Opinion | Reading remains a pastime of the past
October 16, 2020
Picking up a paperback seems harder for this generation than any other. With the extraordinary yet distracting invention of Netflix and other streaming services, we have arrived at an era where relaxing holds the form of a rectangular screen.
For years now, TV shows have left reading in the dust. Ironically, though, the concept of shows sprung from books.
In 1863, Charles Dickens published “The Pickwick Papers” and, although these were not the first glimpses the world had of serial literature, they were a massive hit in England and spurred a love of shows. Clearly, the agonizing thrill of craving a new episode hasn’t fizzled out.
In fact, this creation is one of the reasons reading has been transformed into a whisper in a world of chatting channels and screaming shows. The simple math of adding episodes to an accessible, convenient item like the television makes it comprehensible that we have become obsessed with shows.
Books are comparatively unreachable: They don’t have the same flare as they did in the past, the same power to capture millions of people of all ages. Shows have outshone them.
Another difficulty is the simplicity. With everything going on in the world, all the stress and traumatic events, people don’t want to think. Students, after a tiring day of absorbing chapter after chapter from various textbooks, don’t want to read another word.
But shows don’t have to be interpreted, dissected. They don’t require imagination, the forming of characters in one’s head, the tedious task of stringing sentences together to make what at best can be taken as the equivalent of a flip book.
Who wants that burden when we have live actors and a camera shooting every angle of a scene? Who wants to find their way down the intriguing halls of the Overlook Hotel from “The Shining,” flashlight in hand and words jumping out of the page, when Jack Nicholson can do it for us? I do.
Reading is intimate, arousing, meditative. Words create a different dimension, an alternate universe where we can walk among characters we seem to know as family. We can shake their hands and enter their lives; we can scrape together bits and pieces of what it means to be them.
All of the stress in our lives clears like clouds making way for the sun as these stunning, comedic, gloomy, sad, unique people entrance us; we can think of nothing else and our stress dissipates.
During these tumultuous times, reading can guide us toward peace. Taking time to completely immerse ourselves in a different life, culture and purpose allows us to forget about the chronic and demanding stressors in our lives for a few moments.
We focus on someone other than ourselves, lifting us out of our problems and onto solid ground. This serenity, I’ve only found in reading. So, although shows are convenient and popular, picking up paperbacks might just be the perfect way to destress amidst a world plagued by screens.
Chiara is a freshman in LAS.