Monday, March 29, 2010

A week without books

Bibi Van Der Zee, a constant reader, describes her week without books in this article in the Guardian.

A couple of quotes:

I decided to try giving up books for a week because I have come to the point where I wonder if they are holding me back. On the whole, the world seems to think that books are always a good thing, that you can never get too much of them. People admit to being bookworms in the same way they admit to being "just too tidy really", or "a bit of a workaholic".

But the rest of me is missing books like a drug, to the extent that I start to wonder if it actually is some kind of drug. The odd thing is that when I try to find out more about it, about whether reading fiction produces some kind of hormone in your mind, no one seems to know. Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard Library and a specialist in the history of the book, tells me: "Reading is mysterious, and we don't really understand how it is that we make sense of these signs that are embedded in paper or on computer screens. There have been attempts by cognitive scientists to measure the chemical exchanges in the brain, but as far as I can tell no scientist has really fully explained it. They're working on it."

So we don't know exactly what is happening, how the piles of pages or markings on the screen are transformed into other worlds inside our minds. But we do know that our brain experiences what the characters we are reading about experience.

Books, I realise, have been one of my longest, truest friends. When I'm anxious, sad, angry, in need of comfort, a book is often the first place I will go...

The day that the ban is lifted, I wait until the children have gone to bed, and then pick up the novel I was halfway through when the axe fell, pour a glass of wine and settle down with it, a bit worried that somehow (like the first puff of a fag when you've given up smoking for a while) it won't be as good as before, that somehow I will have spoilt it.

But there's no need to worry. Immediately, it is as if the wardrobe doors to Narnia have been thrown open again and thousands of other technicolour lives have tumbled straight back out from that eighth dimension inside my head. Day-to-day life just fades out, I stop worrying, stop twitching and just forget who or where I am for a gorgeous hour. ...reader, I am never giving up books again.




No comments: