03 September 2009

Do you remember where you were when...

1) In 1982 one young Onion could often be found snuggled up under a doona on the top bunk in a girls boarding house in regional Victoria. The pile beside the bunk included The Racketty Street Gang by Leonard Herbert Evers, The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, The Time Machine by H G Wells and a cache of Sweet Dreams books. An interesting mix indeed.

But one book shone brighter than all the others that year: Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park. It was love at first read. I gobbled it up. And I was ever after hopeful that I could find my own Little Furry Girl to follow. To this day, whenever I stray into the streets of The Rocks in Sydney they immediately evoke Abigail's world and the time-slip adventure of a life time.

2) Who knew that a darkened cinema in St Kilda in 1994 would be the site of the discovery of a revolution in storytelling? Not this Onion. I wasn't at all prepared for the genius that is Pulp Fiction. A non-linear, out-of-sequence circular narrative with three intertwining storylines, the resurrection of John Travolta's career, Jack Rabbit Slims, soundtrack-cool, dialogue to die for, and production values out the wahzoo. Watching Pulp Fiction for the first time I felt I had found the perfect storm of cinema and storytelling.

3) In early 1999 in a classroom in inner-city Melbourne a young eglantine's cake commandeered the attention of her Professional Writing & Editing classmates and insisted that the book she held in her hand was one of the best examples of kids fantasy she'd read.
'It's cool. It's based around magic and a boarding school for wizards,' she said. 'It's utterly compelling. I reckon it's going to be big.'
The cynical Onion-to-be in the room respected her opinion, but remained doubtful for a good thirty pages of Philosopher's Stone. I was even haughty about the typesetting. And then, as if by magic, I was simply swept away, into the world of witchcraft and wizardry, wands and Weasleys, nearly headless Nick, house-elves and Quidditch, telepathic sorting hats and invisibility cloaks. Oh, hooray. Hooray for Harry!

4) In 2003 a couple of Onions were keeping an eye out for interesting book covers to brief a designer on a new project. As soon as we saw the cover of The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time in The Bookseller we were smitten. We wanted it in our hands, poste haste. I downed tools; I was straight out the door to the nearest book store.

Unexpectedly it was a hardback. With dust jacket (ooh la la!). It felt good. It looked good. It was GOOD. And it had what is perhaps the best blurb ever. A triumph of less is more: 5 red cars mean that it is going to be a Super Good Day.

Beaming with the thrill of discovery I whisked it to the counter.

Bookseller: "It's a great cover isn't it."
Onion: "Yes! And a brilliant blurb."
Bookseller: (Shakes head, raises eyebrows and pulls mouth down with grudging agreement.) "But I guess you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover."
Onion: "Oh, but I am. I have no idea what this book is about. I haven't even opened it. I am buying it purely because I love this cover. It's fantastic. The boldness of the white, the matt finish, the spot gloss on the car and the dog's blood. The wonderful simplicity of the blurb. It is a beautiful package. Superb. Courageous."

Bookseller backs away from Onion to indicate he doesn't want to engage with the weird book-fetish person any more.

Don't you just love the shock of the new.


Celine said...

I have no idea why - but this blog post made my so happy! Thanks for that. ( perhaps it was the sheer eclecticness(?) of the things that gave you joy over the years?)

Natalie Hatch said...

I love the smell of a newly cracked open book, that fresh ink ready for me to feast my eyes upon.

Susannah said...

I've got some seminal Not Reading moments to throw into the mix.

When I was about 10, I picked up Anne of Green Gables, read the first page or two, was totally bored and put it back in disgust. Big mistake. Huge. It wasn't until my mum read it aloud to me a year or two later that I fell totally in love with Anne. Mum abandoned me after Anne of the Island - but I powered through the rest of the books on my own. Sobbing hugely at the death of Walter in the last book, but sobbing only marginally less hugely for the fact that Anne was now being called 'Mrs Blythe'. (Except by faithful Gilbert who still said things like 'Where are you wandering Anne-o-mine'.) SOB

I also rejected Margaret Mahy's The Changeover because it had an awful cover emblazoned with the words A Supernatural Romance. No. Thank. You. I was probably about 13. In sheer desperation for reading material I picked it up again a few months later and grudgingly began to read. Oh Laura Chant, oh Sorensen Carlisle, how could I have ever doubted you? In penance I will probably read you almost every year for the rest of my life.

Nicki Greenberg said...

Wow - that brings back my own memories of being blown away by Playing Beattie Bow AND Pulp Fiction (still remember what outfit I wore to the cinema) AND The Curious Incident... great post, thank you! xx

Penni Russon said...

Oh that was me what was clever about Harry Potter! How come I can predict the next big thing but I can't write it?

Oh, capcha is nonsiose. I love you, new little word made by the Internet with no meaning of your own.

genevieve said...

Ah, you will, Pen, you will.
Nice prediction!!
I got 'dining' as a captcha elsewhere tonight. Blogger reads and writes the web.

*pogiti*, ergo sum.

*emirma* HMMMM.