In Nicole Krauss’ novel Great House, the character Nadia, a novelist, is asked a question which she interprets to mean “Do you actually think anything you write could mean anything to anyone?”
She responds with a “thought experiment” in which she asks the questioner to “imagine the sort of person he might be if all the literature he’d read in his life were somehow excised from his mind and soul.” Contemplating this “nuclear winter” of the intellect does give one pause. Would I be different if I’d never had the experience entering the lives of all the characters in all the books I’ve read during the course of my life?
Oh yes, I certainly would.
Being a reader has given me a much broader awareness of the human condition at every age and every stage. I understand myself and my world through the eyes of the writers I love, and even the ones I loathe. Nearly every time I read a book, I meet myself somewhere in it, and then feel less alone.
Now tell me, would you be different if everything you’d ever read was removed from your mind and soul?