Sunday, 21 August 2016

Miss mum but have been walking

I've been walking for over an hour each day for more than the past week. I also got a haircut, as you can probably see. The walking means I feel generally better once I get home, although I am still waking up lateish and still drinking wine in the afternoons. Nevertheless I am not feeling as depressed as I was before.

In the evening when I go to bed I still read Knausgaard. I tried reading some of his second book in the series after lunch today but it didn't feel right. I preferred to turn over and get some sleep in the early afternoon. And in fact the soporific effect of Knausgaard cannot be discounted even for those who are in the best of spirits. His highly modulated, long novels of personal experience tend to make you feel like you need to yawn, pull up the covers, and turn out the light. They're comfortable and comforting.

I am reminded of the time, in 2014, when I was reading books on and by Parisians. I wanted to find the ultimate book of the flaneur des rues in the city of lights. I remember reading book after book that I sourced online or through bookshops - even taking some special trips from the Coast to Brisbane to find the right choice - but never finding the exact book that would bring on the lazy sensation I have nowadays when I pick up the Kindle and tap on to the pages of Knausgaard. Or the time when I was reading only spy thrillers and crime thrillers, always hoping for that ideal book that would chew up the hours as I paced myself to turn through the pages in an effort to reach the end.

Reading for me is an index of mental health. The ability in the middle of the day to put a stop to the constant appeal of social media and take refuge within the pages of a book shows, for me, a healthy mind, one in balance with the world. When you cannot read you tend to go for the chardonnay and sit with busy eyes in front of the computer, watching the stream of messages go past. I don't know what it's like for you, but that's what it's like for me. Social media distracts, that's its main reason for being. Reading a book is a far more engaged form of participation where you are forced to concentrate for long periods of time, and delay the instant gratification of the tweet or the post in the News Feed.

What about you? How do you feel about the relative uses, or merits, of books and social media? I'm not talking here about news stories, magazine articles, blogposts, or journal features, but about real-life books that weigh in at on or around 70,000 words. What kind of future do books have when our lives are full of memories of dead mothers and likewise full of the blandishments of Twitter? 

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