Reader’s Block

A friend from India messaged me today when I was at work. He asked me if was reading these days, reading enough that is, and if I was using a E-book reader as most people these days do or still hooked onto good old printed books.

Just this afternoon, I had penned down about a thousand words on how I have been spending my afternoon lunch breaks at a local bookstore, and how instead of buying a book, I return each time empty-handed from the bookstore after comparing the cost of  printed paper books with the Kindle versions.

Well, this friend of mine, call him A—–, was guilty that he has not been reading enough of late, and he was looking for some ideas to get him back into the habit. He admitted that he had lost interest in reading. He did not read anymore like the way he did two years ago.

Not a serious problem, I suppose. It is what I will call a “Reader’s block”. I am sure this term might have been coined already, and I am no pioneer. Just as a writer finds he is unable to bleed with words time and again and terms it ‘writer’s block’, so does a normal person, like you me or the writer, sometimes finds it difficult to put head into a book and read quietly. There develops a tacit distaste for reading; another activity such as watching TV or sleeping seems to substitute reading. I do not attempt here to offer a solution to escaping reader’s block as I myself get afflicted with it time and again, and I am not conscious of how I have managed to recover each time. Something, somewhere or someone makes me pick a book or an article up and I regain my cerebral composure to start reading all over again. But I know how it feels to have a reader’s block. It’s guilt-ridden.

During the period that a reader’s block prevails, you and a book hate each other. You both are at cross with each other, and yet the two may be in each other’s sight every day. There are several moments during the day when you and the book take a conscious look at each other. You know it exists; the book knows you exist. After a few days, dust settles on the side of the book that is exposed. Then the book gains some overdue attention, but not your attention, your family’s or your partner’s. You will be asked if you are going to read it. If you refuse to reply or if you reply in negative then you will be threatened that the book will either go to the junkman along with the monthly quota of old newspapers from the house or the book will disposed off in the attic. You will mostly reply in positive saying that you will read it. And, why not? You are a reader! So what if the book and you are not in cordial terms with each other, there will be a reunion soon, you hope. Saying this, the book is wiped clean of all the accumulated dust and is kept in the same place, or you take it from where it lay all this while and find a new place for it from where you can still see it. And the whole saga may continue again: book hates you – you hate book – book untouched – book accumulates dust – interrogation – threats – wipe clean.

And then, there comes the day of reunion. When, I can’t say. It could be days, weeks, months or years later. It will mostly be the day when you either stumble upon it when looking for something else or when you, like my friend A—- above, feel the need to read again. And that’s the day when you will touch the book, open it, and dust it off by holding the book by its spine, if a paperback, and ruffling your hands through the pages and hitting it hard against your open palm of the other hand and making sure you don’t breathe any of the dust. A hardbound may get a more pampered clean up.

And then the two of you fall in love again. Whatever it was that pre-occupied you before you discovered your book is adjourned and you retire to a corner of the room, or curl up in your bed and resume relationships with your estranged partner – the book.