When my sister and I were small, bedtime was not bedtime unless our parents or older brothers and sisters read us a story. Fairy tales, folk tales, myths and legends, scary stories and hero tales. We just couldn’t get enough. However, they didn’t need to read to us for long, because years before we started school we were already reading books intended for far older children, and for adults, too.
Our house was full of books and magazines of all kinds… everything from Readers Digest and National Geographic magazines in the waiting room at my father’s clinic to stacks of novels and encyclopaedias in bookcases all over the house. Those books crammed our heads with information and inspiration, mystery and intrigue and lots of rather incomprehensible adult themes. Our parents were always busy and did not censor what we were reading at all, leaving us free to read novels X-rated novels that they would have confiscated on the spot that if they had caught us reading them! Still, it didn’t seem to do us any harm, even though I do remember being a bit confused about the facts of life! In the main, my childhood favourites were novels like Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier, as much Roald Dahl as I could get my hands on and then epics like Gone with the Wind and exotic tales such as The Far Pavilions and the Wild Swans and heart breaking romances like Endless Love.
According to a survey conducted by website Raconteur, the six top ranking storytellers are William Shakespeare, Roald Dahl, Stephen King, Charles Dickens, J. K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman, but how can you whittle a world of literary talent down to a mere six?I recognise the mastery of Shakespeare and read several of his works at school, but I don’t think he’s in my top six. And why even have a top six when it means leaving out masterpieces and favourites. That’s the thing with reading. There are no limitations and luckily there’s room in a Kindle for them all!
Now things have come full circle because these days there is always someone ready to read me a bedtime story. More often than notit is a famous storyteller, actor or comedian such as Alec Baldwin, the late Leonard Nimoy, Cynthia Nixon… or acomedian, authororother talent. Every night I pop on my headphones and settle down to listen to marvellous, fresh stories on podcasts such as The Moth and Selected Shorts, or true tales on shows such as “This is actually happening” and “Mortified”.What’s more, it’s all free!
It’s true that much of the content thrown at us by the information society is facile and vacuous… but rejoice in being alive in the age of technology. You don’t have to dig very deep to find excellent entertaining and educational content and it’s all free… Ah bliss!