Category Archives: reading

Several studies reveal that reading is therapeutic

by Cygne Sauvage

Through a chance encounter with a former college classmate I get an invitation to a group reading. Well, I am not entirely unfamiliar with this preoccupation but in my country this is a rare occurrence as the population, generally, has greater penchant for  drinking sessions or dinner parties than involving in a serious activity as analyzing a work of fiction.  My colleague, though, updates my outdated information. That is, there are now more of this type of social gathering being held because of what has been discovered and being promoted online as the therapeutic effects of reading a book.

Actually, the healing aftermath of consuming a novel is not a recent concept to me. I have come across this in several articles, one published in the The New Yorker almost three years ago written by Ceridwen Dovey titled “Can Reading Make You Happier?”

Bibliotherapy is the technical term for the process of prescribing reading materials to alleviate a person’s physical or emotional pain, and has been in existence for already more than a century.  Practitioners, like regular medical professionals, establish literary clinics and dispatch reading materials with therapeutic worth.  It is just like taking in a medicinal drug, or a calming potion. Some say it is an effective alternative to a nicotine patch for those who would want to kick their smoking addiction.

Reading fiction definitely imposes some changes in the reader’s psyche. Compelling stories have the power to bury one’s own life into the novel itself and secure a relief, no matter how temporary, from the present anguish or sentiment.  Thus, bibliotherapy comes in various forms, addressing diverse maladies whether arising from one’s physique or cerebral condition.   For example, literature courses are being conducted for prison inmates, each individual being recommended with a classic that delves on his/her committed transgression.  Likewise, senior citizens showing signs of dementia are encouraged to participate in book reading circles where participants are required to relate a summary of the book they have just consumed, honing their memory tools.

It is widely believed that the practice of bibliotherapy originated from the ancient Greeks who regard libraries as “healing places for the soul.”  Moreover, Sigmund Freud having used literary reading during psychoanalysis sessions has been written about.

A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology discusses the effects of reading about an experience in the stimulation of the same neurological regions of the brain as when the experience is real, based on analysis of fMRI brain scans of participants.  “We draw on the same brain networks when we’re reading stories and when we’re trying to guess at another person’s feelings,” the research findings claim.

So even if you don’t agree that reading fiction has that fabulous repercussion on one’s well-being, it can’t be denied that it has maneuvered our minds into a state of enchanting pleasure, which brings the same health benefits and inner calm as deep relaxation during meditation.

 

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Encouraging impoverished children to love reading

by Cygne Sauvage

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There have been myriad published how-tos with regard to encouraging children to read. I scan an online article just recently enumerating a step-by-step method for parents to follow, and the entire procedure consists of no simple tasks such as constructing a visible record of achievement like a chart or graph that marks the number of books a child has read to give him/her a sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, the prescriptions apply largely to children from families with the means to provide the attention as well as the access to reading materials.

What about children from impoverished areas?  Many will find it absurd to even bring up the idea considering that poverty brings with it a lot of serious problems requiring much needed attention such as putting food on the table.  On the other hand, education has been proven to be an effective means of escaping penury. A child who is motivated to read and enjoys this activity is more likely to have positive attitude towards attending school.

Charitable organizations with worldwide presence do amazing work to promote children’s literacy and bring books to kids all over the world.  Unfortunately, these institutions’ resources are constrained to match the massive requirements.  The basic needs have to be addressed first for how can children suffering from starvation and infectious diseases appreciate stories about princesses or the adventures of the protagonists in the novels of Charles Dickens? Hence, more important than the availability of book materials is the nutritional supplement to nourish the minds. Thus, feeding programs and learning sessions have to go hand in hand.

Perhaps the best way is to start within our small localities targeting the nearest impoverished community.  No matter how posh our locale may be, there is always the nearest packet of poverty lurking nearby. Regardless of how small scale a project is, this can have tremendous impact.

