Monday, August 30, 2010

nothing but breakfast

A while ago I thought I would write a blog post about my favourite childhood books. But as I came to think about it, I remembered more and more, too many to fit into one blog post. So a whole series of blog posts seems more appropriate. Various happenings (mostly assignments) have conspired to keep me from writing any of them. But today, since fate seems to be conspiring to keep me from my uni work, it seems appropriate to talk about comfort books.

When I was in Year 12 at school we had to study speeches, and one of the speeches happened to be by Margaret Attwood talking about writing and feminism. In it she describes how her young daughter and friend put on a play, in which all they did was eat breakfast, which was pretty dull because narrative needs to be 'more than breakfast'. Well when I was younger I was quite happy to read about 'breakfast'. I remember once complaining to my mum about all the horrible things happening to characters in a book I was reading, to which my mum replied something along the lines of 'well, without that there wouldn't be a story'. I've thought about this, and true though it may be I'm pretty sure I enjoyed a lot of fairly tension-free books in my childhood. Here are a few:

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. There is tension in the 'Little House' series, difficult journeys, struggles with the land, illness, disappointment and so on. But not so much in this first book. Something about Little House in the Big Woods is just so cosy- the purpose of the book is to evoke a bygone time as much as to tell a story. Excitements and conflicts are generally small- Laura gets into trouble for being disobedient, or wants different coloured ribbons. Some of my favourite memories of this book include the dance, where the family get together in their best dresses, and the children make naple-syrup candy in the snow. I loved this book for its comfort, I liked to imagine living in a log house in the woods with a rag doll to play with.

Margaret Mahy's books of short stories, including The Door in the Air and Mahy Magic. They are not all tension free, but they are about evoking a different world. I think I read a lot for escapism, and these stories are fantastic for that. Some of my favourites include the story about the man who made fantastical bridges, the Green Fair and the story of the magical merry-go-round. I have never understood why 'escapism' is considered such a dirty word- why can't we take a holiday from reality once in a while?

The Fairy Caravan by Beatrix Potter. This book begins with a guinea-pig running away from home and joining a travelling caravan of animals. Full of fairy-tales, talking animals, cosiness and strangeness. There is a journey, and problems to overcome, but I enjoyed this book for the caravan and sense of magic. I've always been fond of caravans.

Maybe most shameful of these is the large book of Flower Fairies that I had, and loved, and read and memorised parts of. I also read a whole lot of Enid Blyton. Although I only read them when I was older, I think the Swallows and Amazons books fit nicely into this category of comforting childhood books where nothing much happens.

Descriptive books, comfort books, books about breakfast, they are still some of my childhood favourites and ever more will remain so. Next up- forgotten books.