A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships. — Jorge Luis Borges
Like many people living in the modern era I spend at least 7 hours of my day in front of a screen, whether it’s on my computer at work, or on my phone texting friends or scrolling through social media.
In the endless ocean of content I am overwhelmed by snippets and headlines. I flit between discovering answers to my ceaseless questions, watching a funny YouTube video, finding a new recipe and stalking a mutual friend on holiday in Europe. The information is endless but I am no smarter, no wiser and no more enlightened for having engaged with it.
If our neural pathways form our behaviour, my digital habits are making me stupider. So I’ve decided to have an affair.
It’s not going to be just any affair, I’m taking on a plethora of lovers: male, female, old, gay, straight, young, trans, dead… the first pre-requisite is that they must write. I’m going to take one lover a week, romp with them in my bedsheets, stare into them lovingly on the bus and bury my nose in them as I walk.
The second pre-requisite is that their writing should challenge me. Online I am surrounded by an echo-chamber of my own making. Algorithms that have learned what headlines I’ll click and what images are more likely to end in a purchase. I’m fed content that connects with me and as a result I’m shocked when I come face to face with the truth. That the world is not constructed around my sensibilities.
I’m currently in the throes of my own first novel and as I flow through it’s peaks and troughs (I’m in a ditch at the moment if you are wondering) I’ve come to realise what an intimate thing a book is.
I love Borges’s idea that every book is a relationship, shaped by the stories that proceeded it and the ones you will read afterwards. I’m ready to step away from my endless click-bait and make the time each week to have a real relationship with a novel again and I think you should too.
The first book I ever read was Madeline, I was four years old and I sounded the words out loud, memorised from hearing my mum and dad read it to me every night.
I wept when Aslan’s golden fur was shaved off in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardobe and his majestic nose bound to the stone table.
The first book that broke my heart was Melinda Marchetta’s Saving Francesca, unleashing a torrent of repressed memories about my mum’s mental illness.
My love of books and of writing has come from these moments, and they were created by people I’ll never meet.
For each book that touched you, or frustrated you or challenged your ideas, there was a writer. Someone who spent hours thinking, writing and editing. Slaving over the sentences you devour and creating an endless chain of words to carry you through your life. To teach you things, to make you laugh or cry.
I want more of that please.
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Have you read something fabulous recently? Want to talk about it?