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Books as decorative items

by Cygne Sauvage

Books must be read and not just to be looked at. Using them as mere embellishments for enhancement of a home’s panoramic sense should not be the main objective for acquiring and arranging them in an ornamental array, like the sacrilege committed by the US White House’s occupant. British newspaper The Guardian points out the inanity of the incumbent First Lady’s concept of the holiday season’s decorative tree. “Well, they’re all green. That was enough for them to be selected as part of the Christmas tree of books that currently stands in the White House library…They were chosen ‘based on their varieties of green colour tones.’” Thus, the tome’s display list carries a nonsensical, incoherent theme: Esquire’s World of Golf, Robert Daley’s thriller Tainted Evidence, Simon Stow’s political analysis American Mourning, Dianne E Gray’s coming-of-age story Holding Up the Earth and James Hall’s odyssey into the spirit world of Africa, Sangoma? A reading chair is installed in the tree’s proximity, but who would dare to pull a volume and let the rest collapse on the floor, ruining the so-called spirit of the season? Perhaps, not even the Chief Executive would do such a “horrible” act.

Speaks volumes … the White House library Christmas book tree.

Books must be made accessible for reading.  A home’s library is supposed to be the place where one can comfortably sit and experience freedom of thought, or flight, the book sending the reader to its destined setting. Using books only for a spectacle of show, sans  perusing their pages is intellectual hypocrisy, not erudition.

 

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Peripatetic Spirit

by Cygne Sauvage

traveler2I was barely out of my secondary school when I “visited” Nepal, a country I‘ve been briefly made aware of by my world history subject.  The so-called sojourn was on my mind courtesy of the compelling book The Mountain is Young by Han Suyin.  From China’s celebrated author’s work of fiction, I learned much about the culture, the people as well as the locale’ Kathmandu, the capital town and where the story unfolded.  The novel carried me to the depths of the Himalayas and put me in a trance, swooning over the magical place as well as the main protagonist Unni Mennon, an engineer. Had it not been for Suyin’s prolific pen I would not have been able to reconnoitre the landscape of Chomolungma, the highest peak in the world which foreign intruders named as Mount Everest.

Though an actual physical presence is the best option, we have to accept limitations to travelling. Even the most peripatetic, jet-setting zillionaire equipped with modern aeronautical gadgets could not possibly penetrate every desirable nook and cranny of the globe. On the other hand, budget challenged globe trotters can only save as much for certain choice places to explore and unwind.  Perhaps this is the reason for having a bucket list of places to behold.

I navigated the dark waters of Venice canals through the investigative exploits of Donna Leon’s fictional hero Commissario Guido Brunetti.  Meanwhile, though the plots are not so alluring, what I found enjoyable in Dan Brown’s novels are the vivid descriptions cum extensive historical background of the terrestrial sites his protagonist Robert Langdon has been dragged into by the cases he has on hand to solve. In fact, in his book Inferno, the author seems to have veered too much from the main gist of the novel with his absorbing characterization of Istanbul.  All the other works of Dan Brown that I have taken time to read feature major geographical briefing: The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol.

Compared to a film whose advantage is presenting a panoramic visual of the place, a book’s edge is that it offers tons of information which the vista in the movie does not offer. A viewer definitely will fancy the pristine waters of Bermuda or Cayman Islands in James Bond flicks, but the detailed chronicles of the lush greenery of British countryside, such as in Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, or the bustling Curacao in John Le Carre’s  The Night Manager cast more potent impact on a peruser’s psyche, as well as add greater improvement on one’s erudition.

I traversed the chaotic roads to Cambodia via the novel The Sympathizer, during the height of the Vietnam war, a sight that has been erased by modernization. Being transported back to places long lost in time is another plus point to reading a book.

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A Horse Walks Into a Bar: Winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize

by Cygne Sauvage

Since last year, the Man Booker International Prize has been awarded to a single book. Prior to this, it was a biennial prize bestowed to a collection of work either originally in English or translated to this language.

