Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, has a few thoughts today about what it means to be a reader.
Kanye West, Kim Kardashian’s “baby daddy” and apparently the spokesperson for some segment of today’s generation went on record with this insight: “I’m a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.”
This is disheartening in so many ways, but especially because his mother was an English teacher. And, it’s also ironic since the man just wrote a book called “Thank You and You’re Welcome.” It’s 52 pages of more of his wit and wisdom.
I’ve often wondered what people who don’t read do with their time. I wake up in the morning and look forward to a cup of coffee and a chapter or two of the latest read. Right now I’m in the small town of Three Pines, just outside of Montreal. A woman has been shot through the heart with an arrow and Chief Inspector Gamache is on the case (Louise Penny’s first novel Still Life). Tonight I’ll go to bed with a cup of tea, a cat curled beside me and a few more chapters.
Anytime my world is out of whack, my response is to grab a book and disappear until I’m ready to handle the crisis. Right now I’m dealing with dialysis. Anything that can remove me from that reality is welcomed. Yes, I want to be an ostrich with my head in the sand (or in a book). For just a little while I want to be carried away to a better place through words.
My current roommate is a non-reader. This is an altogether new experience for me. I suppose sitting with a book in hand looks like I’m killing time until conversation starts. He doesn’t understand the pure joy of being pulled into a story, meeting characters that stay with you for life, the excitement of opening a new book, the reluctance to have the story end. He wants to be “in the moment.”
I’ve been in the moment. I’ve lived in incredible life, what with the Navy, as a news reporter and the narc squad. I’ve seen places most people haven’t and caused riots in three countries. No shy wallflower here! Books have helped me put much of my experiences in perspective. As a writer, I’m able to get my own thoughts down on paper because I’ve read the writings of authors before me. It’s not a waste of time to be given access to higher ideas and be challenged.
One of the most remarkable things I’ve seen in my travels was twilight in Haiti. Young men go to the park after work and, using the last of daylight, walk up and down the paths with a book in hand, quietly reading aloud. They struggle with poverty and yet find value in reading. They nurture their mind when they have so little else in life. I felt humbled.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates said that. Yes, I read Socrates in high school humanities class. Unfortunately, Kanye, you won’t be meeting Socrates any time soon, so I guess you’ll miss out. You’re too busy living in the moment. You’ll miss out on a lot of things: Shakespeare, Thoreau, a lot of good mysteries. But, keep on writing your own books, ones that nobody will read—or remember.