January 30, 2012

Our Secret Worlds

 

I’ve always said that I read because it’s as close as you can get to another person’s insides, their subjectivity. You learn so much about a person from what they write. And you learn about other people as a whole ~ how different yet the same you are on the inside.

But, also, reading is your own special world. (I hear echoes of Gollum: Mine! Mine!) No one can know your experience of reading this book, not really. They can’t know the thoughts that come into your head, the experiences this book dredges up, your reaction to the protagonist, how it changes your thinking irrevocably.

Going on vacation is something a couple can share. We both climb Mount Kilimanjaro and go on the tilt-a-whirl. We may have slightly different points of view standing right next to one another, and I might have noticed our Italian waiter making eyes at me and you don’t, but our experiences are very similar.

Not so with a book. It’s too interior, too personal, too wrapped up in memory and emotion and where you are in your life right now.

I was thinking about how reading is something that couples cannot share. Oh, I know some couples who do. One reads to the other in bed at night. It becomes a bonding. (My husband and I ~ our tastes in books are too different for this.) However, when you read to one another it becomes more about the performance, more about you and he, than about the contents of the book. No, book reading is and always will be a separation.

But, no, not really ~ let me contradict myself and hope that both contradictions hold true in your mind. Because, even though you are distant from your loved ones, you are close to one other human being and by proxy the whole human race.

And because the experience is so intense, we do try to share it. We do try to read to our lover in bed. We get together in book clubs. We press our favorites into the hands of our friends. Because it is human nature to try to connect, to share these stories of our lives ~ or others’ lives in our lives.

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