Perhaps it was some weird form of literary indoctrination. When I was a baby and couldn’t sleep, Dad carried me downstairs to explore the contents of his bookcases. Apparently, the simple process of pulling out a book and showing me the cover was enough to stop me crying. It’s a different house now, but I’ve known some of Dad’s books all my life (‘Wind in the Willows’ ‘The Oxford Dictionary’ his battered editions of Dickens) and they still have a strangely calming effect on me.
Dad didn’t much like his day job, but he loved writing. Late at night, he’d pummel away at his typewriter (radio plays mainly for ‘Afternoon Theatre’) and I always found the click of the keys really reassuring. He’s still writing, but on the PC we got for his 80th birthday. Unfortunately, I’ve become his computer guru – permanently on call when his files go ‘mysteriously’ missing.
Books have always been important to me. But it was back in December 1979, when I was nineteen, that I had a kind of revelation: She was the first girl I’d been properly keen on. A couple of days before Christmas she dumped me; a devastating blow, made all the more painful by the fact that I’d practically bankrupted myself buying her the Clash’s ‘seminal’ double-album ‘London Calling’.
But as I settled down to the most miserable Yuletide of my life, salvation arrived in the form of an unpromising, grey paperback that (having blown my budget on my ex) I’d given to my sister. Maybe it was bad manners, but like I said, I was pretty miserable, so I sloped off to a corner and started to read.
It remains the most thrilling Christmas of my life. Right from the first page, Holden Caulfield, the teenage narrator seemed to be speaking directly to me. It wasn’t so much what he said, as they way that he said it. I polished it off in one sitting – with perhaps a brief break for turkey, and the Morecambe and Wise Show. It was the first time I’d been truly lost in a book. Christmases have come and gone, but I’ll never forget the year I read ‘The Catcher in the Rye.
Is there a book that changed your life?
Happy Christmas by the way. Bet you can’t do this!