The Guardian today runs with a couple of stories about books and writers, one is in by Deborah Orr about Hilary Mantel and her observation in a previous article that teen mothers force us to rethink feminism, one about publishing and that ‘a reading boom is sweeping India’s growing middle class’ and one that I found interesting / amusing, by Bibi van der Zee who writes about how she stopped reading for a week.
Why on earth would you do that? Well, she was curious whether reading held her back from doing other things that perhaps she should be doing. Such as hanging up pictures, dusting the floor, or even talking to husband, family and friends. Who decides though?
When picking up granddaughter and her parents from the airport for a holiday in England, I always bring some goodies for her, and that includes a book (or two). She now knows there is a bag and pulls out the books and sits down in the middle of the arrival hall to inspect them, leafing through them at high speed, admiring the pictures and looking ever so satisfied and pleased, every single time. You could not tell her to stop ‘reading’ for a week, or to ban story reading time.
Unsurprisingly Bibi also came to the conclusion that life without books was not worth living. It is strange to think though that ‘in terms of evolution, reading in an escapist way is a very recent human activity’. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine either what life without books would be like, in whatever format (paper or digital).
Yesterday, on the train back from somewhere in the south of the country I happily finished Cutting for Stone – I was so glad I had another world to drown my self in, one that was quite different from the crowded train, the claustrophobia of the underground and then another train, some five hours altogether. What would I do in a hotelroom when I want to switch off from the world of work if I did not have a book?