Reading for escape…

“As my concentration on the story in my hands took hold, all sounds faded away. My ears closed. I didn’t imagine the process of the cutoff like a shutter dropping, or as a narrowing of the pink canals leading inside, each waxy cartilaginaous passage irising tight like some deft alien doorway in Start Trek. It seemed more hydraulic than that. Deep in the mysterious ductwork an adjustment had taken place with the last possible actual movement, an adjustment chiefly of pressure. There was an airlock in there. It sealed to the outside so that it could open to the inside. The silence that feel on the noises of people and traffic and dogs allowed an inner door to open to the book’s data, its script of sound. There was a brief stage of transition in between, when I’d hear the texts’s soundtrack poking through the fabric of the house’s real murmur, like the moment of passage on the edge of sleep where your legs jerk as your mind switches over from instructing solid limbs to governing the phantom body that runs and dances in dream. Then, flat on my front with my chin on my hands or curled in a chair like a prawn, I’d be gone.” -Francis Spufford, The Child That Books Built, pgs 1-2 

My last post asked “why do we read”…. one reason I read is to experience complete and total escape. I shared Francis Spufford’s quote above because his description is the closest I have read to what I experience in this typis of reading. Spufford also refers to it as “reading catatonically” and something that just happened to him. I remember experiencing reading like that as a child. Sometimes it would happen when I wasn’t expecting it to, and other times I would seek it out. 

I’ve been seeking out this experience but have been in what my nerdybookclub friends refer to as a reading slump. It was awful. I had been looking forward to escaping into books after defending my dissertation as a way to recenter and recalibrate myself. I went to the library armed with my Goodreads list and came home with at least ten different titles. I couldn’t get past page five of any of them. My restlesslessness had spilled into my reading self. AGGGGHHHHHHH. I tried to be patient. I read some informational books that were interesting and engaging. But I wanted the void of reading. The need to do nothing else all day except escape into the pages of a different world. 

My patience paid off. I started a book Sunday evening and finished it last night. It was glorious. I was swept into the world of Prythian with it’s faerie and mortal kingdoms created by Sarah J. Maas. I’ve never read any of her books before, but this was recommended for fans of Graceling, a favorite of mine. 

Something that I realized as I read about Feyre and Tamiln was that the other books I had tried reading had almost all been realistic fiction. I think I needed fantasy. I needed a completely diffferent world in order to fully escape into a reading zone this time. I don’t think that I always need fantasy, but that it was was I needed this time. Something I’m working on articulating more clearly in my dissertation revisions is that knowing why we read is one element that can help us as readers and teachers of readers. But it isn’t the only element, what we read is another. More on that in the next post….