Hunger shapes us and we shape it.
Elspeth has been having a good chat about what books we don’t read, and why.
First, why do you read? What hunger inside you is fed by words on a page? (There are probably several).
When we talk about watching what we and our children read, I think back to my misspent youth and those hungers and the books the hungers found, and the books that fed new hungers. After the waves of inappropriate reading receded (largely because I had a life, I wasn’t hunger incarnate, aka a young teenager), I would reliably read the same sort of book… until quite recently, which has made my reading habits a bit confused.
Mostly I read books about finding yourself and having adventures, with some romance thrown in the bargain. There seems to be a never-ending pile of books for that! I never could get hooked on romance minus adventure – my hunger included the hunger of doing things. Adventure minus romance was sometimes okay, sometimes not. (One of the things I read for is to immerse myself, so if I don’t like the protagonist, or there’s no getting into his/her head, forget it. I’ll skip the pure plot works, thanks). Since I live in the books, happy endings are mandatory.
Finding yourself… doing things… finding love…
All of that is still fine, but the books I want to read have established characters, who know who they are but are finding new things out about themselves or the world. Not nearly as many books about *that*. (Especially with characters I can bear to have live in my head). And I have found out that I really enjoy a good travelogue. Observing the world around you and finding out new things about it. I’m still going places in my imagination… I just don’t have to have dragons to slay. A journey will suffice. I hunger for adventure, and for the wild.
Good, true, observations please me now. I just started this book, and this paragraph describes how I substitute the beach for true wilderness, even though the author is speaking of beaches on the other side of the globe.
The sea defines us, connects us, separates us. Most of us experience only its edges, our available wilderness on a crowded island – it’s why we call our coastal towns ‘resorts’, despite their air of decay. And although it seems constant, it is never the same. One day the shore will be swept clean, the next covered by weed, the shingle itself rises and falls. Perpetually renewing and destroying, the sea proposes a beginning and an ending, an alternative to our landlocked state, an existence to which we are tethered when we might rather be set free. (The Sea Inside – Philip Hoare)
So. When I find books that give me truth, I cherish them. When I read books that entertain me and give me an afternoon away from myself, I enjoy them. When I find that the book that I’ve enjoyed has slipped behind my back and fed a hunger that hurts me in some way, I remove it from my life. And those books that I know will feed hungers or moods that harm me, I never pick up.
Feeding yourself, whether it be food or drink or words, should be a matter of honesty with oneself.