Sunday, April 11, 2010

A week without books
She reads in bed, on the bus, while cooking dinner. So what happened when she went cold turkey?
Bibi van der Zee ,, Wednesday 3 March 2010

I missed this when it appeared in The Guardian a month ago and then it popped up in the Sunday Star Times over Easter when I was away in Australia but my daughter kept the Sunday magazine for me and I so enjoyed Bibi van der Zee's story that I have reprinted the first part of it below and then provided a link back to the Guardian so you can read it in its entirety.

Bibi van der Zee…'When I'm in need of comfort, a book is often the first place I will go.' Photograph: Lorna Roach

Going to the loo without a book! It is a profound shock. Instead of reading, I stare at the walls and notice that there are still two empty nails on which I meant – a year ago – to hang pictures. Also, I notice the dust on the floor and the cobwebs on the ceiling. I sense that I will be doing a lot more housework than usual this week.
Going to bed is bizarre. If there is one time of day I always, always read, it is in bed before I go to sleep. On the first night of my week without books, I download Being Human on the iPlayer and give my nail polish some quality attention. But when the programme finishes and I try to shut my eyes, my head is buzzing. My eyes keep bouncing open again. Boing. Boing. Boing.
I decided to try giving up books for a week because I have come to the point where I wonder if they are holding me back. On the whole, the world seems to think that books are always a good thing, that you can never get too much of them. People admit to being bookworms in the same way they admit to being "just too tidy really", or "a bit of a workaholic". But if you are a compulsive reader like me, who reads walking down the road, and while she's making her children's dinner, and on the loo and in the bath and in bed and on the bus, and at every other possible second of the day, and if what you're reading is mostly . . . well . . . pulp, then sometimes you end up feeling as if books are eating you up instead of the other way round. Sure, there's a smattering of literature and high art-type stuff in there, but mostly it is whatever I have fished off the shelf at my nearest Oxfam that morning – detective stories, romances, horror, sci fi . . . any kind of fiction that I can gulp down in large enough, quick enough bites.
I am usually reading three, sometimes four books, with a pile of books waiting in case I run out. I never leave the house without my book, and if I'm taking a train I'll usually have a back-up book in case I finish the first one. I'd rather read than do housework or laundry, and sometimes I'd rather read than talk to friends or husband or family. I've been known to boot my children off out into the garden or switch on the TV – "or anything, just sod off for 10 minutes!" – so that I can finally be alone with my book; worse still, I regularly succumb to the siren call of the current novel when I am supposed to be working.
Link to The Guardian for the complete piece.

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