The world is not so much of a literary world anymore. I have had a plethora of conversations with people to whom I’ve mentioned that I am a big reader, or that I write, or when they come visit my home and see all my bookcases, and for some reason they feel obliged to tell me that ‘They can’t remember the last time they read a book’ or that ‘They haven’t read a book since school’. I think they probably think I’m a bit odd (which is fine, because I probably am).
Being a reader is a solitary activity, not only because you do it alone (but deliciously alone, curled up in bed or on the couch or with a cup of tea…) but because it is an activity that less and less people seem to be doing. When I think of how many people I know who don’t read, I feel, firstly, like I love a dying artform, secondly, like I am trying to create work (by writing) for an audience that is dwindling, and thirdly, that I have a passion for something that I have to keep to myself. It is not often that I can really share what I am interested in with other people, because they don’t really get it.
I think that’s why I keep a blog – I’m able to expel a whole lot of bookish thoughts that I might not otherwise be able to spill out.
But last week a friend of mine came over to my house for the first time, and was looking at my books, and I discovered that he also really really liked books. We’d never talked about books before – I don’t tend to bring up my love of books that much, due to the usual responses I get (see above) or a general feeling of uninterest or boredom. So it was lovely for us to prattle on about books for a good hour. I also liked that he didn’t necessarily like the same type of books as me – that makes conversation more interesting – but we were able to find common ground.
I recommended a book to him, which he borrowed from me, but I had forgotten that there was a page ripped out from it (I have absolutely no idea how the page disappeared – it is one of the big mysteries of my universe) and I delightfully got a message in the middle of the night a couple of night later from him saying ‘Page 156 is missing from this book! Torn out, only a column of half words. What ethereal and unknowable secrets did this page hold!?’ and then regular updates as he tried to find a copy online of the book just so he could find out what happened on page 156 (which actually contained a major plot point). I say delightfully got a message, although I’m sure it wasn’t delightful for my friend, because it was nice to know that he was enjoying the book, and it made me feel like reading was less of a solitary act. We could share our reading.
Reading should be a sharing activity – we should be able to swap books, swap thoughts, debate, agree, cry over the death of characters and gossip about nasty ones. That, I think, is why I keep this blog. It’s part of making reading a shared activity, and readers a community.