It’s no secret amongst my friends and family that I’m a “bit of a bookworm”. I can’t help it, a day without reading feels like a betrayal and I’m beset by an odd guilt every time I glance over at my bookshelf; admonished by the incongruent rows of neglected paperbacks.
This guilt is not restricted to days without reading either. Often the feeling of neglect slowly creeps in when I’ve devoted too much time to one particular novel. It’s difficult, but some books demand such care and attention, whilst others seem so inviting, less intimidating.
Less Than Zero, Trainspotting, Frisk, these are the literary mistresses that keep me from devoting time to the nagging obligations I have to a Moby Dick or Ulysses.
They are the generation X authors, younger, exciting and contemporaries of my own angst and frustration. They promise entertainment and ease of comprehension, they balk at responsibility and ask nothing in return.
Of course, this guilt is self-inflicted, perhaps better described as an over-sensitive reaction to the spectre of my perceived disloyalty.
More than anything I enjoy discussing books and on occasion I have found a fellow bibliophile in the most unexpected of places and people. To hear them speak so passionately and to respond in kind is a unifying experience, not of pretentiousness, elitism or intellectualism but of true emotion.
Ask a person how they are feeling and they will rebuff you with a boring truth or a tragic lie. Ask a person about their favourite book however, and they will summon such an intense, honest reaction, you will feel as though you have just witnessed that most rare of commodities; authenticity.
Books are disarming, I’ve witnessed even the most bravado of casual readers dissolve their machismo and tell me just how much the plot of The Old Man and the Sea touched them, inspired them. They may not know why, but they will try in earnest to articulate how.
Most surprising of all is the guilt felt by the non-reader. Asking the question “Do you read much?” is tantamount to asking how old you were when you lost your virginity. It seems somehow inappropriate. The non-reader is reluctant to admit their inexperience of literature out of fear of judgement and they humble themselves through confession; “No I don’t read that much.”
Books are there so we can be entertained by them, learn from them or just waste time with them, though an avid reader I should avoid being consumed by them. I’ve come to realise that unread books aren’t spurned lovers, more like casual friend with benefits.
Word of the day: Fidelity – Faithfulness to a person, belief or cause through loyalty.