Growing Up: Reading 7 Up style
It is a 7 Up year. The premise of Michael Apted’s 7 Up of “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” sparked an interest in me. I decided to explore my favourite books at the 7 Up points and see if the child reader I was at 7 shows you the adult reader I have become.
My absolutely favorite book was Bennett Cerf’s Book of Riddles that I thought were hilarious and Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense. I read out the jokes section of the library (793.7). I also read fairy tales and Aesop’s Fables. Humour, happiness and absurd writing appeals to my sense of ridiculous.
My reading obsession was well and truly established. I loved MAD Magazine and stole as many as I could from my cousin John (who tells me he was aware of what I was doing and felt that every MAD reader should steal their first copies). I loved reading Elizabeth Enright, Edward Eager, Eleanor Estes and the beautiful fairytales of Eleanor Farjeon. I loved Archie comics (love triangle though I like Betty best). By 14 I had outgrown my love of Sweet Dreams and had only just embarked on reading Mills and Boon, Candlelight Supremes and Silhouettes. I loved teen fiction – Judy Blume, SE Hinton and Paul Zindel. I had also just discovered scaring myself with Horror reading. Stephen King, James Herbert and Virginia Andrews. Though I liked ghosts and magic I liked them firmly based on reality and I was never interested in alternate fantasy worlds.
At 21 my reading was deep and meaningful. I read Euripides and Aristophanes, I turned my nose up to Roman writers (how stupid was that). I read Milan Kundera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabelle Allende, John Irving, Tama Janowitz and Spalding Gray. I would spend hours talking about the meaning of life and the art of writing. I was a tad hipster. I had ceased reading any crime and could not bear gruesome murder description in my books. Meanwhile my category romance reading remained healthy though I never read larger romances. My opinion at the time was that if you couldn’t write a romance in 180 pages you were a waffler. Also, I didn’t consider the longer stories to be romances. They were novels along with all other books on the Fiction shelves. Marketing, genre identification and stereotyping books had not occured to me as the libraries I worked in shelved books in a democratic, non-judgemental rollcall of authors.
By the time I was 28 my interest in literature had started to wane. I found the soul searching frustrating, the deep insights snort-worthy and the storytelling stilted and uninspiring. I was searching for joyful reads and the sense of a silver lining was not delivering what I needed. I had found Janet Evanovich by this time and I loved her hilarious books. I also had discovered Jennifer Crusie whose books were completely different to my previous Category romance reading. I also had lots of people recommending Chicklit to me but I never managed to engage with chicklit. Helen Fielding and Marian Keyes were both OK but they lacked the relationship intensity of category romances. My opinion of waffling longer romances still remained but I continued reading literary fiction.
These 7 years I refer to as my black hole reading years. I had 2 babies and had no time to immerse myself in novels – for the first five years that included the shorter category romances. I read a number of history books, particularly the Penguin Atlas of history series. I enjoyed dipping in an out of non-fiction and I didn’t have to invest time in emotional connections with fictional characters. My reading was centred on picture books and board books. I loved searching for books that would bring chortles of laughter from my toddlers. This is quite a hard task. To date, our favourite funny reads have to be Sandra Boynton’s Red Hat, Blue Hat and But Not the Hippopotamus and Peter Catalonotto’s Matthew A.B.C. In the last couple of years I started reading novels again and discovered Suzanne Brockmann’s category romances. My love for her books led me to reading *shock horror* longer romances.
It is the eve before I turn 43. My last 7 years of reading have involved me becoming a readers’ advisory librarian and my whole reading life has been turned on its head. I won’t go into my non-book reading here but let it be said that I read non-book items much more than books. My fiction reading has shifted to almost exclusively romance reading. Unlike previous years, I now read longer romances and adore them. I no longer consider them waffle but they are also less intense than category romances which I still read but lately I have become disinterested in them. It took me many years to develop but I now love historical romances. Perhaps because they still allow for tension and courtship which I find is less common in contemporary romance. What I love most is the euphoric joy I feel at the end of a well-written heart rending romance.
7 Up Sum up
“Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.”
Upon first glance, one could say that my reading at the age of 7 is wildly different to my reading today. However, for me, it is comedy and happiness that is my reading gateway. Pamela Regis expanded definition of the romance novel in “A Natural History of the Romance Novel” places romance within the broader genre of comedy. Which takes me right back to being 7 years old and reading out the 793.7 jokes and riddles section of the library. So for me, my reading at 7 is a reflection of me as a reader at 42.