A bookworm, society says, is a recluse. His nose is tucked into a novel all day and dark circle around his eyes point to hours of nocturnal reading. His eyes are magnified behind thick glasses and his skin is pale as a result of his indoor habit. Most of all, he does not know how to have a good time. He hides from the vibrant world behind gold embossed spines and yellowing pages. His asocial tendencies proliferate with hours left in solitude, which he prefers to the company of people. He is uncomfortable, and so he ensconces himself within the lives of fictional characters and the power of useless knowledge.
Liza Minnelli once advised rather boisterously to “Put down the knitting, the book and the broom.” After all, “It’s time for a holiday.” Even during the early 70’s (Cabaret’s inception, ironically enough it was inspired by a novel written Christopher Isherwood in ‘45) reading was viewed as a tedious form of entertainment. Sally Bowles equates the activity alongside mind-numbing chores and darning socks. This situation has worsened as ‘actually fun’ entertainment becomes more attainable than a walk down to the Cabaret. Now we enjoy our entertainment at the flip of the switch, the turn of the dial or the click of the mouse. Books are for the dull and the boring. They are for the introverts, not the social butterflies prized in our society.
But readers are so much more than this. Bookworms develop patience. They are quiet and serene. They gather inspiration. They formulate new ideas. They are the contemplative of today and the leaders of tomorrow. They are not afraid of solitude and silence, which, in a way, makes them the most courageous of us all. Readers cultivate wit, laugh without abandon and they tell the best jokes. In short, they are the life of the party if one is willing to listen.
When people tell me that I have no life when I choose to read a novel rather than go to a party, I think this is as far from the truth as anything. Reading puts my life into many more dimensions and contexts than are possible in the easy-going, Cabaret world. My life is filled with daring trips across a sea, the possibility of traveling against the cosmological arrow. With a little bit of patience I witness a peasants’ revolt in the streets of 1830’s Paris or a great adventure to the heart of Jotunheim. No, I am not afraid of life. Conversely, I am embracing it.
And so, though society views the bookworm as being afraid of people and too dull for parties, it is obvious that books allow one to live on so many more levels than a reality-ridden individual. Where else, but in books, can one formulate revolutionary ideas and experience the impossible? Books are one portal to the true vibrancy of life. And so the bookworm is not only living life to the fullest, but exceeding its boundaries.