Books. They’ve been around for everyone since about 1450 when Gutenberg invented the printing press. Almost overnight, instead of hearing the local vicar’s opinion of how the world worked, we all started finding out for ourselves. Forever after, the best mystery novels of all time were no longer about heaven and hell and how to pick the right box. The Age of Enlightenment had begun. And never stopped.
The Enlightenment reminds me of the Buddhist funeral ceremony where the bereaved pours water into a cup, letting it overflow until the jug is empty. While this happens, the monks chant about overflowing rivers being like cascades of good merit flooding into the deceased, preparing a soul for the next reincarnation. Except, in our modern inter-connected lives, the jug’s never empty. These days, often the world of the living starts cascading on us more like the Yangtse floods than a babbling brook, a bit too overwhelming to swim against.
For good or bad, the omnipresent social media platforms and the internet lure us into a state of constant connection. We’re encouraged to communicate and share more than is good for us. It’s like being able to look inside and see the visceral workings of others, their thoughts and feelings, and revealing our own to the world. Who of us ever asked for these intrusions? We can create a lot of noise when we share things, and worse, we hear the noise of faraway others from their anonymous pulpits and megaphones – those new Vicars of Disenlightenment. And the pursuit of peace and privacy is a battle fast being lost.
This is not a blog decrying the New Age and lamenting the rose-coloured past. If for no other reason, that bus left a long time ago and I expect like most of us, I love the good bits about what technology has brought us. It’s just the other things…
The world’s too big. There’s too much of everything. Too much information in smaller and smaller chunks, too many messages to answer. Our lives are about making choices, not trying to keep ourselves occupied or finding some space. We don’t do that any more.
This is what’s great about being a writer – and even more about being a reader. The world’s population is increasing and literacy is booming. This means more people are earning enough to buy books, and especially younger people. Reading habits form early which means we can be confident in the appetites of future generations of readers. Just think about The Flying Dutchman or Harry Potter if you need examples.
My take on all this? We’re coming full-circle. Especially in our pursuit of managing the complexities of our twenty-first century Enlightenment. Books take us away from the many-tentacled, amorphous connected world and back into the personal world we once loved. Do we still remember those times? Those havens where we can immerse our private thoughts somewhere personal again. Whether that be in one of the best mystery novels of all time, thriller mystery novels, or multicultural romance novels – where we imagine what such a relationship might feel like – doesn’t matter.
Don’t worry about the limitless streams of trivia out there because it means nothing nearly all the time. Just remember to make the world small enough for yourself to be comfortable in. When you feel overwhelmed, take a moment. Calm down, take a breath, and let your mind be quiet. Then go and buy a book. Mine preferably. Australian crime fiction books are popular these days as are those classic mystery novels. Call it escapism if you like, there’s a lot needs escaping from…
Yes, I agree with many people who believe the world is too big and noisy. So the good news is there’s plenty of room. However, it’s important for each of us to carve out our own space, even to discover our own desert island. Once we do, start sailing towards it with your favourite best Australian mystery novels of all time on board. Food for the soul is just as important as any other food.
For a start, check out my new novel,The Diary of Katy Yehonala, a great multicultural romance novel – plus an interesting life story. Katy’s a girl who follows her destiny, like we all can.
Robert Barclay is an Australian author of some of the best Australian crime fiction books. His new Australian multicultural novel follows the lives of Katy Yehonala and her daughter, Clara, his strong female protagonists as they confront the evils of the world.