From bookworm to butterfly

May 11, 2007 at 10:44 pm 5 comments

The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Melanie Mall and the Pie in the Sky. John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat. Hundreds of fairytales. And a good dose of A.A. Milne, especially King John, who longs for ‘a big, red India-rubber ball’. From these humble beginnings, we bravely set forth to destinations unknown.

Pippi Long-stocking and The Hobbit – undisputed stars of the primary school years. Until the unsuspecting bookworm is plucked from her cosy hole and dropped in a country town, burrowing for cover in the fat, welcoming, wonderful Lord of the Rings. This proves a good companion for six long years, but there is space for other travelers on the road: Chaim Potok, Susan Cooper, David Malouf. At the end of year 12 she re-reads TLOTR in three days straight, and worries that she loves it more than God.

At University the green leaves of the forest beckon. Leaving Tolkien behind, the intrepid bookworm flirts with Italo Calvino before munching on happily in a much bigger world: Jane Eyre, James Joyce, Eliot – both T.S. and George, Chaucer, Malory, Sir Gawain, Tim Winton, and a heavy, heady dose of Dostoevsky. Bliss.

After four years, bookworm emerges, bewildered, squinting at the light. Finds a job that lets her read at night. Sweeping floors, pushing wheelchairs and wiping bottoms by day, the bookworm gorges sweetly by night: War and Peace, Middlemarch, everything Neil Gaiman ever wrote. And slowly, she hatches the best plan yet.

One long snooze, and the bookworm sprouts wings, big ones. It’s off to England, to read the old books in the old languages. And the shiny new butterfly finds more than she’d hoped. Yes – there’s Ovid and Virgil, Augustine, Dante, the glittery Pearl, Norse Sagas and Anglo-Saxon poems like heavy gold rings. But there’s also Kurt Vonnegut, Milan Kundera, Virginia Woolf, Philip Roth, Umberto Eco and the magical Philip Pullman. Here are fields, broad and bright, their new colours flashing in the sun.


Entry filed under: bookworm.

New Books Eight Things

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. acquisitionist  |  May 16, 2007 at 8:42 am

    I love this reading bildungsroman. When I think back to my pre-teen years I remember endless consumption of trashy teen fiction series.

    I hope you have many more reading adventures and good luck with your studies!

  • 2. robi-d  |  May 16, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    fond memories of these and many others over the years, shared and loved, and now I enjoy your wings and the glimpse through your eyes of many things I have not read or known

  • 3. Eva  |  May 16, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    This is the earlier comment that I deleted: what a cute story 🙂 You and I have similar tastes! Esp the Neil Gaiman

    thanks for the heads up on Oscar and Lucinda….I’ll have to read it when I’m surrounded by warm and fuzzy people and weather to balance it out!

    I wanted to add this second part to my comment. 🙂

    Hi! I’ve tagged in a meme-you list eight little known facts about yourself, and then tag eight more people. I think it’s fun to read about the little random details of other people’s lives. 🙂 Hopefully, you haven’t already been tagged, and you’re game! Of course, if you’re too busy, just ignore this.

    For the full rules, see my post:

  • 4. meli  |  May 16, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    I’m always up for a distraction! 🙂 I’ll give it a go – I’ll just need a little while to think about it. Yep, Neil Gaiman is amazing, it’s always good to meet a fellow admirer.

    Thanks for the comments, all – a. and e. I really like your blogs!

  • 5. kaz  |  December 20, 2007 at 2:38 am

    you mention ‘melanie mall and the pie in the sky’ do you happen to know who the Author is as my sister had this book as a child ( i barely remember it) but lost it and I would love to track a copy of it down for her, as her name is Melanie and it was very special to her, any ideas??

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