So, this is now included in my reading list, that is, if ever I will find a copy in any of the remaining mediocre bookstores present only in the metropolis. I have attempted to order books online, but this feat presented a bigger headache for me. Anyway, I have vowed not to spend precious moments on whining about the inefficiencies of the systems in my land of birth. Instead, I promised to devote my time to promoting the sustenance of the intellect and the education of those who still have the willingness to embrace novel wisdom, regardless of age.

I  collect winners of the Man Booker International and Man Booker Prize as well as other awards given to works of fiction for the reason that I regard the citations as benchmark for a book’s quality. I discovered that this is not so, although I claim my judgment to be just my own.  Man Booker prize winners that I have read, so far,  and did not disappoint are The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, Amsterdam by Ian McEwan and  The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson. I started the Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst last Christmastime hibernation, a regular escape mechanism from the materialism of the season, but I put it down after Chapter 4.  Since then, I haven’t had the inspiration yet to pick it up.  I had been longing to read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, but I am still searching for my copy from the irresponsible borrower.

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Reading as a dangerous feat

by Cygne Sauvage

During the 18th and 19th centuries reading a book, particularly in bed, was considered not only a dangerous feat but a depravity.  In the context of that time when tools for illumination comprised of burning candles, a voracious reader who could not control the urge to finish a novel and thus would bring it to the bedroom  was deemed to be courting death.  Many, generally the elite and the erudite for they were the ones who could afford and have the enthusiasm as well as access to volumes of reading materials,  met their ends in the privacy of their sleeping quarters, a circumstance that turned trendy in those periods of time when reading a story was considered a communal activity.  Because of the prevalence of this deemed undesirable practice it had come to be equated by the religious authority to an immoral act and defiance of the Supreme Being.  A lighted piece of tallow when abandoned as the absorbed reader  unconsciously fell asleep could turn an entire house, in fact a whole estate, aflame with the tragic consequence of loss of lives. Thus, aficionados of the written works were then warned to shed off the vicious vice and were directed to spend, instead, the darkness in prayer.

Discussed in the article in The Atlantic: “ Writings from the 18th and 19th centuries frequently dramatize the potentially horrifying consequences of reading in bed. Hannah Robertson’s 1791 memoir, Tale of Truth as well as of Sorrow, offers one example. It is a dramatic story of downward mobility, hinging on the unfortunate bedtime activities of a Norwegian visitor, who falls asleep with a book. Even the famous and the dead could be censured for engaging in the practice. In 1778, a posthumous biography chastised the late Samuel Johnson for his bad bedside reading habits, characterizing the British writer as an insolent child. A biography of Jonathan Swift alleged that the satirist and cleric nearly burned down the Castle of Dublin—and tried to conceal the incident with a bribe.”  Continue reading here: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/05/reading-in-bed/527388/

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Painting by Marc Romyjos

More than two centuries later, books have evolved from printed form to digitized version, compressed in gadgets along with gazillion data. The electronic gizmo has become the indispensable companion of its owner who brings it not only in the private bedroom but anywhere including the lavatory, dining table and even in the steering wheel. Reading has become everybody’s favorite pastime, taking in facts as fiction and worse fake news as truth. The difference between reality and fantasy has become so blurred, ruining lives and relationships from the microcosm of the society to the grander schemes of political leadership and world’s corporate bigwigs.  Massive disinformation has made life more perilous.

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Hurray for real books

by Cygne Sauvage

STORK

As a book lover, I appreciate not only the content but the aesthetic design of the cover, the lovely array of colors that result from aligning them in shelves. Our family’s library, in fact, is the only vibrant section in the decrepit structure we call home. Not that the books are neatly compiled, something quite impossible in a household of geeks and bookworms who snatch an edition as often as they grab edible materials from the refrigerator, and don’t have the frame of mind to return it to its former place. So, the volumes seem to have evolved lives of their own, taking spaces that suit them, spinning off to a beautiful topsy-turvy setting.

According to this article in The Guardian “Real books have trumped ebooks. The digital revolution was expected to kill traditional publishing. But print books are ever more beautifully designed and lovingly cherished.”

Continue reading here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/14/how-real-books-trumped-ebooks-publishing-revival

 

 

 

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