Tuesday, 31 December 2013
What reading is...
Many of us will never have a conversation with a friend or lover that's as intimate as those we've had with the books in our lives.
There are few opportunities to open ourselves as deeply as that provided by a book that hits just so. I can say things on a page that would never leave my mouth. I can take from someone else's pages things that I would otherwise never have had in my life.
I don't claim any great art but if you've read my books it's likely that there are moments between those covers that meant something to both of us. And with the classics of literature there are passages that echo through generations.
With a film we get the creator's vision, but generally the broadest brush strokes of it, fed to us through the committee of professionals who constructed it on the screen. Films can be powerful, beautiful, moving, but in the end they're the work of a team.
A book is the closest you can get to touching another person's imagination. It's a singular relationship between the reader and an author just a keystroke away on the other side of the page.
It's a sadness that so many people don't find the time to read in these days of iPhones and Facebook, streaming movies and multi-player console games. I know I'm starting to sound like a white-haired old-folk complaining about the young-folk in between yelling at them to get off my lawn ... but I am (although aging) a child of the computer era - or at least a teenager of it, and perhaps a child of the books and Lego era.
It's not so much that I regret the lost sales ... though of course I do :) It's more that a world in which those private, silent, variously deep or funny or thrilling, conversations that take place between a reader and a writer - on buses, trains, in living rooms, bedrooms, at the kitchen table, hell even on the toilet... a world in which those conversations grow fewer, in which 'you read' becomes an oddity, an accusation even... such a world seems less colourful to me, more homogenized.
Connecting us all together is a great thing, with a million potential ups, but one potential down is simply the standardizing of taste. If we all watch the same 100 multi-million dollar films, if we all play the same 100 block buster games ... we've lost something of the diversity and brilliance that 100,000 books bring to the stage. Books are one of the last cottage industries. One author, unconstrained, throwing their thoughts and imagination at the page. Their readers numbered in hundreds, thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, more rarely hundreds of thousands. All those conversations going on... keeping the world full of magic.
The year's page turns from 13 to 14 tonight. I hope our book pages keep turning as long as there are years to count.
Have a HAPPY