Ever since I read this quote from Storm of Swords, I've been wanting to share it. It is as much of a reminder to myself, as hopefully to others, too. Just blogging it didn't feel like doing it enough justice, and as "sorta" visual person, I tried some subtle typography to it.
Why is it so good quote, though? It might even seem little pretentious, coming from an aspiring character designer/illustrator/game artist person. What can reading books possibly offer in comparison to movies, TV, videogames and comics?
While animation and games can be resourceful, intelligent and inspiring, there is one huge difference to think about. No videogame or tv-series, ever, will allow you to peek into a single mind of another person in a way that a book can.
The visual world – advertisement, animation, TV, movies, even books, basically everything you can see with your own eyes – is everyday life to everyone. In my university application letter, I wrote, that I am interested and inspired by it, true enough. I've always trusted in my ability to pick visuals that interest me and discard those that don't. To reason, why I like or dislike something. Even without analyzing it though, we do this unconsciously all the time, whether we're surfing channels or trying to decide between products in grocery store. Visuals count, and the decisions are faster than batting an eye.
It wasn't until I got more active in Tumblr, that I stopped to think of the surrounding visuals differently. I found myself growing quite anxious about it. In places like Tumblr and social media you are flooded by visualized information, and your ability to pick your interests is your weapon of choice in zombie apocalypse.
Suddenly the visual world didn't seem quite so interesting and appealing. Like millions of ideas could, rather, I felt like drowning in it. Thinking it other way around, you could imagine being in a huge crowd, everyone and everything shouting in a different voice, you find yourself unable to focus on anything at all.
When you scrape away the visuals, the shouts, only idea remains. Idea in itself is quiet. It is abstract and unreachable to others without media, something to deliver it to be experienced in human senses. In visual world, letters are the closest to abstract that can be, since they convey the message in language understood by largest audience. From abstract to what we consider factual or realistic, they become more pictorial, photography being the most factual visual depiction. "Factual" is still far from realistic, as the image is always a mere illusion of reality. Image lies and deceives, just as it reveals one thing, it hides another.
Then we have a book. A book can be liar too, the idea in itself might be a lie, but at least it's not cloaked in fanciful dress and caked with make-up. A book is the beggar of the visual world, ignored by the masses.
Imagine, that you would get as close to another person as you could, to sympathize and learn from them. When you listen to another person, you are still distracted by their voice, their looks, even their smell. You are most distracted by their touch. Yet what they wanted to say is still there, underneath, even without the disturbance of the voice. The idea.
And here it is, in what a book succeeds where other visual representations don't.
“What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”