Who would You be?

In an Ideal World, who would you be?

I was asked this question (or something near enough it) when I was about 12, by a teacher who was probably trying to instil decent self-esteem in my class. We were all asked to bring in a photo of someone we wanted to be.

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So, dutifully, photos were brought in. Of celebrities: footballers, WAGs, models, etc. The normal range of people that are held up as unwitting role models. For reasons from “She’s got straight hair” to “He’s a footballer”.

Except me. I wasn’t exposed to popular culture because we didn’t have a TV or any way of playing films until I was a teenager. I didn’t have a photo. I couldn’t think of anyone I wanted to be. Except maybe Sara Crewe, or Katy Carr, or Darrell Rivers, or any number of characters from the books I read, and only because everyone kept asking who I’d chosen. Hermione Grainger. Pollyanna. Jo from the Chalet School or Little Women; they both became writers. I went through a stage once of being Lady Jane Grey, from a programme tie-in novel that I found. I think that was my “emo” stage. Or maybe my Goth stage (minus the make-up. I’ve always been quite lazy when it comes to make-up. So much effort). Whichever, it didn’t last long. There’s something romantically tragic about her.

What no-one did, which is what I think my teacher wanted, was bring in a photo of themselves. Apparently no-one was happy enough in their own skin to own up to it.

Now, I’m just as happy being me, because I’m happy in my own world. I like the worlds of authors and I’ll happily spend hours exploring. But I have my own worlds to explore too. Kind of like the worlds at the top of the Magic Faraway Tree. Especially now that the one I found when I was 14 seems finally to be a bit more concrete and my characters are telling their story more coherently. It’s undergone quite a lot of renovation and the people reincarnated through the years, but we’ve come to an understanding.

Hopefully one day soon, I’ll be able to introduce you.

I’d ask who you want to be, but if you’ve got this far, you should know the “right” answer! I’m going to take it for granted that there’s a fictional person you’d be. (Who, by the by?) Although, I just thought, wouldn’t that then mean you can’t explore all the other lovely fictional worlds?

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library,”

said Jorge Luis Borges – and I really wish I had!

What sort of books do you like to read? Is there a genre you prefer? Or are you like me, and will read pretty much anything, if it interests you? Do you care if the author is male or female? Does the author’s name really register when you first pick it up?

In my habitual perusal of the ‘net, I stumbled across a campaign encouraging the reading of female authors’ works, despite the allegedly off-putting pastel covers. I’ve been a bit lazy in my reading of late, I will admit, but normally, I am a prolific reader. I also hate getting rid of my books. So I have children’s books next to adult books. Well, not really, that’s not how I organise my books, but you get my drift.

My shelves are, coincidentally, mostly full of female authors. Mostly because I’ve managed to collect the majority of Georgette Heyer’s novels, a decent handful or three of Agatha Christie’s and most of Dorothy L. Sayers. And I’ve still got a load of Enid Blytons (I don’t want to have to buy my children the updated, modern editions. I see nothing wrong with the originals). I don’t have these books because the authors are female and so am I. The only author whose books I discovered because of the author’s name (and therefore gender) is Celia Rees, and she I chose because we share a name. I continued reading her books because I liked them. Most books are recommended or were idly picked up while browsing in a shop.

Good books I read, and look for more by the same. Books which bore me, not so much. I don’t normally think about the author’s gender. I just want to know if the writing’s any good. Sometimes, easy reads are what I want, and I’ll read “chick-lit” for the simplicity, or television/film tie-ins – like those by “Richard Castle”! But usually, I just want a good story, told in such a way that the words paint pictures in my mind. Conan Doyle, Dumas, the above women, Tolkien. There is a host of great authors out there, too many to list them all here. Discover your own favourites, not just the ones that the Powers That Be decide everyone should read.

I think a book is a book and you should read what you like. Regardless of the author’s gender.