Information, ideas and feelings. We reckon that these are vital to our lives. Let’s take them one by one.
We spend hours and hours every day seeking out and using information. Just think about it: where to wait for a bus, what’s on the menu, what’s the price of milk, what’s the weather going to be like later, what are the football scores? We are sent complicated forms that ask for information about ourselves, we have to fill in forms to get what we want and need. We listen to the news and try to figure out if people are telling the truth about ‘debt’ or ‘Europe’.
Then again, at some point in every day, we move from this area of information into ideas: ideas about right and wrong, ideas about how to best organise the facilities we use in our neighbourhood, in our place of work; we might well stop to think about ideas about whether religion can or can not help us figure out how to behave well, how to see into this world a new-born baby or see out of this world someone who’s died. A politician might use an idea to throw at us: ‘a more caring Britain’, ‘for the many, not the few’.
And then again, we think about feelings all the time. We are bundles of feelings: anxiety, fondness, irritation, envy, jealousy, love, hate, sadness, nostalgia, fear. Hardly a minute goes by without us sensing that another feeling hasn’t just cropped up. Or, we might be listening to a song, or watching a TV programme and we feel emotions welling up around a tune, a face, some words, the way two people behave in a film or a soap.
It’s quite possible to cope with all this without going to books. We can do it by relying on TV, films, songs and chat. Put books into the picture, and a few other things happen. If it’s a story - that is a picture book for small children, or a novel for older children, young adults and adults in general - then we engage slowly in the unfolding of scenes. These scenes pack in an enormous amount: people (or creatures) interacting, behaving well or badly to each other; people thinking and feeling certain things that may or may not be the same as the way they behave; the story-telling of the book giving us ideas about the characters and setting of where everything’s going on. Information, ideas and feelings! Now if we talk about what we read with others, this world of information, ideas and feelings, takes on another dimension: we compare the lives we’ve been shown in the story with our own lives.
This business of comparing our lives with the lives and events in stories is part of what helps us to cope with the world. Even reading just one story starts to nibble away at the idea that the only thing going on in the world is ‘me’. We start to see ourselves not simply as me and my tribe (whatever that is) but part of society and part of history.
I think that books can do this in many different ways: not just novels, but non-fiction books too, biographies, autobiographies, poetry - all sorts. They are a vast hoard of information, ideas and feelings waiting for us to enjoy, use and benefit from.
And this is what Borderline Books is all about - making sure that everyone has access to books, no matter if they have nothing left in the budget, are currently without a permanent address, serving time in prison or living in a hostel with women and children fleeing domestic abuse, fleeing war in their own country, staying in a hostel for teenagers..... or even sitting in a custody suite for a few hours. Books can not only break the isolation and make people aware of being part of something bigger, they can also offer - for a short time, at least - a free ticket to anywhere your imagination wishes to take you.