By Gemma B
Earlier in the pandemic I was acutely aware that the old saying “too much of a good thing” is true and tried to vary how I spent my time, but being locked down there was only so much we were capable of doing. In reality what I was alternating between – when I wasn’t trying to maintain relationships via video chat – were essentially the same thing through different mediums. Binging a boxset via a streaming service or sitting down with an interesting book boils down to the same thing in essence: A good story. They’re just told differently.
It was upon realising this that I started feeling a new level of empathy for neurodiverse people who find reading particularly difficult. It wasn’t simply that some people struggle to get lost in words and the worlds authors create by using them to such great effect, but the fact that those who find that difficult had even fewer ways to escape the stresses and challenges of the pandemic, some of which will have been exacerbated by neurodiversity itself. While I know audio books do a fantastic job of bridging that gap, that may have been of little comfort to those who couldn’t access libraries during lockdown. Without them being open, access to audio books would have been dependent on having the technological and financial means to procure and use them. How then do you submerge yourself in another world and forget our own for a while? A boxset binge, which I suspect will have become the primary form of escapism for many dyslexics, and why not? There are many similarities. Characters, setting and plot all feature, while episodes could be chapters. Films could even be seen as short stories by comparison. While I am usually the first to complain about the fact that the book is almost always better than the film or TV adaptation, that’s not the point. It’s taken me until recently to realise just how valuable escapism is and appreciate just how frustrating I think it would be to have only one way in which to do that.
While neither format is perfect, I definitely have a new appreciation for the boxset binge. Sometimes you need someone else to physically tell the story to you – which I know is also the beauty of audio books along with hearing the story as the author intended, but sometimes you might not even have the energy to visualise and comprehend the world that is being presented beyond what is being put in front of you. Plus, it’s perfectly okay – whether you have dyslexia or not – to not want to put the work in that reading requires when you just want to relax. It is also perfectly possible to spot new things or interpret something in a new way if an idea is presented differently. Perhaps especially if adaptations remain faithful to the book, value can be gained not just in terms of increased accessibility but also in allowing more people to appreciate stories for what they so often chiefly are: a vehicle for escapism. Given the world we currently live in we’ve never needed those more, irrespective of the form they take.