Some people drink shitloads of juice to detox. Joe McKenzie and Zara Selman dared each other to read a 1000 page book instead.
Losing an election when you are emotionally invested in the outcome sucks, especially if you’ve given your time and psychological wellbeing to the cause. That was the Federal election for me: I was so into it that it actually took me a week to realise that we had lost (1). Because I live, breathe and write about politics, I spend a good proportion of my day reading about everything that is going on. This is great because I am hugely passionate about it, but by the end of the election this habit had turned into full-blown addiction. I needed some spaceto regroup.
At the same time that Joe was lamenting the culmination of the election, I too was feeling despondent about the end of something (2). Simply put, we were both staring down the barrel of a destabilising period of uncertainty, having lost something that had been a constant for the
past three years of our lives.Just as Joe had come to rely on his steady diet of election content, I had come to rely on my relationship (3). Needless to say, we were both feeling a bit lost. I could barely muster the strength to put my Ben and Jerry’s in a bowl.
I just wanted to be absorbed by something other than the immediate news cycle: to gain some perspective, to not be consumed by another fifteen op-eds about how the Abbott daughters arethe anima of the modern Liberal party (4).A good friend of mine read War and Peace the year after he finished high school. It took him months but afterwards he said he could understand everything about the world for about two
minutes before he forgot and went on with his life. The idea that a huge book could trigger hat nirvana-like understanding of humanity was pretty appealing.
Joe, being the swell guy that he is, told me the story about his friend and suggested that we try and read David Foster Wallace’s epic Infinite Jest in tandem. Kind of like literary rehab to help us through this trying time. I figured that, at the very least, it would be a good distraction.
The thing about Infinite Jest is that it is an immensely complex novel, and because of its exasperating difficulty you can’t read it on a crowded train, while listening to music or in the bath (5). Concentrating on the brain-melting prose made thoughts of my failed relationship
dissipate. I found myself reaching for it any time I felt particularly horrible, and so I carried the 1kg book in my bag like a talisman. It was my safe space (6).
I like the privacy of books, they don’t dictate to you how to feel or think and so when you read them you imagine their worlds differently to anyone else. You can find solace in them as they give you the time and mental energy to start feeling in control of your thoughts, and
ultimately, your life (7).
Now I’m not saying that this tome was solely responsible for my tentative steps towards recovery (8), but it certainly helped. I agree wholeheartedly with Joe – books absolutely have restorative properties. Whether it’s because of the opportunities they afford us to indulge in
some healthy escapism, or because reading is a deeply personal activity, literature can be a shoulder to lean on in your time of need (9).
2. I got my heart broken, nay, smashed into a bloody pulp.
3. This was severely out of character for me. I am by no means a poster girl for
4. Which they totally are.
5. This is mostly because it is really, really heavy.. My Ennet Drug and Alcohol Recovery House.
7. I may be infringing Nike’s copyright here.
8. Family, friends and copious amounts of red wine definitely made an important
9. As David Foster Wallace once said, “fiction is about what it is to be a fucking human
being,” that can help readers “become less alone inside”.