Me and my library;Interview;Malcolm Gluck

6th August 1999 at 01:00
I find libraries terribly sexy - there is something very sensual about handling books. I feel I grew up in public libraries and was educated in them. There was a library at my local school in Hornchurch in Essex and I also belonged to three other libraries when I was about 15 and decided to read every book of modern fiction I could find. I started at "A" and carried on for the next few years. Lucky Jim had been published a few years earlier and I got to Zola from Amis. I was quite systematic in a funny kind of way.

Because I was a member of so many libraries, I could take out loads of books. I always had several on the go at once, as I still do. You can only read about an hour or so of something like Ulysses. You need to read a few poems or something light in between. I don't lose the thread - I always know where I am in a book.

As a child I used to read my father's book club thrillers. I only had three children's books: Sockeye the Salmon, Robinson Crusoe and a classic about a mouse by E B White. At school I was introduced to Dickens and writers like that, but I wanted to read modern novelists and had this great surge when libraries began to play a huge part in my life.

As a teenager, Hornchurch was my favourite library because I really fancied one of the assistants. She was very tall, wore glasses and was very bright. She was two forms ahead of me at school. We lived in the same street and occasionally would see one another, but I don't think I ever dared speak to her. She worked in the library part-time. It was a thrill when she stamped my book and I used to try to arrange to be in her queue. I didn't dare take out any of the D H Lawrence I'd recently discovered or sexy French novels when she was on duty. That would have been too embarrassing.

I still use libraries regularly. I belong to Paddington Library, which is near my home in London. It has a very good reference section and I go there a lot, especially to do research. I find the quietness of libraries forces you to think. The silence is lovely and extraordinarily sensual. The quiet, reflective atmosphere of a library is like being in another world.

My children, Alexandra, 13, and Gus, 10, are great readers too. Even though they have lots of books of their own they still like going to the library. When they were younger, my special treat would be to take them to the library.

Wine writer and broadcaster Malcolm Gluck has two books out later this year, "Superplonk 2000" and "Streetplonk 2000" (Hodder amp; Stoughton). He was talking to Pamela Coleman

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