I came across this quote in Alain de Botton‘s book How Proust Can Change You Life which I’d just begun reading. In the second chapter, titled How to Read for Yourself, the author talks about how literature can make us feel at home everywhere, and cure us from loneliness if we find shades of ourselves and those we know in the characters we read about. His argument is, it expresses our deepest desires and our feelings far better than we would have, and it makes our antics and suppressed thoughts and unmentioned emotions more human. It teaches us we’re not alone in feeling or thinking this or that.
I related, finishing On Love only a couple of days earlier, I knew exactly what both Proust and de Botton meant.
Immediately, it brought to my memory a scene from the British play turned film The History Boys, when one of the professors explains to his student the value in reading about a similar experience:
The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.
Going back to the friends who’re here to stay, which are my books, I’ve felt exactly that at times, that a hand was taking mine and squeezing it tightly, telling me I’m after all normal.
Listening to A Mansion Has Many Rooms, by Grail
and Bright, Bright, Bright by Dark, Dark, Dark