I can’t answer that question. I’m not sure anyone can answer that question. I can tell you the best units to use if you ever find your answer though: stories.

I bought two new-to-me books yesterday. Letting myself go into a bookshop is a dangerous experience, and unfortunately for my bank account I’d already half decided I was going to buy J.K. Rowling‘s The Casual Vacancy. I feel like I should read it, both out of loyalty to the Harry Potter franchise, but also out of a sense of responsibility as a student of English. I’ve read good reviews, and bad reviews, but I owe it to J.K and to myself to make up my own mind. That’s not what I want to talk about today though, – I’ll try to write something up about my thoughts on TCV when I’ve actually had time to open it, let alone read and digest it thoroughly – instead, I want to focus on the other book I bought: Stephen Chbosky‘s The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Just like most other students I have basically no money, and so like most other students I’m tempted by free stuff (paper, pens, pizza… all free things on offer at the Activities Fair last week). Last Thursday I bribedpersuaded my lovely friend, Sophie, to go to a free preview showing of The Perks of Being a Wallflower film adaptation. We went to the Exeter Picturehouse, which is a delightful little cinema with comfy seats and music and people I know. It was homely and I’ll definitely be going back there.

I had two reasons for wanting to watch the film: the first is that I saw the trailer when I went to watch Anna Karenina the week before and thought the story looked good; the second is that I was really curious to see how Emma Watson would deal with a new leading role. I have great respect for her, as an actress and as a role model for young people, and of course I follow the Harry Potter franchise like a crazy person. I saw Watson in Ballet Shoes (2007) and I thought she did a really good job, but I was still anxious about her breaking out of the role of Hermione Granger. I needn’t have been.

I enjoyed the film, actually a lot more than I expected I would. That’s not to say I expected anything bad, just that I didn’t expect the emotion it would stir in me. Watching the film gave me that extra push to go and buy the book. Up until now I didn’t really consider myself a film person. I enjoy film, but I had an unwavering loyalty to books. What’s really interesting to me is that when I bought this particular book, I actually got home and realised I’d bought the film cover version rather than the original cover. You’re thinking, so what?, but that’s a big thing for me because I’m the type of person who notices these things and actually cares. It’s made me realise that what matters to me most is not the integrity of the books, but of the stories.

Stories are wonderful; books and films offer us a heightened reality, an escape from the world. That’s something I’ve always felt for as long as I remember. It’s somewhat reassuring to have that one thing that hasn’t changed for me.

I picked up my copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower to check how close my favourite lines from the film were to the actual text of the book – even though I haven’t yet read it – and it struck me that the weight of the book in my hands is the weight of a story, the literal weight of experience. It can’t weigh more than 300g. I’m not quite sure why, but that’s a wonderful thing, don’t you think?