Do We Bond Over Books the Way We Do During Travel?
Travel Blog • Jim Benning • 06.05.12 | 9:44 AM ET
Bryan Basamanowicz observes that people bond over mutually beloved books much the way they bond with fellow travelers in a far-flung place.
If we try to extend this “traveler’s comparison” to other narrative mediums—television programs, movies, plays—it can often lose some of its steam. Why is this? Relative limitlessness in physical and emotional sensory potential is the privilege and burden of the reader. The book, more so than any other form of narrative media, rings true, more synonymous, with the limitlessness and loneliness to be found while facing the open road or holding a one-way airline ticket to Azerbaijan. In my hypotheses, it is the loneliness quality in particular, physically and intellectually inherent to the act of reading, that lays the bedrock for the powerful social bonding achieved through literature. The limitlessness is critical too, as it promises a bounty of fertile avenues for conversation, but it’s the loneliness of the reader—or, as Rainer Maria Rilke might say, it’s how “two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other”—that assigns to a very special category those friendships formed over books.
I’ve had much the same experience. Though I’ll never forget meeting a young Canadian traveler in a lonely village in western China. When she learned I liked the band Rush, she literally jumped up and down with joy and ran over to give me a hug. You never know what, exactly, will float another’s boat.