There are a significant number of people in my life that never read books, I’ve often heard them say: why would I read the book when I could watch the movie? I won’t lie, I want to bitch slap them … but I don’t because it’s not the best way to make someone see the value in something.
I love watching movies and there is certainly a place for them, they too are a valuable art form, but I think the pleasure of reading is getting left behind in our rapidly changing world and there are far too many mind-numbing ways for people to entertain themselves.
The thing about reading is that it helps your mind to grow, it actually has to create its own images to go with the words but the great thing about it is that you don’t even notice it happening. It engages your imagination, someone else has given you the story line but you’ve made the movie yourself. The characters will look exactly right; the way they talk, move and behave will be according to your specifications. As the scenes are running into one and other you’re trying to guess what will happen next, imagining what’s happening in the lives of the characters not involved in that chapter and relating their experiences to your own. While you are completely distracted by all these things you are learning about language and that gives you the tools to communicate with other people and express both feelings and ideas. The importance of language is a whole other subject— we wouldn’t be where we are today without the use of words and if it’s that important to our history and our future we need to ensure its survival.
That’s why I love this art project by Luzinterruptus—a Spanish design group—called Literature vs Traffic. They are known for illuminated installations in public places such as New York, Madrid, Berlin and now Melbourne, Australia. The idea behind the concept: “We want literature to seize the streets and become the conqueror of public spaces, freely offering to those who walk by a space free of traffic which for a few hours of the night will succumb to the modest power of the written word.”
Federation Square has been paved with glowing books, a space that is usually crowded with pollution and noise has been converted into a place of peacefulness and relaxation. The books were donated by the Salvation Army, all of them previously owned and loved, people are encouraged to walk around the display, read the books, take them home or even write in them. It’s a celebration of books and hopefully a reminder that words are what connect us to the world around us—all you have to do is read.