Hello and welcome! It’s time for me to discuss another absolutely random bookish topic. As usual, I’m linking this to the awesome Discussion Challenge, where you can find more people talking about books.
Today, I want to talk to you about watching people. Or people watching. In any case, I want to make an argument that we, as readers, are essentially chronic people watchers and that I am quite happy to be one. (I also wanted to use the word “voyeur” here but luckily checked the dictionary beforehand – and found out its meaning is much narrower than I previously thought. *oops* I really hope I’ve never used in any “general” sense before.)
Anyway. I was sitting on the bus the other day, listening to music, as one does when trying to protect oneself from inane conversations of fellow passengers and the bus drivers’ horrible choice in music when I found myself staring at a car that stopped beside us at the traffic lights. There was a man dressed in a fancy business suit sitting behind the wheel – it was a fairly new Volvo with cream leather seats – and I couldn’t see his head. But on the back seat, there was a kid of about six years and he was laughing at something, they were holding hands across the seats and having such a cool moment I couldn’t help but smile.
And then I thought: they have no idea that I’m watching them, that their private moment of laughter and fun is being witnessed by a perfect stranger. (Seriously, people, don’t do anything in cars that you wouldn’t do out in the open. People are probably watching you, as weird as that sounds.)
Now that I’ve creeped you out with my confession of enjoying other people’s private moments, you’re probably wondering how this relates to books.
I would argue that we, as readers, do this kind of people watching every time we pick up a book. When we allow the author to tell us all about the characters’ lives, we engage in exactly this sort of behaviour. The poor characters don’t even know we’re watching and here we are, witnessing their worst and best moments.
And you know you want to watch their most private moments. You want to know what they think, how they react, how they live. If the author doesn’t provide us with these glimpses of the characters’ inner workings, it’s virtually impossible to make an emotional connection and therefore care about them – or the book in general.
So I would say that we are well used to poking our noses into other people’s private lives, even though they’re mostly fictional. Whether or not you’re also fond of doing this in real life is another question – and probably depends on your habits and personality.
I like to imagine stories for people I see in my daily life: the dad probably just picked up his kid from school and they were going home to meet the mom and then leave for a weekend getaway of mountain hiking. Or the kid was picked up from school by his cool uncle because his parents were busy and they were going to play video games for the whole evening and eat their weight in popcorn and candy. Or the kid had just won a science award at school and was telling his dad how his experiment had wowed all the girls in his class.
In any case, I love stories about people. And this is what makes reading so magical to me, this chance to witness their experience, their joy and grief and everything in between.
Do you like to watch people (fictional or otherwise)?
Does reading seem a bit dirty all of a sudden? :)
I’d love to hear from you!