Posts Tagged ‘Robin Jarvis’

Yesterday’s post, and people’s responses, got me thinking about the books that I would never let go. So, in no particular order, here are my top few.

The World of Pooh by A. A. Milne

Oh no, the bees found the honey! Also, I discovered PicMonkey.

Oh no, the bees found the honey!
Also, I discovered PicMonkey.

This hardback has been with me my whole life. I loved Pooh and his gentle adventures when I was a kid, then rediscovered them when I was in sixth-form. The soft, simple prose, the whimsical events, the sense that it was alright not to rush and worry but just to amble along singing a little song to yourself, it really struck a chord with teenage me. In fact, Pooh’s Tao-like simplicity remains an inspiration to me to this day, and I dip into the book to lift me up when I’m feeling blue.

I gave a copy of this to my godson on the occasion of his christening. He can’t follow the stories yet, never mind read them, but I hope it’ll provide him with comfort and inspiration down the years.

The Deptford Mice Trilogy by Robin Jarvis

Look out, Jupiter might get you

Look out, Jupiter might get you

I read the first of these when I was eleven. It was my first brush with anything like horror, and it had a huge impact. The thrill of being both terrified and exhilarated at the same time was something new and wonderful. They were packed with atmosphere, and with a balance of hope and darkness that made them feel incredibly real despite their fantasy animal content. Over twenty years later, I’m still planning to go back and read them, once I can build up the courage. And any time I see a corn dolly, a little shiver goes down my spine.

This is as close as I get to Tenabreme‘s wonderful habit of collecting books remembered from childhood. Of course, it’s easier when you’ve never let the books go.

The Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett

Just part of my pile of Pratchett

Just part of my pile of Pratchett

Of all the writers who have been active in my lifetime, Pratchett is the one whose wonderful work I most want to pass on to future generations. The tone of these stories may have shifted hugely over time, but I still love them all, from the weird satire of Colour of Magic to the heart-warming philosophising of his latest works. I’ve read half at least twice, Pyramids many more times than that, and Small Gods is one of my favourite reflections on religion. The man’s a treasure, and I treasure his books.

Unlike Ben, the Derleth collector I mentioned yesterday, I’m not a big keeper of books as objects. But if anyone harms my signed Pratchett there will be trouble.

So which books do you cling to, and why?

I’m fascinated by what lies underground, especially underneath cities. I don’t know whether this comes from my childhood reading of Robin Jarvis’s ‘The Dark Portal‘, later followed by watching Neil Gaiman‘s ‘Neverwhere‘, or whether I found those things appealing because they were in a setting I liked. Perhaps it all comes from exposure at an early age to Roland Rat and his ratcave, in retrospect a screaming example of just how weird children’s television is. Maybe it’s something innate to the human psyche, something reflected in legends of hell and journeys into the abyss.

Either way, I find myself drawn to the underground. Mrs K and I spent the least romantic afternoon of our honeymoon in the Paris sewer museum, enjoying the unique smell of a museum that is what it says on the tin. And I’m equally unable to resist books that look at the city beneath the city. So my heap of bedside reading currently includes ‘Subterranean Cities’, David L Pike’s fascinating exploration of the nature and meaning of life beneath 19th century London and Paris; ‘Secret Underground Cities’ by N J Camley, about the underground factories and storage shelters scattered across Britain during the Second World War; and ‘The Big Necessity: Adventures in the World of Human Waste’ by Rose George, a charity shop impulse buy that half fitted the theme. Given my distractability they’ll probably still all be there in a month, as slowly but surely, a chapter here, a few paragraphs there, the tube trains and sewage pipes take over my brain.

So why the fascination? I think that it’s about finding a world that’s close to ours, that’s fundamentally connected to it, and yet is full of mystery and darkness, both literal and metaphorical. Like the Victorian planners who feared no-one would use underground trains, I picture a world of secrecy and skulduggery inches beneath our feet. A place for rats on four legs and on two. But I also see a place full of potential. Somewhere for the objects and people that have been cast aside. A world of renewal, as in Joseph Campbell’s monomyth. And that’s where adventure resides – somewhere with danger, somewhere with potential, somewhere with the tension between darkness and light.

I’m not working on an underground story at the moment, but I always have one waiting in the back of my brain. Whether it’s Victorian adventurers hunting Da Vinci’s head through the sewers, Enlightenment scholars exploring the classical underworld, or robbers fleeing through the belly of a moving city, there’s always something there. And after a recent trip to the Manchester Museum my notebook’s filling up again with ideas around sarcophagai and tombs. It won’t be long until I’m going underground again.