirky characters and a humorous and witty writing style. Now I read whatever takes my fancy and write reviews to share my thoughts with you!
I read German newspapers and magazines and know about topical German literature, but I hardly ever read it, I haven’t got the time for that, too. Never mind, to tell you the truth, on the whole I prefer English and American literature to German one, the latter often being too serious and profound for my liking. Have I become brainwashed reading too much of your stuff?
What can books give us? Firstly, entertainment and pleasure; a well written piece of literature is an aesthetic joy as any other work of art, secondly, insight and knowledge. We only have one life and our experience is limited, by reading of different ways of life and how fictitious characters deal with their problems we can learn to deal with our own. An author can give an idea body and soul and touch us in a way statistics can’t.
“Which book would you take with you on an island?” How silly to answer with the title of a novel however long. What do you do once you’ve finished it? Illustrate it? Count the words? For me the Encyclopedia Britannica, please!