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This report is taken from PN Review 210, Volume 39 Number 4, March - April 2013.

Here I Fell Asleep Neil Powell
If there was a time before I learnt to read, I don't remember it. In the ragged scheme of childhood memory, reading begins very early and in a particular place: the Parker Knoll armchair by the dining-room fireplace, my mother with an open book and me at her side, perched and pointing at the page. The words either gleam in the radiance of an opal-shaded Aladdin lamp, the friendliest reading light ever invented, or sulk in the yellowish glimmer of an electric table lamp powered by the generator in the garage. My mother - the nomadic eccentricity of whose own early childhood I didn't fully understand until after her death, when I read her mother's diaries and turned them into a long poem called 'The Journal of Lily Lloyd' - would have been adamant that I must be able to read long before I set foot in anything like a school and mortified if I'd failed her in this. Since my first school was to be a kindergarten called High Trees, chosen because the Coles' boy next door was going there too and our respective fathers could take turns dropping us off on their way to work, this was probably just as well. Backward in almost everything from tying shoelaces to writing properly, I loved books from the start and from them acquired a dangerous sense that I really needn't bother much about what anyone else was trying to tell me: I blame the Aladdin lamp. 'No one who can read,' ...


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