This week a post on Book Riot, titled How To Read a Book With a Flashlight, got me to thinking about this age-old practice and my place within it.
As a child, I don’t believe I was ever a flashlight-under-the-covers reader. I read nearly non-stop in my free time, but I don’t remember ever having to hide reading past bedtime. Back then I slept with my door open a crack to take advantage of the hallway nightlight so, in retrospect, it seems likely that I didn’t try to read late because I knew I couldn’t be covert about it, flashlight beneath the covers or no. I have many more memories of reading late into the night in my teen years, years when I had a convenient bedside lamp and no need for a nightlight.
These days my bedside table is lamp-less so I have finally resorted to a flashlight of sorts. It’s a diminutive LED one with four bendable legs whereby I can angle the light to the page and read whilst lying on my side. Not a perfect solution (the light emitted by the diode being too weak to illuminate a full page), I think the appeal of it may be in the sense of connection it creates with that flashlight-under-the-covers idea. Then again, at 30, I have no real reason to hide late night reading from anyone and my main motivations could probably be more accurately linked to not wanting to get out from under my cosy duvet to turn off the overhead light once I become too fatigue-addled to continue to the next page. But I want to believe in the more romanticized option. I want to think that the child reader is still alive within me. I want to look past the cover’s edge and through my window, full of purple night sky, and know that Peter Pan could alight on its frame.
Books are more powerful when we’re alone in the nighttime, when the threat of sleep and the surrounding dark help reality recede. Frights are more frightening, magic more magical and even the smallest light on the page can seem that much brighter.