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Everyone loves a good read, but when you start believing that Dragon’s Den might just take a chance on your waterproof paperback shower shield, you know your appetites are getting out of control. Reading addiction is not the same as loving books; it’s more like book abuse, and it’s time we afflicted stopped hiding from the truth.
A healthy bibliophile reads their texts carefully; an addict devours them, regardless quality. A lit junkie still thirsts after the best writing, but if necessary they won’t hesitate to use Dan Brown to calm the craving, despite knowing how dirty they’ll feel in the morning.
Like all compulsive habits, reading addiction stems from the need to escape and control. I need a book in my face like others need a fag in their fingers: it acts as a barrier between me and the world, and heightens, comforts or calms my emotions depending on my need.
For those with greyhoundish levels of energy, a book provides a constant channel and focus for the brain; the need to lend your own imagination to the tale makes it far more effective than TV. And with a trusty paper prop, solitude loses its sting; dining alone without a book shouts saddo-no-friends stigma, but put a Penguin 60 in your hand and you’re transformed into liberated enigma.
If you have a book, you have a purpose and a shield. This is fine to an extent, but usually belittling to the books you’re escaping into. When I’m abusing a book, I lapse into a kind of ravenous trance, reading too fast, remembering too little. When you can study a book review from start to finish without realising you’ve already read the novel in question, you can be pretty sure you’ve been perpetrating abuse.
Reading addiction is so dangerous because it’s not only sanctioned but positively encouraged by society. My childhood self, prone to spending social occasions in a corner with a book, was indulged – particularly after my parents discovered reading pacified their tantrummy brat as effectively as any dummy. In any case, voracious reading in a kid is seen as a sign of intellect. Of course, the older you get, the less this applies; the plea that “adults are boring” definitely sounds emotionally retarded when you’re 25. On a recent night out in Bungalow 8, I found myself swapping my vintage snakeskin clutch bag for an old M&S sack so I could smuggle in my 800-page copy of Underworld, just in case I got bored. (I did. But stupidly, I forgot the torch.)
Now that I’m aware of my illness, I’m seeing it everywhere. The shamefaced woman white-knuckling a grubby Grisham at the bus stop. The thick-specc’d bloke in the opticians scraping the barrel with The Shoe People’s Village Fete.
Enough. I propose that fellow addicts join me in applying the principles of Carlo Petrini’s slow food movement to the rehabilitation of their reading. We must pledge to focus on the quality of the attention we give to our books, not the quantity thoughtlessly consumed. We should remind ourselves that reading time should be sacred, set aside for when we’re focused, alert and relaxed. For when our minds are ready to be engaged, not just abandoned. Not just when we can’t bear to face the world. And definitely not when we’re drunk.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: A slow cure for book abuse | Fiction