Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out that other side and met people there. Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone.

Yet who reads to bring about an end, however desirable? Are there not some pursuits that we practice because they are good in themselves, and some pleasures that are final? And is not this among them? I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards - their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble - the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.”

– Virginia Woolf, How Should One Read a Book?

tarts:

I wish I’d read Norwegian Wood a year ago when I needed it most, rather than at the tail end of a deeply frustrating period of personal growth.

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. That’s the world of hicks and slobs. Real people would be ashamed of themselves doing that.

The years nineteen and twenty are a crucial stage in the maturation of character, and if you allow yourself to become warped when you’re that age, it will cause you pain when you’re older.

‘You know what girls are like,’ he said. ‘They turn twenty or twenty-one and all of a sudden they start having these concrete ideas. They get super realistic. And when that happens, everything that seemed so sweet and lovable about them begins to look ordinary and depressing.’

Sure they sound trite when taken out of context, but it would have been good to have something to cling to when stewing in the emotional pits of late adolescence. The last quote is particularly apt, especially if you add to the realistic line ‘also bad-tempered and deeply anti-social’. This isn’t to say, as my 21st birthday creeps over the horizon, that I’ve totally pulled myself together and things will be super dandy from now onwards (oh it’s not) but at least I’m not so foggy-headed about Life and Everything In It. etc.