Friday, January 11, 2008

Prose not Prozac: Book therapy

I was reading recently about the new trend of forming book clubs or reading clubs among those suffering from a variety of mental problems ( see The reading cure, Blake Morrison). The author cites examples of great progress: "the neurological patient who sat in a group saying nothing for months, then after a reading of George Herbert's poem "The Flower" ("Who would have thought my shrivelled heart/Could have recovered greenness?") launched into a 10-minute monologue at the end of which he announced "I feel great"; the brain-damaged young man whose vocabulary significantly increased after he joined a book group; the husband caring for his disabled wife whose exposure to poetry has proved not just a respite but a liberation."
The power of literature resides not only in bringing people together, making them have a meaningful communication, but also in showing them the big picture, the fact that their suffering is only a small part of the larger story. If we read the best books, we have the chance of being on the way to our best selves, the argument goes.
To some extent I am bothered by this utilitarian approach to reading: in my view, one should not read because in this way one will get over a depression, a disease or a lost lover, but because books and the stories thy told have an intrinsic value. Books are not only for the sick; I'd rather say they are mostly for the healthy, full-bodied and full-minded citizen!
Reading (or writing) is no guarantee for staying (or getting) sane (so many examples go to prove this) but without books the entire world would become a place of madness, of chaos, of void. Sometimes they literally bring rationality to the univers, and sometimes, on the contrary, books mess up our picture of the world (on purpose, like Lucian Blaga said: "Eu nu strivesc corola de minuni a lumii/si nu ucid/ cu mintea tainele, ce le'ntâlnesc,/în calea mea/în flori, în ochi, pe buze ori morminte. ... eu cu lumina mea sporesc a lumii tainã). But I love them either way. Sometimes I am afraid, like Hrabal's hero in Too Loud a Solitude, that I will be buried under a mass of paper, so many books I dream of having, and of having read.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Christmas and New year's 2007-2008

I also wonder where the focus is in this picture. My dad's creative foto-taking activities stand proof in any case that wearing a beret is genetically transmitted.

New year's eve - so glad to have them here with me!

The three in Lund. And if it looks as if we are cold - it is true! It's freezing out there!Santa came and was very generous. Is that supposed to mean that we've been good children?

The lovely streets of Göteborg, with their wondrous slope.

A small shop, which reminded me of Karin. The Little Sister.

Weird graffitti, not sure what it means. The dangers or pleasures of drinking?Another trio, in Göteborg.