We all know about the magic of books; escapism, exploration, education, enlightenment. They’ve always been an unintended escape for me [I don’t read to escape reality], but I have recently realised the real magic, for me, in escaping to these imagined little literary worlds of delights. It is the idea that we share the experiences of this other worldliness that we escape to in literature with everyone whose read the same book, and it is quite a beautiful idea.
Let me explain to you what I mean. Have you caught yourself reading a book, getting lost in its pages, and then felt an abrupt return to reality?
I’m sitting, let’s imagine, in bed. I have a book in my hands and surrounding me are my four white walls and white sliding French doors, one to my right taking you outside and the other to my left leading you into my wardrobe. There are dried out roses on a dark wooden bed side table, and a white wooden stand-up mirror over there in the corner, and I’m snuggled under my grey and white printed duvet with a grey comforter covering my toes adding that extra layer of warmth to this cold night.
Just look at me sitting there with my back sunk into my grey European pillow aimlessly staring at some pages with words on it – I am physically there, but my mind has probably been willingly abducted and i’m actually running around with David Beckham with his sword out on that ginormous mountain with King Arthur and those angry Saxons.
Not really, that kind of genre’s not my cup of tea, but you get my point. As I stare at the pages of the book I’m likely to be holding, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert let’s imagine being the book Jeremy profoundly introduced me to, I have been pulled into Elizabeth’s pages with her characters acting like some sort of invisible omniscient narrator. As Juno Dawson reigning Queen of Teen author said on World Book Day:
“reading is a first class ticket to the outer limits of your imagination. I’ve been to Maupin’s San Francisco, Lyra’s Oxford, Panem and Hogwarts, all without leaving my bedroom. I’ve travelled back in time to Manderley in the 1920s and far into the dystopian future of, erm, 1984. Reading can take you anywhere in space and time if you’re willing to go.”
I become so engrossed with the books plot that everything around me disappears and all I see before me are the scenes as they unfold chapter after chapter. I become entranced in this imaginary world that has been created by Elizabeth Gilbert. [This is probably what scared those Victorian men about women reading; their imagination is free to run uncontrollably wild]. I can see the poet Gilbert is describing running through the fields towards her cottage trying to capture the idea she’s just had on paper before, she believes, the idea will abandon her and find someone else.
The poet in my head is running in her blue and white fly away dress [I see the dress from The Sound of Music when she’s up on the hill singing in my head] with a couple of wooden pegs in her hand that she’d been using to put the washing out. The suns out, the fields are golden behind her, she’s smiling with excitement, and there is a light blustery blow to her hair as she leaps with a spring in her step to her front door.
Now, the world that you imagine would of course be different, but, nonetheless, we’ve been a part of that literary creation of a world together and know what that world is like. This is now when you and I would be able to talk about this book and share our interpretation of this worldly otherness. How exciting!
It’s that disruptive interruption of “i’m turning the light off now and you need to go to sleep” or that funny pillow to the face when you’re clearly not listening that snaps you suddenly out of this imagined world and back to the four white walls of your bedroom. It’s such a wonderful feeling when you realise you reached that stage of escape and your imagination has had this fresh freedom frolicking around in someone else’s literary world.
Having had similar discussions with Jeremy about this, I know he could visualise the contents of a novel so strongly that he was able to escape to these imagined literary worlds as well, particularly Big Magic. This is just one of those things I could say out loud to him knowing he wouldn’t think I was mad.
Isn’t it such a beautiful thought, then, that even though Jeremy’s gone, we can continue to have shared experiences with him through every book he ever read and loved? We can join him in these literary worlds knowing he would have been there too, and can only imagine what discussions we could have had after.
At the book club, we managed to remember 21 books we read as a group. We had a diverse taste, and as Sarah pointed out, Jeremy chose the hardest book to read, Moby Dick, and the easiest, Of Mice and Men. His eclectic taste can be enjoyed by everyone who is interested in knowing what books these were once I have written it up in the week 🙂
I would also like to that this opportunity to thank everyone for your kind words and messages last week. It was lovely to connect with his best friend, family and his girlfriend, who I am sure I’ve found a friend in.