I don’t remember much from my childhood, although I don’t think that makes me unusual. What I do remember, though, are the books that filled those years, both the stories and the physical objects – their covers, the pages (whether moth-eaten or neat), and the smell of them. If I close my eyes today I can remember the plots of the stories and feel the emotional highs and lows I experienced alongside the characters as we sped through the pages together.
Perhaps I don’t remember much from my youth because I didn’t actually spend much time in it. I was rarely in the real world and far more normally to be found on a spaceship with Isaac Asimov, in the desert with Frank Herbert, on the deck of a sailing ship with Joan Aiken, or hanging out in a medieval monastery with Ellis Peters.
Books make the very best form of escape – safe, free and instant. Who wouldn’t take advantage of that?
And yet, some people view that escape with suspicion. What on earth was I escaping from, to want to spend every spare moment in a book? Well, nothing in particular, I just happen to think that that books really are “life with the dull bits taken out”, and I loved fast-forwarding through the mundane to the exciting parts of a life, even if it wasn’t my own.
Books can provide a genuine escape from an unbearable life, but that’s not what I needed. Perhaps I should apply more moderate language. “Holiday in a good book” is probably closer to my reading needs – and no one ever argues with your desire to have another holiday.
So, I call on you all – join me in taking another holiday from the comfort of your own home. No visas or inoculations required and no tedious airport queues.
(On a more serious note, have a look at this news item about the value of books to people who could be forgiven for wanting to truly escape from an unbearable daily grind. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30880085 )