Writers reflect on the love of books

Matthew Bungard

ABC presenter Richard Glover opened Friday morning’s For The Love of Books event with the thought that “It isn’t the object of a book, it’s the story.”

Glover was joined on stage by fellow authors Gretel Killeen and Mark Dapin, with the panel moderated by writer Angelo Loukakis.

The shift from physical books to virtual mediums proved to be central to the discussion, while the authors also shared stories about their earliest experiences with literature.

Often, there was a moment in your childhood where a book was your escape,” said Glover. He talked passionately of his early encounters with books and how his love of P.G Wodehouse saw him once refer to a bully as a ‘cad’ – a confusing moment for the bully no doubt in the 1970s!

Richard Glover; picture by Damian Bennett

Richard Glover; picture by Damian Bennett

Mark Dapin compared Wikipedia to the Encyclopaedia Britannica in terms of one being ever-changing, and one being “Solid and unchangeable” – and then joked about how the scare of thinking he was having a heart attack made him realise that the books he’s released will make him immortal.

A common theme was the comfort the panellists found in books throughout childhood.

I was a lonely child,” Gretel Killeen recalled, “I wanted a fellow traveller and I found it in books.”

Suprisingly, Killeen revealed that when she became an adult she rarely read books. “Because I was a single mum, I didn’t want to be removed from the world.” But she had found a link with her children through literature, when she invited them to do the illustrations for her

As the writers shared their most humbling moments with books, Angelo Loukakis revealed that he once followed a woman to the counter after seeing her pick up his book and offered to sign it for her, only to have her decline.

Gretel’s humbling story came from her time in Zimbabwe doing humanitarian aid, when she had promised to send books to a family at their request, only to find that by the time she attempted to contact them after leaving the country, the family had been moved on by Robert Mugabe.

Since then, we always take books,” she said.

Gretel Killeen; picture by Marc Burlace

Gretel Killeen; picture by Marc Burlace

Richard spoke to the positive aspects of e-books, telling how he had arrived home a few weeks ago to see his son reading a collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short stories on his IPhone…when he’d never seen with an actual book!

Mark Dapin closed the discussion by comparing the death of actual books with the death of vinyl records.“There was something about the album as an object beyond just its content,” he said. But beyond the garish illustrations and other extras you could find on album sleeves, he conceded that “It’s sad, but it doesn’t make me love the music any less.”