I had decided to write a book critic today.
However, it appeared to be quite difficult for me to be able to write about the books I have read.
Although reading is without exaggerating a religion to me, because it revolves around precious and sacred words, and because I am practicing it as much as I can, despite the numerous temptations of the 21th century – among all, the not so infamous Netflix -, one of the reasons I find it difficult is a simple one. To be fair, I hardly remember the books I read. It has nothing to do with the quality of their writing. Once I leave a book, it feels like I leave the world that laid within its pages. Even if I really enjoyed the story, my time there is done, and I am unable to remember and describe the feelings I got during the days I spent with the characters and their environment.
Nevertheless, they are few exceptions. There are those few books that won’t let you leave. You don’t realize their influence at first. But when you are shopping at the supermarket, when you are in a library, before you go to sleep, it strikes you. You are still thinking about it. I like to think of reading as a religion. The books whose words will lay within my soul for the rest of my days are my Bible. But does it mean I could write about them ?
Once in a year, in a decade, in a lifetime, a book touches you. You didn’t expect it. But there it is. You cannot understand why you are not able to stop reading. Why you are fine with waiting a bit more to watch another episode of your current favorite TV show. Why you are reconsidering every aspect of your life. Why you want to come back to the fictional world the author created for you. Again and again. Why his world is coming back to you, in yours.
It does not make it easier to talk about it, that is certain. In fact, it makes it even harder, because how could you describe with the tiniest words that are yours the infinity that lays in the words of the book you have loved. But it makes it impossible for you to forget about it either.
I believe it is fair to admit that your liking of those books will depend on your personal mental state and your current life situation at the time. I concede that maybe falling in love with a book isn’t just a matter of coincidences. Maybe it is not so much about great writing but great timing. Maybe you are able to experience an attraction towards this book because its story resonates with doubts that were already there, regrets that you already had, opinions you were already certain of.
Other times though, more rarely, reading, as a therapy would, opens your subconscious to your own truth. This process can even be cruel. You think everything is fine with your life, you are able to freely enjoy your fake happiness. And then you read. You read about family, about dreams, about identity, about other paths. And you just start to wonder. The book forces you to wonder. But if so do not despair, only great books are strong enough to do as such. If it makes you feel like you are missing something, if it makes you feel like you should have thought things differently, then you are in the presence of a great work of art.
When I talk to someone and this person says to me ‘I don’t really enjoy reading’, I feel sorry for them as with those who tell me they never fell in love. When somebody says they have never experienced those feelings, one cannot stop thinking ‘this person has yet a whole world to discover’. It is the same with reading. How could you not enjoy books ? You do not choose to enjoy a book like you do not choose to fall in love. The book chooses you and makes you fall for its words.
My first love was Matilda by Roald Dahl.
How ironical that the first book I fell in love with was indeed about the love of books. Maybe it shaped me, maybe it shaped the vision I express today about loving books. Maybe by falling for the story of Matilda’s love for books I fell for the idea that you fell in love with reading. Or maybe it was just a question of timing. It was the first novel I met, they were the first pages that laid eyes on me. Maybe it was just a matter of life. Because it was read to me by a person which I fell close to and I loved. It does not matter why you fall in love. What matters is the effort you put in your relationship, the happiness it gives you and the memories that you are left with. It does not matter if you cannot remember each instant or word, because it is everywhere with you. And sometimes I come back to Matilda and it will never be like the first time. However, it is even better to try and remember.
I wanted to write about a book I recently added to my Bible. A book that among others, changed just a tiny bit my perception of life. But although it is everywhere with me, I cannot seem to find the words to talk about it, as if the universe of them were swept from my memory.
This is why the books I loved the most stay hidden from the critics I could write about them. It is easy to criticize, to give an opinion about something you like.
But how could you put words onto something you do not like but you love ? How could you write about something that was already a part of you before you even wanted it to be ? How could you truly be fair and truthful about something you do not read but feel ?