Kindle – to inflame (eg the passions); to provoke, incite; to be roused
Does the phrase “lose yourself in a book” mean anything to you? Well it surely does to me, and in the very literal sense. I believe that the actual saying is “lose yourself in a good book”, but I’m not choosy. I can lose myself completely in anything - all sense of who I am, what I believe in, what I feel. And not just for an hour or so, while I temporarily drift off into a fantasy world, and get caught up in the story, and someone else’s life. When I return to reality (IF I return) then it doesn’t stop there.
The book may have ended, but the story persists... at least in my mind it does, where the characters continue to exist as real people. So, not only have I lost myself but, in return, I have breathed life into a bunch of ostensibly fictional individuals – my life for theirs. I still exist, but that’s about all I’m doing, while they thrive and grow: and I come to resemble the living dead.
And I could have been mistaken for a zombie, just lately - all because of my love of reading. Or, more accurately, because of my resistance to being chained to this thing called reality. And then there’s that other peculiar characteristic I have of becoming emotionally attached to objects. Books and words, in this instance. E-books, to be precise. On a Kindle, to be even more specific.
Yes, I recently joined the multitudinous ranks of Kindle owners. And, just as quickly, I became a disowner: though, hopefully, this state of affairs is only temporary, until I learn to become a responsible owner who doesn’t abuse their Kindle mercilessly!
It was given to me for my birthday in July, the shortest-lived present I’ve probably ever had. By August I had to give it back, for safekeeping. Safekeeping from me, that is. In that short span of time I managed to download nearly a hundred and fifty books (possibly more, with the ones I had read and removed before The Great Purge), most of them free, and chosen from the romantic fantasy section, which encompasses countless sub-genres (like steampunk; urban fantasy; historical; vampires and the rest of the undead, etc) – my taste is nothing if not eclectic. And I’m not picky. Well, not about books, anyway. Unfortunately. It is this regrettable lack of discernment, when it comes to reading matter, which has got me into trouble. Yet again.
Before the Kindle, it was reading ebooks on the computer. It was for this reason that my friend bought it for me, in order to save my eyesight from the strain it was suffering, due to the all-day reading marathons it was being forced to endure. And in the hope, perhaps, that my compulsive reading would be found to be directly attributable to the stimulating effect that the computer seems to have on my brain: and that it would, therefore, dissipate when confronted with the non back-lit screen of an e-reader, which more closely resembles the experience of reading a real book. No such luck.
It is an unmitigated fact that I have been having trouble with reading since long before I acquired a computer. Libraries and bookshops used to be my favourite places in which to hang out. I would spend hours loitering with intent: so much so that on one occasion, whilst lingering in the local bookstore yet again, I was accosted by the slightly disgruntled salesperson, who seemed to take offence to my habit of flicking through the pages of the books during my weekly visits, but never actually buying anything. I didn’t have any money, and I just couldn’t stay away from the shop, but I couldn’t explain that to her. I just loved being around books – rows and rows of lovely books. Heaven! And, in the library particularly, I felt safe: it was a haven of peace amidst the clamour of the world, a home away from home. In fact, it was often preferable. And now I’ve discovered I can recreate the same experience, hanging around the virtual bookshop that is Amazon’s Kindle store!
The truth is I love reading. I always have, and I have always had a prodigious talent for it. In books I found not only a source of information, entertainment, and stimulation for my brain, but also a means to escape the realities of life. And it is my use of it with the latter intent that now causes me grief, especially when combined with my lack of sagacity and discrimination in my choice of reading material. In short, I don’t care what I feed my mind, just as long as it serves my purpose. And my purpose has always erred a little on the side of the nebulous.
Back then there was good reason for wanting a bolthole - living, as I did, a drab, mundane, limited existence, imbued with fear, anxiety, and an ever-increasing sense of hopelessness and confusion. But that was back then. The value of that particular reason for reading is now defunct, and yet I continue to employ it. What once was habit has turned into compulsion – a driving force that resists all logical reasoning to assuage it.
And so to the present, bypassing my sundry attempts to control my progressively intractable obsession (including giving it up entirely for a while). And the advent of that amazing reading device, which allows access to hundreds of books instantaneously, without ever having to leave the comfort of one’s home. What a marvellous invention - when used responsibly. I guess that would be the bit that I've been missing, then, yes?
As a consequence, my life has been put on hold whilst my compulsion has raged free and unabated, until it has become necessary to make a choice – a real life, or a fantasy? Living my own life, or reading about someone else’s, while I slowly slip into a spiritual, mental, and emotional coma – the body still functions, but that’s about all that’s happening. There’s a light on, but everyone’s vacated the premises in favour of the Kindle store.
Therefore, having placed my Kindle in the safe custody of my friend, until such time as I have been restored to some semblance of sanity with regard to my reading behaviour (and my dubious choice of literature), I am sticking to reading my ‘real’ books for now: the kind I used to read, which engaged my mind, lifted my spirit, and imparted words of wisdom, often from unexpected sources (have you read A A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh? Or The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett?)
This is in preference to employing my classic manoeuvre of going from one extreme to the other, and deciding that I’m not meant to read anything at all. Instead, I’ve come to the long-overdue conclusion that it’s not the fact that I read that is the problem, but rather what and how – much the same as with food. When I read the literary equivalent of junk food, I get the same result that I do with food – I set off the compulsion for more. I have never yet found myself driven beyond reason, and sanity, to keep reading Winnie the Pooh, or The Chronicles of Narnia. Nor will you ever find me bingeing on broccoli, mung beans, or rice. Somehow they just lack that certain je ne sais quoi.
And so, having been de-Kindled, I find that hope, and the possibilities for change, have been rekindled.