A conversation with my husband the other morning (perhaps, if I am honest, it was more me talking and him grunting sleepily at intervals) has inspired me to float this question to a wider audience. It's a genuine question, not an implied criticism; everyone's different and people are entitled to their preferences, private obsessions and priorities. Here's the question: how can you not read? How do you live your necessarily limited life without the enrichment of the experience of others, in other eras and places, with different outlooks, expectations, limitations? Or is there another way I haven't discovered?
No one has the choice of when, where, or to whom they are born; within preset parameters we have some choices, but they are finite. Books, and for me predominantly fiction, are the way I taste the lives of people I have never met, or can never meet if they are imaginary, mediated through the mind of someone else - the author - whom I am equally unlikely to get to know. Recently I have submerged my imagination into the world of the short-lived republic of Biafra, and the effects of the Nigerian war on a number of fictional individuals, and I feel my mental life has been illuminated and made richer by it ('Half of a Yellow Sun' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.) That's just one quite small example.
My life is rich in incident, many-layered, full of people, places, events, thoughts; no doubt yours is too. In this respect it is like the lives of other people, but beyond that their lives and experiences differ wildly. Without books, without the organised setting down of their stories, there is so much I would never know. One life is too short, too narrow, too small! Isn't it? If it isn't for you, how do you endure the circularity of your own thoughts? How do you bear the prison of your own mental processes? Don't you feel a need to escape from yourself from time to time? And if you do, is there another way? I would very much like to know.