Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Books vs. Real Life

[It's Pancake day today, so maybe I should be blogging about that. But what's to say? Like the rest of the UK we'll have pancakes for tea.]

Instead, I wanted to reflect on something I read recently:
"If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are. Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colourful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads."

(That quote has recently been attributed to Robert Pattinson, but after a little digging I have discovered that it was in fact said by  Rosemarie Urquiqo. It must have been hijacked by R-Pattz fans, presumably to make him seem more articulate and appealing.)

Are you one of those girls for whom printed words and fictitious characters become, for a short time, more real and colourful than the drudgery and monotony of life around you?

I hope I am - but at the same time, I hope I am not.

Yes, I love to lose myself in a book. I love to get to know characters, their flaws and quirks, and to feel their pain and rejoice in their growth. I love to gasp at an unexpected development, or exclaim aloud at a triumph. I love to be surprised and delighted by a satisfactory ending.

My measure of a really good book is the "sorting washing" test. I spend a lot of time folding the four or five loads of clean laundry scattered across my bed, and sorting it into piles to go in each child's bedroom. So midway through the afternoon I will often announce that I'm going upstairs to sort washing. Of course, my Kindle is beside my bed. Occasionally, someone will come upstairs and find my lying on the unsorted clean washing reading a book. "Busted!" They will declare. And if I've found the temptation of a book too much to resist when I know I really need to get school uniforms on hangers and sheets back on beds, then it must be a really good book.

Books like that enrich my life, they educate me and pose interesting philosophical or moral questions. (Like, for example, if a woman has chosen a particular man as the love of her life, is it wrong for a close male friend to declare his love for that woman and try to win her? I believe it is. That's why I'm Team Edward.) They give me opportunities and experiences I couldn't otherwise have, and they make me laugh or cry, or both, with complete security,

But they are still fiction (mostly), and I wouldn't want to become so engrossed or overcome by a book that I forgot completely about the washing I had to sort. My story is this family, these lovely children, trying to fit in work and housework and church responsibilities, having fun with friends and loving and growing. I love reading fiction, but I don't need it to distract me from what it real, or for it to be my defining quality.

I am "a girl who reads" but I don't consider life outside books to be monotony and stale hours. If my life isn't as engrossing and exciting as a book, I'm doing it wrong. Books are for entertainment; life is for living. I'm happy to lose myself in a book once in a while, but I try hard not to lose myself to books.

I'm reading a great book at the moment, (Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena) but I won't pick it up to read until after I have made my children pancakes for tea.

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