by Morgan on September 8, 2011
Today I had lunch with my very literate and literary friend, Judy. Judy and I talk about all kinds of things, but mostly we talk about books. Actually, lunch with Judy is like unlocking a door and stumbling into a room full of people who are, miraculously, just like you, after being exiled among aliens for twenty years. Or something.
It’s so refreshing to get together with someone and talk about books, to remember that talking about books is a reason to get together. I wish there was a place to go where you knew you’d find someone there who wanted to talk about novels as much as you do. Or even just a place where you knew there’d be people reading. Bookstores are useful for this, but they’re not a sure bet anymore, unfortunately. The last time I went into Book Soup, the girl working the cash hadn’t heard of David Foster Wallace. I’m not joking. And there are zero chairs for sitting and reading. That’s another problem, though.
So not a bookstore. I mean some sort of social club where you just go and read. I guess that’s not very social. But you know what I mean. You can read, or you can talk to other people who like to talk about reading. But you just get to be around readers.
When I lived in Montreal, the McGill library used to stay open 24 hours a day during exams. There were many nights when — restless, over-caffeinated, procrastinating on studying — I’d throw my coat on over my pajamas at midnight or 1:00am and trudge over to the library. I’d head straight to the fiction section and there they would be: people, tucked into corners, perched in study carrells, or lying on the floor, reading. I’d find a book and a spot and settle in.
Sometimes I’d get into conversations with someone else, and sometimes these conversations lasted until 6am, when we’d stagger out into the snow-bright morning and go for breakfast before heading home to bed. But often I wouldn’t talk to anyone at all. I’d just enjoy reading in the company of other people. As solo an activity as reading is, it’s lovely to do in groups. There’s a subtle, nurturing energy that materializes after extended periods of communal silent reading, everyone focused wholly on the book in their lap, but aware, sensitive to the other readers. It’s magical. And I met many other people who were going to the library for the same reason I was: not to cram for exams, just to read in the presence of other readers.
Whether I’m talking about books or reading them, it’s nice to remember I’m not alone. I can always go on the internet to confirm that, but it’s just not the same as a warm body.