Sunday March 17, 2013
Books vs virus
BOOK NOOK By ABBY WONG
When illness strikes, a real-life book nook cures all.
MY study has always been my sanctuary. It has a mahogany bookshelf, a green sofa bed so large that one can almost swim in it, an Ikea desk, and two antiquated stools I bought from a flea market.
On normal days, I love to slide myself down on the sofa bed and prop my feet on a stool.
Minutes later, you will find me snuggling in, totally embraced by the bed as I read.
In the past few days, however, the room has been a shambles. Books and documents scattered everywhere, and each time I go out of the room, I come back in with more papers and letters. And as I have been sick due to a stubborn viral infection, I can’t do much tidying. I can only lie on my sofa bed, as I am now, lying down and writing.
Strangely, it is at times like this, when I’m ill, that I become a more prolific reader. I finished a feminist fiction in two days, followed by a business book that deals with risk taking and the biological aspect of it. A Japanese short story collection was read like a picture book, and I found Kishore Muhbubani’s The Great Convergence highly addictive and entertaining even though it deals with great complexities of the world.
As I read, the birds were chirping outside in the garden, my head was pounding, my jaw hurt, and my limbs were weak, but I took in every word. In one secluded corner of my heart that the virus had missed, I giggled at the joy books bring.
Books continue to pour in; they are books of my children who want to be with their mummy. My son’s The Boy With The Striped Pyjamas, rests in one corner of the sofa bed to mark his territory. My daughter, always accommodating and giving, occupies the floor, her library books and her little drawings scattered at the foot of the sofa on a makeshift bedside table she has made for herself.
This book-loving household ... I simply love it!
My daughter reminds me of myself when I was 11 and I wanted so desperately a little desk on which to keep my books and stationery. I never had one until I spotted a little stool discarded by the roadside. I took it home, cleaned it, banged a nail into one of the legs so it wouldn’t wobble, and placed it by my bed. On it I put my books. It was a makeshift desk, battered and stained, but I loved it, for it held the weight of my fervour for reading. It was the home of my friends: my books.
Indeed so. Because I looked poor and nerdy, I did not have many friends. So in my hand I always had a book, though in my pocket I rarely had coins. The canteen in my secondary school offered scrumptious food but it was the air-conditioned library that I frequented most.
Like a larger version of my study Down Under today, that library had endless rows of mahogany bookshelves and comfortable lounges so large for our size then that I had difficulty getting back up from them every time.
In there, the boy on whom I had a crush was always reading the stock market pages, scrutinising closing prices of public listed companies as if he had a stake in some of them, while I was struggling to read Enid Blyton. He has gone on to become a medical doctor and I remain, still, a reader.
The kookaburras are squawking this evening here in Sydney, broadcasting news of impending rain. The air is moist and the house is quiet with the kids out with their dad on the only night of the week when shops stay open until 9pm. Australians love and enjoy life. Having lived here for five years now, we too have learned to strike a good balance between wealth and health. So my husband recently bought a kayak, and he is now out buying my kids life vests so they can go on a fishing trip together this Sunday.
“Oh, can I bring my books along, Dad?” my son asked, anticipating a positive reply.
“Don’t be a nerd, Jonn. When you are doing outdoor sports, enjoy nature. Books stay at home where they belong,” my husband said, guffawing as he remembered the time when Jonn was caught reading a book at a sports carnival while his team mates were doing the long jump.
On that day of sweltering heat, the cover of the book he was reading shimmered, and so did the sweat on his forehead. I found that endearing.
It is about time I clean up the study, lest the books pile up and documents become misplaced. Never before has any corner of my house been so untidy.
“But this is what we call living, mum. Sprucing up is showing off,” my son sang to a Les Misérables tune.
“Where did you learn that?”
“From a movie. Still, I’ll clean this place up, as it is your lair,” he continued, helping me to put away my daughter’s drawings.
Yes. My study is my book nook.
■ A cup of tea, a good book (or two, or more), and a comfortable study are proving good remedies for Abby Wong’s nasty viral infection.