A very quick read by a bestselling author whose love of books radiates from the pages. She attributes this love to a certain restlessness as a child, and says this:
"So I wandered the world thought books. I went to Victorian England in the pages of Middlemarch and A Little Princess, and to Saint Petersburg before the fall of the czar with Anna Karenina. I went to Tara, and Manderley, and Thornfield Hall, all those great houses, with their high ceilings and high drama, as I read Gone with the Wind and Jane Eyre."A number of other quotes from the book are on this post so I will not re-type them here. I do however, want to write about some thoughts she has on why and what women read and how this differs from men. Despite being broad generalizations that will not be true for everyone, I would like to explore further.
"...I began to think that women read differently than men....a Gallup poll taken in 1991 showed that women were more likely than men to find reading a more relaxing pastime than watching television....Some bookstore owners say their women customers are more likely to read novels, while the men more often choose biographies and history. Perhaps women feel more of a need to escape their own lives and take up those of others than men do."
"But it also seemed to me...that women seem to see reading not only as a solitary activity but as an opportunity for emotional connection, not just to the characters in a novel but to those others who are reading or have read the same novel themselves."And:
"This ability of a book to lesson isolation is important, not simply for personal growth, but for cultural and societal growth as well."I am also remined of a quote by Maureen Corrigan in her book, Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading. Here, she muses as to why she and fellow bookworms read:
"...search for authenticity. We want to get closer to the heart of things, and sometimes even a few good sentences contained in an otherwise unexceptional book can crystallize vague feelings, fleeting physical sensations, or sometimes, profound epiphanies...Readers, professional or casual, are alert to passages in a book that illuminate what was previously shadowy and formless."It is the combination of these thoughts that speak to me. My life is now segregated in terms of "pre" and "post Josh" - like a thick black line or better said, a chasm that irrevocably separates my two selves.
"Pre-Josh", I read novels. Quickly. The faster, the better. I wanted to connect with the characters and get lost in their story. These kinds of books are aptly called "brain candy" by some. "Post-Josh", I read for "emotional connection" and to "lesson isolation" as Quindlen says. I also read to "crystallize vague feelings" and illuminate the "shadowy and formless" as said by Corrigan.
In fact, everything I read now is with a filter - plain and simple: Josh's death. I am searching for authenticity or truth. I look for meaning and understanding. I want to find the answer to THE unanswerable question: "Why, Josh, why?"
I was thinking about this over two weeks ago and drew a funnel in my journal. At the top, where the width is greatest, I wrote the following: dreams, writing, journaling, books, thoughts, quotes, ideas, conversations, stories, memoirs, fiction, survivor of suicide books, parental bereavement books, lyrics, movies. At the bottom of the funnel, is THE question. After drawing this, I wrote:
"So, as opposed to others, who have no real issues, pain, sorrow, grief or tragedy, and read just to read, because they like books and have been bookish all their lives, I read and write for salvation. To avoid or bypass mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, my own temptations of suicide. To be able to function. Reading and writing is a life support. It sustains me. Guides me. Illuminates. Forces me to follow thoughts and ideas that would previously be unknown or simmering in my subconscious, wreaking havoc. Reveals what is dormant - thoughts or feelings that lie beneath conscious thought. If left untouched or not brought to the light of scrutiny, it could in fact, cause mental illness, breakdown, even madness."It surprised me then, how quickly and easily these words flew from pen to paper. And as I re-read and type them now, they still ring true.
Grieving is a lonely business. I would not survive if not for the companionship offered in books and in my journal.