I read an article that made me sad this morning. A Chinese girl of just thirteen is the latest much feted childrens novelist. A sweet little thing described as a cross between Harry Potter and Velma out of Scooby Doo, she has a penchant for budgies and martial arts and her success has been made possible by the sheer dedication of her family to creating the child prodigy that she is today. All well and good.
But when asked whether she had any friends our little author replied that she didn’t need any. That books were her friends, her companions, teachers and comforters. And thus she saw no need for relationships with children her own age.
Is it just me or is that a terrible state of affairs?
I have had some of the most meaningful relationships of my life with books that have crawled under my skin and found a space in my heart thereafter. I love books. They are amongst my most precious belongings and have on far too many occasions provided solace I didn’t realise I was seeking. They are there in the dead of the night when no-one else is and for the time that they occupy my mind they exist to make me laugh, cry and most of all reflect on who I am and the way I live.
But they are not my friends. They don’t remember the time I got ludicrously drunk and poured milk into gin and declared it delicious. They don’t remember my thirteen year old crush on Ian Cowan or my holiday romance with a soldier. They didn’t come dashing round the night Mark left me, nor know the reason why neither me nor Judy Dargan will ever volunteer ourselves for a natural birth. They didn’t offer me a job when I didn’t have one, dig up my garden or take me out salsa dancing when I’d taken up hibernating. Books you see weren’t the ones who bought me some top of the range dishwasher tablets last week because they know I can’t afford them by myself. And there isn’t a book in the world that has wiped away my tears, held my hair back while I vomit, or left a dinner party to drive me and my floppy baby to the emergency clinic.
Not a book in the world.