Wednesday, 19 May 2010

On The Why Of Books

It should be obvious, to any regular readers (good afternoon, by the way) that I like books. I like reading them, mostly, but writing them as well. And, of course, talking about them. But I don't know why.

So I've been thinking about it. I've got a few ideas.

There's entertainment. Sometimes reading a book can be like hanging out with a funny or fascinating friend. And with books, you can put them down for a bit without offending them, read them on the toilet or in the bath (doesn't work with friends) and you never have to buy them a drink.
It's not why I like them, though.

There's escapism. Books have the ability to take you out of your head. One of my biggest problems in life is that I am always AWAKE in my head, always thinking or telling myself a story or arguing or remembering or swearing. It might sound nice, but it drives me into weird, frustrated madness. Getting to sleep is a long, long process.
Books, occasionally, can turn that off. The link is sometimes so strong between the narrative on the page and the little man who sits in my Cartesian Theatre that all other functions switch to stand-by. It's like a shortcut to being unconscious.

Not quite the same as escapism is distraction. That's when the book doesn't turn off the AWAKE, but changes the scenery. So you still have to deal with the heavy, weightless nonsense of being aware, but you're not aware of the things you normally would be.
It happens rarely, but sometimes a book can stick you right inside somebody else's head, and you busy yourself with the Malkovichian task of staring out of their eyes.

Distraction is more on the money than escapism, for me. But it's not the answer (though it might be a part of it.) It can't be the whole story, because I often don't get that involved in a book, but still enjoy it. Some books don't even try for distraction, and I still enjoy them.

I think it's basically to do with people. People are great, generally, but I'm pretty useless at them. Dealing with them, understanding them, all that nonsense. And all books, ever, are essentially about people. (Yes, all of them. Even if they don't have characters, they are all written by people. Knowing the 60,000+ words someone has chosen to publish tells you a lot about them, at least.)

It's not people in the sense of, 'oh, I get it. People do A when B and C happen, and they can't find any D. I now understand that.'

It's people in the sense of getting to know the individual world that each person inhabits, sharing the similarities and differences to your own, and generally attempt to deny that truth that you can never experience any world other than the unique one that is you.

Here's the L2R First Principle, then: I am reading to learn. (Clever, eh? That's the same words, if you look closely, as the name of the blog. But sort of... swapped. Read back and see.... told you so! Ahh, the things I do with words.)

The inversion of that inversion is not that I write to teach. It's that I write to learn, as well. I might talk about that more another time. What's important is that the sort of learning I'm talking about isn't passed on; it's shared. In fact, it's is nothing more than the act of sharing itself. Shared sharings, rather than taught learnings.

Books are great for this. Entertainment, escapism... there are better mediums for those things, probably. But sharing? that's where books win hands down. They don't even come second place to life itself. Because they're not an alternative to learning through experience, but a tool of it.

Books are not a window on the world, or even a mirror. They are a telescope, or a microscope, depending on the scale.

1 comment:

  1. Cracking post. Views on books are always dangerous posts (blogules). However I agree with books are great to share. They are not meant to be messages or any of that nonsense. They are there for entertainment and pure escapism.

    They are better for individual escapism than the telly box because it's just you reading that book at the time, whereas several people can be watching the same show. Books are far more open to an individual escapism thing than a telly where you have the directors view of the world to go on.