I’m stuck in a mental dispute between my attitude towards the reading experience and the reality of reading. I want to read. A lot. My attitude towards reading is that any-when and anywhere should be a potential opportunity to consume something, be it poetry, fan fiction or the latest Gaiman novel. At rock concerts, under water, and in active war zones, while admittedly less than suitable for an optimal reading experience, should all be options. I bought a Kindle specifically to carry a substantial library with me without destroying my spine. But has my Kindle seen much use outside my living room? In a word: NO.
It seems that, in reality, my reading locations are limited to a bean bag chair, the bedroom and occasionally the train. The latter has to do with rhythm, it’s soothing. If it’s anywhere else, my concentration wanes quickly, or I get frustrated with the world around me. Yet, when I was younger I remember being able to walk from place to place while reading at the same time, do (simple) manual labor with one hand, and holding a novel with my other hand, deeply invested in the story. And just to be clear; please don’t do that. I was probably lucky that I didn’t get hit by a car, or worse.
Is reading so special that my physical space matters? Or did I break my brain at some point? Or both? I do have a higher than average number of stitches in my head, plus the medical reports to indicate some damage, so am I broken? Unlikely. I probably just grew up and took notice of the world around me. That world made an impression, and now I can’t not pay attention.
I just love the reading experience so much, that I want it to be perfect every time. Not to miss any fact, any little detail, any narrative twist, or any pun (even the bad ones). Reading is the recreation of a childhood fascination with worlds built from letters and numbers, where sinking into a good book was like finding a portal away from planet Earth’s boring narrative, and into my own personal epic (or not so epic) fantasy. As kids we easily transcend that barrier between here and there, possibly because we are less set in the ways of life and labor, and our brains are more plastic, more adaptable to sudden changes in space and time. So my search for a proper reading space is an attempt to reach back into myself and reconnect with pre-stitches-me, to re-experience that love, that perfect attention to the narrative.
So then, what’s a good reading spot? Is it a quiet spot with space for contemplation and deep thought? Is it bustling and bursting with the colours of life, with the text adding to it? I suppose it’s both, plus all the other places and spaces we choose to consume words. For work, for wonder, or for both.
But, as always, this my opinion? What do you think? Is there a perfect reading spot for bringing back that proto-reading feeling? If you found it, please let me know. My inner ten year old is dying for a return to his epic fantasies.
Photographs by Andrea Palfi. Location at Janey Mac in Kinsale, Ireland. www.janeymackinsale.com