Monday, May 16, 2011

The Emotions of Reading

"After all, reading is arguably a far more creative and imaginative process than writing; when the reader creates emotion in their head, or the colors of the sky during the setting sun, or the smell of a warm summer's breeze on their face, they should reserve as much praise for themselves as the do for the writer - perhaps more." 
 -  Jasper Fforde, The Well of Lost Plots

As always, not only does Mr.Fforde make a good point regarding  fiction, he makes it beautifully. For long people have spoken of the magic of books, how books suck the reader into a world of their own,  how they linger in the hearts and minds of readers long after the last page has been turned. Bookmarks acting as anchors navigating us through the literary world, dogears acting as messy reminders of a sentence much loved: these are remnants of a familiar reading experience. And like Fforde points out, it is the reader's emotional involvement with a book that makes the book a wonderful read.

For me, topics I relate to, themes I love, eras I'm interested in, make the book more personal. I tend to remember the books that moved me to tears more than the ones that were just  thrilling. Indeed when I sit back and think about it, I'm amazed by the power and control that a good book has on its reader: it can make you angry (The White Tiger), reduce you to tears (Curfewed Night), make you long to live in a fictional universe (the Harry Potter series) and simply stay in your mind forever (The Group, anything Austen). Books are far more than the sum of their words and pages.

I distinctly remember refusing to read some books at night, fearing that their topics were too sensitive and that I'd be left with nightmares. Sometimes I just stop at a paragraph, pause, linger and personalize it. I'm now reading Yasmin Khan's brilliant book The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan and when I'm not teary-eyed, I get goosebumps. 

Clearly, Partition is an intensely emotional topic for many Indians and Pakistanis and a book doesn't really seem like the best outlet to learn about it and react to it. But it is. Sitting in a corner, book in hand, I reconcile with the history that made my country and the tragedies and confusions that came with it. Flipping through pages, I stare at events that impacted the subcontinent.

Sure, you could argue that a TV show or a film with its visual impact does the job even better. But there's something rather magical and comforting about sinking into a book and coming out of it understanding the world, looking at things in a different light. And many of those who claim books can change lives do have a point.


Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I love that quote and I completely agree that reading can causes a whole world of emotions.

Kals said...

Thanks and I'm glad you liked it :) That quote is one of my all-time favourite Fforde quotes.

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

I loved the quote and the post. Do read Shawna Singh Baldwin's novels - they deal with the trauma of Partition and her books are so well written and researched.

Kals said...

Thank you! I haven't heard of her till now, so thanks a lot for the recommendation. I'll be sure to check her books :)

Whitney said...

Beautiful post! I agree, sometimes reading about a subject can have a bigger impact than watching it on t.v. With the written word you can take your time to digest/reflected on the matter, if you want to read the same page 10 times to understand the complete meaning go for it. Where as with t.v., at the end of its 30 minute time slot that's it, let's move on.


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