Illustration: Maya E Shakur for FREDERICK & SOPHIE
Location: Vienna, Austria
I confess. I am a book junkie without any form of shelf control. It has always been this way. I could read at an early age and many of my childhood memories contain flashes of me sitting on the couch/in a corner/on the playground/at the dinner table/in a plane with a stack of my latest library finds. I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.
Nowadays, I read in the subway, on my way to the subway, in restaurants, and in any other social situation. I can’t pass a bookstore or library without going in for
one minute five minutes tops half a day (I like long walks in the book aisle). And I am an expert in doing things (making coffee, crossing busy streets, putting on make-up) without glancing up. Occasionally, I find myself tapping the back of my wardrobe just in case Aslan needs me, and 9% of me still waits for a letter from Hogwarts. If there would be such a (wonderful, wonderful) thing like a 24 hour bookstore in my street, I’d be that customer at 2am who’d run in and say, “I finished the first book in the series. I need the next one stat.” My hands even contain a book line. When I still lived in Amsterdam, I visited a hand reader, and one of the first things she said was, “I see books. Lots of books.”
What’s the book junkie day-to-day life like? Well…Here goes:
1….I carry books with me wherever I go. This includes the bathroom. I read while getting dressed, while brushing my teeth, while blowdrying my hair. I also read during the 60 seconds of rest in between my strength exercises. As Stephen King once said, “What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”
2. I always bring at least 2 back-up books because I never know if I would like a plot change half-way to my destination. And what if there are delays or unforeseen events? Better back up that back-up.
3. When I describe my identity I use the word “reader.”
4. Whenever I finish a good story I feel like I just lost a close friend. It makes me sad (yup, there I go, crying on the subway again).
5. I get really offended when someone insults my favorite fictional character (because fictional characters are friends).
6. Relaxation is… turning people I know into characters and placing them in imaginary funny scenes.
7. I communicate in stories and dialogues (Markus: “How was your day?” Me: “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold.”)
8. I narrate my life (My thoughts at a party: “The only thing I learned that night was that I should have stayed at home”).
9. I write very long e-mails (I happen to pay attention to plot structure, so.. there’s that).
10. I created www.frederickandsophie.com which -in short- is a lot of stories wrapped in a store. All our wonderful toys play a part in the Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Frederick & Sophie (written by yours truly). If a product doesn’t fit into the story, it doesn’t get into the store.
11. One of the reasons that I’m happily married to Markus and a happy mom to Indy is that I can talk to them about our store’s characters all day long (“Frederick said something funny to me today…” “I think Sophie would like that…”). Markus and Indy still think I am sane. Ish.
12. The #BookLife is contagious. Markus and Indy have turned into book junkies themselves. So far, every single one of our moves contained approximately 20 boxes with clothing, shoes, and kitchen appliances, and 150 boxes with books.
This pretty much would be our dream home:
13. I often run late for doctor or dentist appointments because I accidentally read for 11 hours.
What turned me into a book junkie? My self-analyzing self would opt that as an adoptee (I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and adopted as a five week old baby. I was raised in The Netherlands while spending many summers with relatives in the United States), reality could feel a bit… complicated, and my natural state was solitude. I really enjoyed being alone. Away from the humdrum of the everyday, I could let my imagination run free. In my imaginary life, I’d wake up, walk into my own magical library-cafe (like a book nerd version of Starbucks), and watch my favorite characters jump out of their stories to hang out with me. I’d discuss my new reads with Roald Dahl’s Mathilda, I’d pet Mr. Nilson and talk far-away lands with Pippi Longstocking. I’d enjoy Cavity-Filling Caramels and Everlasting Gobstoppers with Willy Wonka (the cafe also sold Eatable Marshmallow Pillows and Hot Chocolate with Hot Ice Cubes), I’d ask Tinkerbell to sprinkle me with pixie dust so that I could fly to the top shelves of book cases as high as the tallest skyscrapers. And I would read until happily ever after. Or at least until I had to be back at 221b Baker Street. Dr. Watson was waiting for my input on the case of the golden pineapple.
Looking back, it was not only book characters that made life less blah and more binge-worthy. Movie and tv characters also played their part. In my teens I dressed like Dionne, hats, braids, et all (Clueless). As a 20 year old short-term Law student (I dropped out in month 8) I wanted to join a firm like Cage & Fish (Ally McBeal) or Crane, Pool & Schmidt (Boston Legal). In my thirties I wrote about my life as a fashion journalist in Berlin for ELLE Netherlands. I sat front-row and imagined Carrie Bradshaw waving to me from the other side of the catwalk. Over the years, Karen Walker and Jack McFarland became my #friendshipgoals. And I recognized myself in Ross Geller’s social awkwardness. Actually, I once did five different Which Friend Are You tests and all said, “Ross Geller.” Markus immediately said, “That’s correct.” The truth is that I do a mean Velociraptor sound.
As the cherry-character on top, Markus and I named Indy after Indiana Jones. Because life should be an adventure: walk that invisible bridge, bullwhip in hand.
Maybe the main reason for my bookworm being and story loving self is a deep rooted curiosity in people’s how’s, why’s, and whatnots. I am curious about how fictional characters handle what life throws at them. How do they overcome anxieties, deal with loss, heartache, rejection? How do they find out what they want only to learn what it is that they need? One could say that not all empowering, inspiring wisdom comes from ancient philosophers. A headmaster of a wizard school, a beast, or a French fashion designer, can lift you up with sage advice just as much. Sometimes coffee and an Adventure Time quote (“Sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.” – Jake the Dog) is all you need to get through the rest of the week. It’s good stories and the great characters in it, that give hope and remind me that things will be okay regardless.
The only downside? Like the average book junkie I haven’t slept since 1989. Got 99 problems and the 1001 stories I haven’t read or seen yet are one.