For The Love Of Books.
I grew up surrounded by books, my parents were avid readers and encouraged us all to read widely. When I was twelve, my parents purchased a set of encyclopaedias. I still recall vividly the visit by the sales rep with a few demonstration books, as we poured over the pages with such enthusiasm and anticipation. An anticipation of a world opening up to us, and those encyclopaedias were still in the bookcase, where they’d always been when I left home for the last time. Although I always remember reading, especially lazy afternoons, lying in the garden, my overwhelming passion for reading was ignited at 14, when I read for the first time ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. No other school curriculum book, or for that matter any other book I’d read prior to that, had that same hold as this gorgeous book. For the first time in my memory, I could see the book coming alive for me in pictures, in my mind. And that has been my guide to this day.
I’ve now a home and family of my own and like my childhood, books are everywhere. There have only ever been two rules regarding books, don’t scribble on them and don’t damage them in any way. They’re grown up now and I no longer have to remind them. I’m guessing like most people I have my favourites, genres and authors, and I tend to return to them over and over. However joining and belonging to a book club has opened me up to new and exciting authors and books. I have one personal rule, if a book doesn’t grab me, I won’t finish it. My time is too precious and passion for reading is too important to waste on a book, I find unworthy. The greatest of books, take me on a journey, to a new place and time. They’ve been my life line many, many times and have lifted me for the darkest hours and the darkest times in my life. I owe them everything and to me there is a sacredness in reading, a very personal journey and great privilege in being able to read. There was a time when reading only belonged to an elite few, and I wonder at how small their world and lives must have been.
Right now I’m re-reading for umpteenth time Pride and Prejudice, and before you all start saying, ‘oh she loves her romances’. The only thing Jane Austen went dewy eyed and gaga over was real estate, Pemberley and to a lesser extent Rosings. Any marriages that take place are swiftly pushed off the page to make way for Austen’s social satire, wicked wit and the glorious grotesques that grace the pages of this wonderful book. Lady Catherine de Bourgh (of the piano “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.”) one of her more unassuming proclamations, Mr. Collins, the loquacious and laughable parson. But then I can laugh, because I don’t have to live with him, if I did have to live with him I think I would probably have punctured my own ear drums. The delightful Mr. & Mrs. Bennett, solo or in tandem and to a lesser extent the hapless and bitchy Caroline Bingley.
There are however two proposals which get more time than one or two sentences, the painful and cringe worthy fumblings and mumblings of Mr. Collins trying to woo Elizabeth Bennett and the first attempt at a proposal by Mr. Darcy….
(Cue romantic background Baroque/Classical music)
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
………..He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness then of pride. His sense of her inferiority – of its being a degradation – of the family obstacles which judgement had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, …………… (music skids to a halt)
Yikes….you haven’t done this much, have you Mr. Darcy.
And just for good measure, he adds.
“……….Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related. They are natural and just. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”
If you want to know where the pride in Pride and Prejudice comes from, he was shocked and stunned when she says no.
Jane Austen wasn’t a romantic, she was by all accounts a practical, acid tongued and occasionally coarse woman. I think I like her. Marriage for her was a contract, one of very few options for a gentlewoman of little means. And this is very evident in her writing, Pride and Prejudice is a comedy of manners and Austen is at her greatest when she’s holding up a magnifying glass to the arrogance, vanity, stupidity and pride of many of the great characters in this wonderful and delicious book.
I tend to use my kindle a lot these days, apart from the obvious advantage of being able to store 1000’s of books in one place, it’s less likely than a mighty tome, to leave me concussed when I fall asleep reading at night. However I often return to books, there is something magical about the act of turning a page in a book, a physical and emotional response and interaction, and an empathy with the characters and story that I don’t get in using a kindle. There is a progression and immersion in books, that make you believe you’re living the story, that’s missing with an e-reader. My kindle is a moment in time, disconnected and static.
E-readers do have a purpose but I don’t believe they will ever replace the book. And thank god for that, I say.