Sunday, October 12, 2014

What’s the longest time you’ve gone without reading? And which book do you have to thank for finally breaking that dry spell?

I’m a moderate reader. That is to say, compared to avid readers who can finish a book a week and the book-shy folks who only read when it appears as an absolute last resort, I read an average amount of books in an average amount of time—if, at all, anything can be considered average.

The appeal for reading hit me at a very late age. The earliest books I read came in primary school and later in high school. They were, for lack of a better word, forced upon us during English class. And rightly so, because without parents who instilled the joys of casual reading into me, exposure at school was my only saving grace.

I had a lukewarm appreciation of reading during my early teens. I gladly read the books we were assigned during class and had a large collection of the Guinness Book of World Records. But my biggest problem was that I never read anything outside of these assigned books. I was lost. I didn’t know where to look, until one day my eighth grade English teacher lent me “Da Vinci Code” – quite possibly the literary equivalent of Justin Bieber music. And even that book took me some six months to fully digest.

As embarrassing as it may be to have “Da Vinci Code” flick the reading switch in my head, it at least had the desired effect. I immediately bought every Dan Brown book I could get my hands on, and to this day I still admire the existence of Robert Langdon. He lives on in my mind timelessly, and no amount of Tom Hanks will replace the image of the knowledgeable professor in my head. That’s probably one of the best perks of reading: a story is only as exciting and vivid as you are imaginative and creative.

After finishing the complete works of Dan Brown I was devastated. I spent days and weeks looking for something similar, and in that time, I refused to believe that any other modern-day author could tug at my interests the same way Dan Brown did. And, my heavens, was I wrong.

I had a similar sensation after finishing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. A pang of emptiness hit me after having followed Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander for over a year, then have them suddenly vanish abruptly into a full stop.

Then it hit me. Reader’s block—this uninventive excuse for idleness. During the four years I spent in university, only during my third year had I cumbersomely finished “Inferno”, Robert Langdon’s fourth adventure and Dan Brown’s 2013 release.

I realised my problem after returning from Russia frustrated and, like often was the case in varsity, empty-handed, without so much as a piece of paper in my hand. But my time in Russia also enlightened me in a way, as being in the birthplace of literary giants opened my eyes to the untapped universe of masterpieces that still lives amongst us, or shall I say, we amongst it.

My problem was simple: I was looking forward in time, searching for contemporary artists to tickle my fantasies instead of doing what was blatantly obvious: look back.

It was back in the past century that I found what I was missing. George Orwell, Oscar Wilde, and even Dr. Seuss were calling—beckoning and reminding me why any true book-lover would be quick to understand that there are constantly too many books to read and too little time with which to do it.

By rereading classics from my childhood and eventually picking up “Nineteen Eighty-four”, I broke my reader’s block with a bang and also continued my shopping spree for a mountain of books that I probably won’t touch for a while due to my turtle-esque reading speed. But I’m eternally grateful to Winston Smith and the literary past for paving my literary future. JSF.

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