There are times when I want to temporarily retreat from the world and escape its worries and absurdities. In moments like these, I find refuge in reading books.
It has been a habit of mine to pick up a book, preferably a novel, and read whenever I want to take my mind off things or change my mood.
It happens every time and almost without fail. Once I get engrossed with what I am reading, I would forget whatever sad story I heard, irritating news I read, stressful task I had to do, annoying encounter I had, or disappointing event I experienced.
Truly, I believe in what Emily Dickinson says in one of her poems: “There is no Frigate like a Book/ to Take us Lands away/ Nor any Coursers like a Page/ Of prancing Poetry”.
Others may escape by entering the online world, traveling to another place, or finding comfort in the privacy of their rooms. Each person has a way of coping that suits their personality and preferences. But, for me, my sanctuary is in the realm of the imagination, in the world of narratives and fiction. This realm excites me, compels me to think, and makes me more capable of dealing with or appreciating the world that I am actually in.
Thus, literature will always be an important part of my life – personally and professionally.
Sometimes the years of studying, teaching and critiquing literature makes me want to reach out for other things to do for leisure and relaxation. Sometimes my eyes would also feel tired from all the checking of papers and reading of articles and books that I choose to just relax my eyes on weekends.
Even then, I still look for literature and talk about literature. Funnily enough, here in Vienna, the biggest bookstore I have visited competes with the famous landmarks and sights as the most interesting place for me to visit.
When I saw the two-floor Thalia.at in Wien Mitte, my eyes immediately popped out of joy. A big section in the first floor for literature (unfortunately all in German) and shelves devoted for other interesting topics like language, philosophy, religion, sociology, and psychology. In the second floor, there are CDs on different genres of music (classical music, film music, jazz… name it!) and there are even long-playing records being sold. There are art books as well as movies… lots and lots of movies. There is also a section for books in English in the upper floor and some of the selections are works of literature. But the best thing about this bookstore is… the English versions of the classics are on sale. Yes, the classics, all in good condition, are sold at discounted prices.
No, I did not buy a book, but knowing that these things that bring me comfort are available somewhere in this city is enough to warm my heart.
When I entered this bookstore, my intention was to avoid the cold outside. Well, I guess I got what I asked for – in more ways than one.