August 9, 1999


(Now if they only wouldn't make the print so small..)

Today I started reading A Widow for One Year by John Irving. This might not seem like a momentous occasion, but for me it is.

No, I don't have problems with my eyesight (beyond normal old age creeping up, necessitating the dreaded bifocals!)

It's just that at certain times in my life it's been more painful to read than not to read. The same holds true for listening to music, although I've been able to do that, thankfully, for a few years now.

The short explanation for the above statement is, depression. I don't want to go into a big discussion on that right now.. another time, maybe. Looking back, I realize I was clinically depressed for a large part of my life, as was my mother. I've been on prozac for about six years, and while I still have setbacks, they're nothing like they used to be. I firmly believe that this is a physical disorder having to do with brain chemistry.

As a child I used to INHALE books. Luckily I had doting parents and grandparents who kept me well-stocked, and a good library within walking distance. Of course I read the entire Anne of Green Gables collection, but my absolute favourite books, reread dozens of times, were the Betsy-Tacy series. This was far less well-known than such series as Nancy Drew, but also far superior. Fans of the series have now taken to the internet, and I was amazed the first time I happened upon this website.

For certain periods of my adult life, though, books and music were like emotional minefields. Hardly being able to deal with my own problems, I absolutely couldn't take on anyone else's. Books and music that are moving (i.e. worthwhile) demand an emotional investment, and I had nothing to give.

I don't really know why the urge to read is coming back at this particular time. I think it has something to do with all the online journals I'm reading, but that could be part of the effect, rather than the cause. I like to think it's a sign of emotional and mental health, and as such, I intend to indulge it to the limits of my time and budget!

Lately, bookstores have become exciting, enticing places again. There's something about the sight of shelves upon shelves of books, accompanied by their distinctive smell, that can produce a small but dizzying high. The online booksellers have so far failed to recreate that experience, but they're fun nonetheless. Some sites have started to print excerpts of books for browsing purposes! An extension of the Montreal Gazette newspaper website has the first chapters of over 150 books online, among them The Street Lawyer by John Grisham. I'm not a Grisham fan (yet) but I found it totally spellbinding. Yet, if I'd been watching it on TV instead of reading it, I'd have yawned and changed the channel. Such is the power of the printed word, allied with our imaginations. Less really is more, sometimes.

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