“What an astonishing thing a book is.”
That’s the beginning of a quote by Carl Sagan which encapsulates why I think that books will never go away. And why I love them and have always been inspired to write fiction and poetry and essays. This is what he says,
What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree, with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny, dark squiggles. But one glance at it, and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.
Every couple of decades, some important essayist claims that the novel is dead. They blame the proliferation of television. Of movies. Of gaming. Of social media. Why would somebody turn to a book when they can be easily entertained by stories without having to think too much?
I don’t believe the novel will ever die. We are too curious about the inner workings of other people’s minds. About the way others behave in a variety of situations. About what it’s really like to live in a different culture or a different socio-economic group or among people just like one’s self.
Those funny, dark squiggles ARE proof that humans are capable of working magic.
It’s a privilege to gain access to the intricacies of another person’s experience. Also, it’s amazing to be able to hear voices in my head and for once, not worry about the state of my mental health.
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