my love of literature during lockdown

Tony mortimer

4 min read

I want to use my newfound love of literature during lockdown to inspire young boys to read.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented action, at least that’s what they say. There I was, like the rest of us, thrown in the middle of a pandemic. So what to do? I know, I’m going to read a novel and force myself to finish it, I thought.

What’s the problem you might ask? Well, I had never read a novel before I can remember, which may sound absurd.

In fact, I never thought it was weird until I told people about it and found out that I was pretty lonely in this little feat. I mean, I read books, yeah, a lot of them, but a real novel? Surely not. I couldn’t think of anything more boring.

Often I saw people on vacation – do you remember that? Their heads got stuck in a thick novel, wasting their time. Go into the sea, I think, watching a drive that for me lacked relaxation.

How tiring it must be to be read, rather than enjoying life, not realizing that they were probably so wrapped up in their book that they were themselves escaping to another world and enjoy it every minute. A world where they could become so attached to a character or a setting that they could aspire to the moment they could find themselves. Overwhelmed, not by the desire to dive into a shared sea or pool, but back in a world exactly where they left off. Taken aboard a literary locomotive to a faraway land, perhaps more exotic than the one they found themselves in.

And then I picked up my first novel: Secrets of the Greek Revival, a ghostly and mysterious reading. I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I finished it and was totally hooked from that point on.

These worlds between the ink-laden lines came as a huge relief

In the past, I was oblivious to what I was missing and always preferred the cinema. The good thing about a novel versus a movie is that a novel gives you most of the picture but not all of it, leaving you to invent the rest with your own imagination.

The downside is that the vast array of worlds are way more than we could ever hope to visit, more characters and storylines than we could ever discover. Not in a single lifetime.

Novels have helped me immensely during this pandemic, providing escape and a host of other mental benefits such as relaxation. All at a time when travel and socializing have never been so limited. Agatha Christie’s And then there was none; Flower girls by Alice Clark Platts; The best werewolf short stories 1800-1849 by Andrew Barger; The fear bubble by Ant Middleton. Oscar Wilde Complete short stories; JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; Lady waiting by Anne Glenconner; Stephen king’s On writing.

These worlds between the ink-laden lines were a huge relief. In fact, I fell in love with novels so much that I finished my first draft of my own book. It was inspired both by my grandson and by an article I read that talked about how many boys are seen in bookstores, but sadly many are leaving empty-handed. It seems they just can’t find something to suit them. Perhaps there is a shortage of books for young male readers? So I hope to write one they like. Something exciting, adventurous. Something that can take them away from their world, if only for a short time.

So if life is chaotic or stressful, you could do a lot worse than immerse yourself in a distant sci-fi galaxy or a country village mystery. There is something for every taste; I only wish I had found out long before I did.

As it came out of the chaos that was and still is this pandemic, perhaps it is appropriate to sign with these words from Sun Tzu: “In the midst of chaos comes an opportunity.”

Tony Mortimer is a former member of the boy band East 17 and award-winning songwriter Ivor Novello.

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