Two things I’ll admit again, folks: I’m not a novel-gulper and I love hospital work. These 2 time-killer seems an ocean apart but they’re not. Novels brim with dramas. So are hospitals. The dramatic plots in novels are purely in the writer’s mind; the ones in hospitals are real. Although I like literature, I haven’t gotten yet into novel-reading as a hobby. For someone still trying to put up the roof and ceiling of the house, sinking my head between pages is almost a luxury. Dwelling on the fictional casts and getting into their assigned characters, pulsing with the tempo of an unfolding story, you see, reading a novel involves some emotional capital, the investment a sort of crossing reality’s boundary. To some degree, it is a flight of the self away from those real moments, summoned back at times by the smell of a burned rice or the clanking of falling dishes scurried by cats, or a mailed notice of a power disconnection. But then again, there’s something in reading that’s hypnotic to a hungry mind that DVDs can’t sate. It’s the awesome invitation to imagine, and imagination is often more powerful than lateral thinking. Hence, I read novels on occasions and not as a hobby.
I remember the first full-length novel I read back in high school was Margaret Craven’s I Heard the Owl Call My Name, about a missionary sent to a remote Native American community and how he was both transformed and mourned over. The novel was an exhilarating, if not mystifying experience for me. In between that first book romance and the now were the Gospel According to Peanuts and a few contemporary classics like Buck’s The Good Earth and some of F. Sionil Jose’s obra. For 30-something years of existence, they must be a little above a score in my definite guess.
But because I love hospital work and am missing it, I decided to buy for 20 pesos this two page-turning medical thrillers in one bound after my usual scour at Booksale. Tess Gerritser’s Harvest used to be a NY Times bestseller long time ago, 1996 to be exact. But had I read this before my residency back in 2003, I could not have imagined while reading, the chaos of a code nor feel how hair-raising hospital hallways are at midnight:
“Late at night, a hospital is a surreal place. Hallways stretch empty, the lights are too bright, and through tired eyes, all those white walls seem to curve and sway like moving tunnels.”
I had walked over those surreal corners as an on-call chaplain, at midnight and even after an intubated patient’s ultimate prayer. But who doesn’t get thrilled by the surreal at times and the flight of human imagination that goes with it? Novel-reading aids us in those flights. Blogging is another story. Let’s promote reading the good ones in this age of shorter and lazier attention.