It’s a holiday weekend here. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and we’re in limbo, waiting for the corona-crisis to be resolved or at least assimilated into our post-pandemic daily lives. Wherever you are, I hope you’re safe and well.
Usually around now people in the UK get the first inkling that summer is around the corner. That promises vacation, relaxation, maybe a change of scenery, perhaps a beach read or two. Except this year relaxation is not an option, and the scenery is depressingly familiar. Mr. W and I had tickets to visit San Francisco at the end of July for RWA Nationals. We expected to meet up with California-based friends and to enjoy a civilized meander down the coast with Kay. Clearly none of that will happen. We’ll be lucky if we’re allowed to hop on a train and visit friends and family outside London.
Many of my friends have reported increased cabin fever lately, and I wonder if at least some of it is down to the loss of that holiday promise, the anticipation of a treat or just the idea, the possibility of something new. Chez Jilly we’d have shared days and weeks’ worth of fun planning our road trip, investigating possibilities online, talking to Kay about places to stay, discussing landmarks to visit, imagining food and wine we might sample. Planning a vacay is like a free holiday-before-the-holiday, with only the good bits—no budget constraints, no sunburn, and no jet lag. I think being robbed of that fantasy is almost as bad as missing out on the trip itself.
I’ve had a touch of the blahs too, so I was super-pleased to see Michaeline’s post about The Physicians of Vilnoc, a new Penric novella from Lois McMaster Bujold. I downloaded it yesterday morning and read it immediately, Kindle in one hand, the other hovering between a mug of freshly ground coffee and a home-baked chocolate cupcake (then more coffee and another cupcake). The next thing I knew, it was lunchtime and I was feeling greatly refreshed.
My decadent morning reminded me of a psychological phenomenon I’ve blogged about here before: narrative transportation. Seemingly readers who become deeply engrossed in a story actually enter that fictional world and become detached from reality in a physiological sense. This out-of-body experience requires active participation by the reader, who interprets the story via two key components: empathy and mental imagery. Empathy is necessary because the reader actively tries to understand a character’s experience – to know and feel the character’s life, causing them to become detached from their own reality. Mental imagery is vital because the reader’s imagination creates vivid pictures of the story world, making them feel they are actually experiencing the events.
I’m no psychologist—if you want to know more about the science behind transportation theory, there are a ton of resources online—but I can report anecdotally that it works for me. A morning spent in the fictional world of Vilnoc was as restorative as a half-day excursion to the beach.
Which made me realize I haven’t been making enough time for reading lately. I’ve been more inclined to tackle real-world stuff, probably trying to assert a modicum of control in an uncontrollable situation.
Not any more. I’ve decided that from now until the end of this corona-crisis, the hours between dinner and bedtime are for reading. My body may be stuck at home, but I’ll be outside the lockdown, in a world far, far, away.
I feel better just thinking about it. In fact, I have the kind of fizzy, excited feeling I get when I’m about to plan a vacay and the world is my oyster.
How about you? Have you been transported anywhere amazing lately? Are you planning any virtual trips?