The best moments in reading are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.
—Hector, a general studies teacher, in The History Boys
I went to see The History Boys at the Studio Theatre last night. Central to the play is the question of why we study literature. This is a cerebral question, but reading itself can be visceral. Through most of the play I was thinking, rather than feeling, but when Hector talked about the feeling that a hand has come out and taken yours, I felt a thrill, a physical reaction as if the author of the play, Alan Bennet, had reached his hand out and touched me.