Snow is falling again. Sadly the temperature is rising and the harbour is melting, so there will be no snowmen this weekend, no squealing with delight as we barrel down a hill on my son’s old toboggan. But there will be hot chocolate and lemon meringue pie. Tomorrow would have been my grandmother’s ninety-third birthday.
Right now I am looking forward to this afternoon. In just a few hours, my son and I will take our places in a train as it leaves Copenhagen Central Station and make our way across the country. That means two plus hours with nothing to do except read and listen to Hamilton. I’ll also be reading the Hamilton biography and will try very hard not to burst into song and frighten the other passengers. I said I will try, I don’t promise the odd lyric won’t escape.
Yesterday a friend and I were discussing a mutual acquaintance. There’s something “off” about this person and we’ve both had a hard time figuring out exactly what it is that’s wrong. Then she said, ‘You know he doesn’t read. He says books are a waste of time.’ From there, it all fell into place.
The problem with this person is that they are completely one dimensional. There is no depth, no nuance, no feeling of something stirring beneath the surface. They repeat the same question to every new person they meet, as though they once skimmed an article entitled ‘Faking It: How to Appear Interested in People.’
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think this person would be entirely different if they picked up a book once in a while.
When you read a book, you experience a whole different world and way of being. You can travel without leaving your seat. Different lives, different cultures open up to you. Every human experience can be found within their pages. Books let you be sympathetic, empathetic, engaged. If you never pick up a book, there’s a whole dimension of life that’s lost to you. You will never explore beyond your own experience.
Even when you’ve never been in love, you know what’s meant to be like because you’ve read every quickening heart beat, every smile that lit the universe within the page of a hundred novels. You’ve seen your characters – fiction or non – through trials and hardships and you’ve absorbed their lessons. You’ve laughed with them, cried with them, lived a dozen lives with them.
Do you know the first piece of advice every writer gets?
If you think that is a waste of time, then I am truly sorry for you.