The book that changed reading for me….

I read an article a while ago in some woman’s magazine or other (I hate buying them by the way – it makes me feel so shallow, but I like looking at pictures of beautiful clothes I can’t afford and would never wear. So there.) with ‘celebrities’ describing the books that changed their lives. the only example I can remember was Pamela Anderson said that Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own changed her life because it made her feel intelligent and reminded her that she was capable and could be independent.

I don’t think I can honestly say that I’ve read a book that has changed my life, which shocked me when I first thought about it. I’ve read some books that have had a profound effect on me – reading No Logo when I was 16 definitely had an impact on me, Sunday at the Pool in Kigali was so powerful it made me physically sick and there’s a poetry anthology that I don’t go many places without. I can’t honestly say that there’s anything I’ve read that has really affected the course of my life in a major way – there’s plenty of things that have had a subtle and culminative effect on me.

There’s one book that definitely changed reading for me though – Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I read this when I was doing my A-Levels and I’d never read anything like it before, and I also read it in a different way to how I’d ever read anything else. I thought about the meaning behind the storyline, I was amazed at how Atwood played with words and built layer on layer of meaning in the text and I was also able to look at it as a comment on the time that I lived in, where in the immediate wake of September 11th, the world was becoming increasingly divided. I can pinpoint the exact point in the text where I saw for the first time what the written word could do – Offred is playing an illicit game of Scrabble that would cost her her life if she was discovered, she says:

‘I hold the glossy counters with their smooth edges, finger the letters. The feeling in voluptuous. This is freedom, an eyeblink of it. Limp, I spell. Gorge. What a luxury. The counters are like candies, made of peppermint, cool like that. Humbugs, those were called. I would like to put them into my mouth. They would taste also of lime. The letter C. Crisp, slightly acid on the tongue, delicious.’

I’m still tempted to suck a Scrabble tile every time I play.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s