Hooray for autodidacts

I was reading a Guardian review of Sean Connery’s book Being a Scot when I came across this great quote:

“It makes you think. Getting 50% of school leavers into university is a noble aspiration. But in some areas wouldn’t putting more money into public libraries and encouraging people to read get, if not a better, then a better rounded, product? You rarely love a work of literature you’ve been examined on. Or want to talk about it on planes. We tend to think that autodidacts have made it against the odds. And yet I bet that John Major (one of the more successful autodidacts of our time, if scarcely our most successful PM) is better read than Tony Blair. (What was Major’s favourite novel? Trollope’s superb The Way We Live Now.)
So, let’s hear it for the autodidact. And lets have more of them. Fifty per cent of the school-leaving population would be nice.”

The reviewer, John Sutherland, was inspired by Connery’s story of leaving school at 13 and gaining his education by reading, reading, reading. Actors have lots of down time and Sean made best use of that.

John Major began his writing career with an autobiography in 1999. Last year he published More than a game: the story of cricket’s early years 

Librarians love all these affirming kind of statements – we are total suckers for a kind word and an inspirational story because we do believe and hope others do too.

Some recent interviews with authors on our library website have asked a library question and elicited some interesting answers. Junot Diaz said (Amongst other fabulous things) “For a poor kid a library to me was as like a miracle to me as if you discovered if you could sign your name and take out a whole wardrobe of Armani clothes. Every day. For the rest of your life. Thats what a library felt like.”

Joe Bennett says he loathes libraries. “I desparately want them to exist; I never use them because I cannot abide having a book in my hand that I know has to go back. It’s like owing money – I loathe owing money, I feel uncomfortable owing money I want to pay it now. Pay it now! Absolutely hate it and it’s exactly the same with library books.  The date of its return is hanging over me … it’s something to do with duty or whatever … I can’t relax with it. I own my books. I used to keep every single book and read right through to the end – even if I didn’t like it. Now I give a book two pages – and it’s style not content that matters rto me know – if the writer doesn’t know their stuff I think stuff it – life’s too short.”

We’ll have some great author interviews on our Christchurch Writers’ Festival pages and we’ll be asking them all the “library question”.

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