The Details

It’s an unusual state I find myself in – needing to re-read a book just finished. It feels like a book I could learn from because it’s a book about reading and about writers who read.

As I flick through the pages, assessing – remembering – each chapter, I pick a random paragraph. Read it. Make it stand alone.

‘Nothing changed. We sat a long time, saying nothing, upright in our chairs but half sleeping, while the night solidified around us.’

Daylight saving has finally let the sun set and my laptop is insisting on a software upgrade, so I’m writing this, at least the first few paragraphs, with pen and paper, in recline, with a book about American paintings from 1900-1970 propped against my knees for support. The painting under my page is oranges and reds and yellows and greens, or maybe blues, and thick, and I eventually make out the numbers. It’s a painting of mailbox numbers that aren’t yet on mailboxes.

The juxtaposition was a bit surprising; I’m writing today about a book purchased online, The Details: On Love, Death and Reading by Tegan Bennett Daylight.

Unlike the readers in the book, and probably also the readers it was actually written for, I don’t have a re-reading habit. I’ve already moved on to the next. But I know its there, when I ready.

The first lesson from The Details is obvious enough, and re-reading is not required for this one. This first theme considers those details often left out of stories, creating only a partiality for the reader.

I remember continual frustration in my younger years – no-one on TV ever went to the toilet. Childhood fascinations! There were two reasons for this omission. The first is economic. If its not material to the story it doesn’t get air time because every minute is expensive. Cue the shot of the damsel in distress leaving a message on the washroom mirror, only to have the wiley male kidnapper check before leaving the garage, they had to stop for petrol, and erase the cry for help.

The second reason was cultural. During the 60s and 70s, there were still a lot of taboos. While it’s less of an issue these days, it’s still the case that any inclusion should progress the story. Cue unnecessary shots of naked women!?

These posts about the books I read aren’t really about the books. I don’t pretend to be a book critic. It’s a personal blog, so the focus is personal. How did context contribute to the reading? What was my response? Am I changed, somehow?

The Details was read while completing a semester of study about teaching literacy to primary school children. One of the themes of the course was self-reflection. Reflecting on past reading practices. Reflecting on the topic currently being read. Teachers are to model the behaviour expected of the student.

I can picture, ie visually bring to mind an image of, many books I’ve read down through the years, including picture books, but I’m sure I cannot write about the content to the same degree as Tegan Bennett Daylight, except maybe the picture books.

For example, I’ve read many of Henry Lawson’s stories but the one I remember clearest is The Loaded Dog, a book I think I ‘earned’ during primary school and received at the end-of-year presentation. The bright, seemingly larger-than-life illustrations of the old yellow dog and the home-made cartridge hanging from his slobbering mouth, the men scampering to get out of the way once they realise the wick had trailed through an open fire and the dog bounding about after them … I wonder if it’s in a box in the shed? The book, not the dog.

I suddenly feel like I want to do a stocktake. Make a list. All the books I can remember reading, cover to cover. I wonder if that’s possible?


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