“Reading is escape and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real…”
As a child, reading was my life. I was a tomboy and loved to play… but reading… that I never toyed with. There were no iPads, Blackberries, or any of the attention-grabbing gizmos you find today. I mean, there was cable TV, but its magic wasn’t half as powerful as the spell books had on me.
Books were beautiful; their titles, plots, and the rhythm to each line. School books, storybooks – I was in a love relationship with each one. I always say that when I read, my mind travels with the writer. Yes, that’s me; a pro at getting lost – both in real life, on the chaotic streets of lagos, and – in the fantasy of each new book.
But alas! The trial of my faithfulness came, and like a pack of cards I fell. Like a shameless backslider, I tumbled from the gospel of read-your-way-to-the-top to a newly found status of growing-up-in-a-rush. Yes you guessed right; TEENAGE happened to me. It was the 90s; music was beautiful, fashion stole my mind, and I began to notice the boys. My books tried to get my attention, but like a sinner, I’d drifted far far away from the light, and before I knew it, a few books a month had turned into one book a few months, and soon enough, books were started that never got finished.
It is true that once the joy of reading is discovered, it never dies. I guess that was what saved me. I never really stopped reading, my attention only shifted to magazines [the glossy kind that had my new friends – music, boys, and fashion – in them]. Thank God I didn’t turn to an airhead.
I was still smart though, but let’s face it, when you stop to read, you start to die. My mind was gradually dying. My soul felt trapped on a desert, thirsty for intellect and hungry for a good book, and I would have gone on that way… but I lost someone precious, and salvation came from that loss.
Nora Ephron wrote that “Reading is escape and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real…”
Months after I lost my dad, I still needed a strong prescription to take away the pain of it all. Music helped, but it felt like panadol where morphine was needed. Then one day, I accidentally found a book – a great one, and the story changed. I needed an escape, but this book was double the needed dose. After that, it was another book, and another, until I started to do some of my own writing.
As a child, you think you’ve experienced the best of story telling (thanks to the likes of Enid Blyton), but when you become an adult, you discover profundity, brilliance and amazingly creative ways of expression in books.
This generation isn’t reading. Nigerians don’t read. These days, there are so many attention-stealing, time-wasting activities considered ‘it’. The internet, for example, is a blessing, but how many people really empower themselves with informative articles and info from it? Write an intellectual piece and people will say it’s too long. Start a gossip blog, and blam! You have a massive following. Everyone just wants to find out who is sleeping with whom in the music industry and watch weird viewer-discretion-tagged videos, than read some intellectual ‘nonsense’… and TV? that one is story for another day.
Tonight as I lay in bed, I’ve flipped through every channel and back, each one reminding me of the unbelievable chaos in the world. There’s been a bombing somewhere in the Middle East. Music isn’t music anymore, it’s just noise. Cartoons are not as witty and innocent. Once again, I realise an escape is needed. The beauty of it all being that in one minute, you can be taken from the all-too-familiar okada ban, fuel scarcity, and church bombing reality, to the world of an ambitous young man from old money who’s just moved to the romantic city of paris. Magical!
This has became my routine… My sanity; get home from the jungle out there, shut out the noise of all the rickety-sounding I-better-pass-my-neighbor generators in my hood, and get lost in the peace and tranquilty of a good book.
They say no one reads these days. They say Africans don’t read. Well guess what I’m African, and I damn well love to read!
This article was first published in YNaija by the writer