Back to Books

By Gretchen Gibbs

In the last few days, interspersed with election talk was everyone’s account of how they weathered Sandy. While mine was not a dramatic tale, living it was difficult. I had no power between Monday evening and Sunday morning around 2. That meant no heat, no water, no light, no phone, no computer. I went to bed at 7 and got up at 5.

What was most significant to me was not the cold and the dark, the isolation and the boredom, but the books. In those five and a half days, I read four books.

I used to be a reader. As a kid, I made weekly trips to the library, coming home with two or three volumes, some of them hefty. Reading took me to places outside my own constricted and sometimes difficult family. A good novel was my haven.

Now I listen to books on tape when I drive. I read the Times and a couple of magazines. I belong to a book club and try to read the monthly assignment, though I don’t always finish. Besides that, I hardly read at all.

With my electricity back, I’m trying to figure it out. Why did I stop devouring books? Partly the seduction of the computer, which takes up way too much time. Roku television is also seductive. Partly that I started writing myself and became a more critical reader. Lots of books don’t appeal anymore. But in the storm I recaptured that delightful loss of self into an alternate universe that hooked me as a kid. I don’t want to lose that.

I hope others had the same experience. I went to the Albert Wisner Library in Warwick several times during the five days, partly for warmth, partly for my email, and each time I was impressed by the crowds. All the parking spaces were taken, and the line of cars on the drive rivaled the lines at the gas stations. Inside were groups of teens chatting and giggling, others like me getting their emails, frantic families calling on their cells for a hotel to stay at (“And would you take a dog?”), people checking out stacks of DVDs, and people actually reading. Lots of people reading books.

Perhaps Sandy will not only make us more aware of global warming, but help us examine how we spend our time.

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2 Responses to “Back to Books”

  1. Anita Says:

    Gretchen, I used to read while RIDING MY BIKE back from the library, and by some miracle managed not to break my neck.

    I’m glad there were bright spots during this difficult time.

  2. Gretchen Gibbs Says:

    Wow, that’s scarier than a to-be-unnamed friend who reads the Times while driving to work!
    I used to read anything available if there were no books, like cereal boxes and refrigerator manuals.

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