#4: While you were reading, I was living.

To all you book lovers out there; have you ever been rendered completely speechless by a whip crack remark about reading?  No? Try this one for size.  I was reading in bed one Sunday morning when my now ex-husband launched into an anti-book tirade.  Due to lack of attention, lack of sleep or just sheer bloody-mindedness, he started ranting about boring bookworms,  why, when they’d read so many books already, would they possibly want to read even more and then…..his main argument…. why readers were in fact life-avoiders who didn’t know how to really live.  He ended with a patronising “while you were reading, I was living, love”. 

Since I’d travelled throughout my 20’s (he hadn’t), done a college course (he hadn’t), had the beginnings of a good career as well as other hobbies I was stunned speechless by my apparent lack of ‘living’, I can tell you.  But I was also so dumbfounded by the either/or implication (he had one of those bet-you-can’t-answer-that glints in his eye), that I just couldn’t find the words to answer effectively.  Instead, I shouted defensively – a poor strategy – and inevitably, after a few more shouting bouts, the morning ended badly He stormed off to the pub (his interpretation of ‘living’ I now realise), and I thought about it.

The suggestion that I read books to avoid life appalled me and I don’t know about you, but in my opinion life without books isn’t living at all.  For me they provide not just entertainment, but insight, lessons on life, stimulation and emotional succour. I’ve laughed and cried, felt pity, anger, empathy and sheer unadulterated joy, all due to the power of the written word.  Living without books is unthinkable.

My ex-husband did eventually discover the joys of reading after I sought out autobiographies on his own particular passion: sailing.  After that he moved on to other genres and when I saw him recently I asked nonchalantly if he was still reading and he said with a smile “I get it now, I really do, thanks”.  He didn’t notice the triumphant glint in my eye!

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Categories: Just Thoughts

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2 replies

  1. I don’t understand people who think reading is a ‘lesser’ hobby or whatever the heck they think. I personally think that without books there would be no anything.. I was thinking about this last night actually! I came to the conclusion that without writers, and the written word, the world would not function in the way it does now. In fact I think that without books and the written word we would be on a par with our cousins the chimps and the apes.. or maybe even below them on the evolutionary tree!

    Great insight and nicely written!

  2. Love this! And yes, I’ve had others in my life “hint” at this notion. No one has quite had the nerve to be as upfront as your ex. Glad he came around! I, too, was born reading, collecting books and feel just a little bit smug at how self-satisfied I can remain when I’m “in my books”–my son did once refer to them as “mom’s trophies.” I don’t think he was being kind! Transcendent power of the written word, indeed! Debra

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