Words: Leah Solomon
“Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author’s word reverberating in your head.”
Images: The Golden Notes by Hanne Hvattum
~Paul Auster, The Brooklyn Follies~
There was once a girl. A girl with ‘bunny teeth’ and oily skin, a girl who never felt at ease in her own freckly skin, but rather in the pages of the books that appropriately punctuated her life. The books she read were like personally written self-help books that fell into her lap at the right time. She jumped from the full stops of “Pookie”, the little white rabbit who was insecure about his flimsy fairy wings, by Ivy Wallace, to “The Famous Five” by Enid Blyton, opening up her world to adventure. Pre-teen years were laced with brace face-esque remarks and jabs at her Jewish faith. At this point, the Sweet Valley High series appeared and allowed her to put on her literary blinkers and to live vicariously through the ideal, desired teen year fluff.
I experienced most of my life through the words of others and translating them into Leah Land. I was not a loner; I had great friends (not imaginary), but I learnt more about life through reading than I did from the life experience. I often felt as if these books were sent to me by the authors, as if they knew there was an awkward little girl sitting in Pietermaritzburg who needed an alternative form of guidance.
The most pivotal moment was when I encountered a book called “The Brooklyn Follies” by Paul Auster. My grandfather introduced me to this book when I was thirteen. He explained that it was quite “mature” in comparison to the other books I read, a comment that I immediately took as a challenge. I treated this book as a way to prove myself, to prove that I was more mature than your average thirteen year old. The irony is that it was this book that turned me into that person. “The Brooklyn Follies” opened me up to a world that primary schools deemed inappropriate for young girls and boys to step into, a world that asked for ID at the entrance. This book on the other hand had an “enter at your own risk” policy; you take what is handed to you and you cope with it.
“The Brooklyn Follies” exposed me to aspects of life that were the forbidden fruit of conversation and pep-talks in primary school. Rape, drug abuse, sex, child abandonment, dysfunctional families and domestic violence were some of the issues I was exposed to, issues that I was ready for. But, it also showed me the beauty of chance connections and re-invention of one’s self. I wouldn’t say that it was what made me grow up, but it was that push over the edge that I needed.
“When a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, to live inside an imaginary world, the pains of this world disappear. For as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exists.” This is what my literary timeline did for me; it took away my pain and forced me to learn from it.