Saturday, November 7, 2009

Your Secret Reading Self

A.S. Byatt visited the 92nd Street Y last week to talk about her newest project, The Children's Book. Byatt read two selections from the book and then engaged in a Questions and Answers sessions with a former colleague, David Ebershoff. In his introduction, Ebershoff recalled another such session with Byatt when she was asked by a fan, " How do you know so much about so many things?"

"I read," she replied.

Byatt and Ebershoff talked at length about the complex characters alive in The Children's Book, including Olive, a wife, mother and writer who pens special stories for each of her children. Byatt talked about how brazen this was for a mother to do; forge a familiarity with her children's "secret reading self." I love this acknowledgment of the clandestine part of reader's identity that is allowed to pursue intellectual and personal curiosities without fear of consequences.

Byatt admitted that as a girl she didn't "like stories about other little girls." Instead of reading what was considered appropriate materials for young girls, her secret reading self was drawn to the dark fairytales and nordic mythology that has influenced her life as a writer and a reader.

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