I was not a great student at school – I
was a horrendous student at school, although I had interests in film and art I just wasn’t
attracted to the page and I believe I had – even now I struggle with numbers and words
– so I believe I had a mild dyslexia at the time. So words were difficult. So I was
tending towards film and music and arts and theatre rather than to the page. Then a friend
of mine gave me a copy of Catch 22 in the playground, he said you like M*A*S*H, you’ll
like this. And I started reading it and immediately this book had much more to offer than Tom
Clancy, much more to offer than Jaws and I was in!
But it was difficult, I was so slow, it took me so long to read this book and I read it
wherever I could. I was lying in the playground one day in the sunshine while everyone was
doing their normal stuff, reading this book and my English teacher walked out and gave
me a kick and said, What are you doing? I didn’t know you could read. Because I was
in the lowest English – I was bumming out of the HSC, I was going to get zero, I was
on a track. And she knew this and she’d given up on me like most of them had and she
was so surprised seeing me lying on the playground reading catch 22. So she talked to me about
it and then she asked me what my other interests were and I said well I really like the movie
room with a View. And she smacked her forehead and said you know that’s a book? And so
she encouraged me to keep reading Catch 22 and then she discussed it with me and later
on she plonked down this big fat volume of EM Forster’s novels and sat me in the back
of the class and gave me almost separate tutorials on books by letting me read in the class.
Fast forward a million years, I’m 27 and I’m sitting in my second hand bookshop,
I’ve just opened it and I’m quite happy with myself. The teacher walks in to this
shop, looks at me and goes, ‘What are you doing here?’ and I said it’s my shop,
it’s called John’s bookshop. She says, but I don’t understand, what is going on?
So I said, well that was it, you set me on a path and I’ve not stopped. I’ve just
kept reading the whole time. And she was so excited, these types of things don’t happen
to teachers very often but there she was and seeing her work turn into someone who was
obsessed with reading and she was very interested in what I was reading and very happy to see
that I’d kept up the standards she’d required.