Seriously – ALL day. Granted, sometimes I’m thinking about lunch, or the lovely person at the Dunkie’s drive-through who smiles at me every morning and makes the world a little less lonely and cold even before the caffeine hits my system. Sometimes I’m thinking about bills, or aging parents, or kids growing up and growing away. But mostly I’m thinking about books. It is both an occupational hazard and a predisposition. And I’ll wager than anyone reading this also spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about books. Go ahead… admit it.
So what does that mean? How does uncontrolled bibliophilia affect one’s outlook on life?
Let the ramble commence!
When I was in college (hundreds of years ago) I took a Comparative Literature seminar called “The Problem Wife” – a fabulous (exhausting) syllabus, focused and highly literate classmates, and an amazing teacher. I can honestly say that the class changed the way I see the world and myself. It also changed what I read and how I read – in part because of the material, but also in part because of a few words of advice the professor gave at the end of the semester. She looked around the table at her eager and intense young students and said. “If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be this – don’t live your life like it’s a novel.” We were dumbstruck. That was, of course, exactly what we wanted to do. The world waited for us, with drama and passion and adventure and tumult! And even though most of the “problem” wives we’d read about ended up dead (usually by their own hands) they had lived, really lived! What the professor brought to our attention in that one, deflating statement, was that, no – these women had not lived. The consequences of their passions and misdeeds were as fictional as the acts themselves, existing only on the page and in the minds of the readers. We live in the physical world, where structure and narrative are artificial constructs that don’t neatly apply to the changing nature of personality, influence, and circumstance.
Fiction is great. It entertains, informs, and yes, helps to shape the way we think about the world. But it is not a place to live.
So, WHAT exactly are you getting at Ankhie? Excellent question, patient reader. My point in this ramble is to say that no book is a blueprint for living. No one book, that is. To truly live, we must fill our years with a rich variety of experience, and our minds with a rich variety of thought. The latter can be accomplished by reading often and reading well.
I don’t regret a single book I’ve read (well…), or a single moment spent thinking about them. Now, how many things in life can you say that about?
So go forth, intrepid lovelies, and read. Read everything!
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” – Lemony Snicket