Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks…
I read this a while ago and it’s a truth that becomes more ridiculous the longer I ponder it. Not only fiction, but poetry, newspaper and journal articles, text books, and everything written in English is made up of 26 letters and a bit of punctuation. Our total written language is just marks on a page, or pixels arranged on a screen, yet it has the capacity to amuse and educate us, infuriate or bore us, inflame our passions or leave us sobbing.
Neil Gaiman, who wrote the line quoted above (and whose article, “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”, is definitely worth a read), went on to say,
… you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.
I know that has been true for me. To “look out through other eyes” through reading stories is different from any other experience. While reading you live inside a character’s head. Though we all have our own interpretations, there are few things where we can all experience the same stories to the same degree, because even in movies and television we are observing. While reading, we are experiencing.
When I was growing up most of the books within easy reach were by British or North American authors. Interesting, exciting things happened in England, or Canada, or New York. Occasional books included European journeys. They were great books, and certainly showed me that “everyone else out there is a me”, but I vaguely thought that writers had a special blessing from the gods and existed in some stratosphere that didn’t connect to the middle/working class real-world Sydney suburb I lived in. As for becoming a writer? I might as well decide to become Cinderella.
There were good Australian books around, of course, but over the last ten or twenty years the number of quality Aussie books seems to have exploded, in all genres for all ages. At the recent Newcastle Writers Festival I discovered so many writers I wanted to read that I found my saved-up book budget was woefully inadequate.
So, I’ve decided to take up the Aussie Author Challenge 2015: KANGAROO
– Read and review 12 titles written by Australian Authors of which at least 4 of those authors are female, at least 4 of those authors are male, and at least 4 of those authors are new to you;
– At least 6 fiction and at least 2 non-fiction, and at least 2 titles first published in 2014 or 2015.
I’ve read the first book I bought at the Writers Festival, nearly finished the second, and I’m part way through a book of short stories. I’m also over half way through another great Aussie novel. (I know. A lot of people just read one book at a time, but I’m sure other people run books concurrently. Don’t they?)
Is it cheating to use the same books for both of challenges? I’ll go read the fine print. I’ll probably end up reading enough for both anyway. Regardless, I’ll be reading and reviewing Aussie books on this site, as well as posting other book stuff I can’t keep to myself.