The Books that changed me
I found the Great Dialogues of Socrates in dad’s bookcase.
I was seven. Socrates had been dead two and a half thousand years, and I’d run out of Enid Blytons. Yet there was an adult who insisted that young people ask questions when mum and dad yelled at me for asking ‘what makes trees green?’ Socrates has guided me on and off since then.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte sat next to Socrates. I saw integrity for the first time.
Ten years old: Karalta by Mary Grant Bruce. Books happened in Australia!
At 25, and after six deep hours of total immersion Patrick White’s Twyborn Affair, I learned to write about what my country was, to see through the window as if it had just been washed. Any clichéd description, character or plot would became a slash across my fingers. If I am a writer, I owe it to him.
And the Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay? At seven years old he showed me that my particular good life is living in a market garden with all the fruit and veg I want to eat, pudding for dinner, or other food I love, eccentric wombats and ‘good conversation of an evening.’
Between them, Socrates, Norman Lindsay and Charlotte Bronte showed me who I would be as an adult. Patrick white showed me the writer I needed to be.
And now, at 62, I have everything I saw in those books and I wished for as a child. This is just slightly terrifying. Perhaps I will wake up to find I’ve dozed off in Mrs. Morrison’s Year 8 maths class.
Or perhaps, while authors die, their pages left behind can be the deepest guides of all. Possibly, sometimes, I might even manage to show kids the futures they may create, too, or at least give them the confidence, and imagination to reach them.