In Catania an ER
that prescribes books
instead of drugs
The method for healing the soul by reading, born in the USA during the 1930s, arrives in Sicily thanks to the flight attendant, linguist and writer Cono Cinquemani.
From identifying the most suitable emergency code, passing by the prescription of Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf’s novels, a triage to find the right connection between soul and mind. Here, medicines and pills smell like books. These are the “entrance doors” of Book Emergency Room, a project conceived and realized by the 38 years old Cono Cinquemani (flight attendant, linguist and writer) who, about a year ago, decided to “change course” and spread a new way to conceive books and literature in Catania too. How? By creating an innovative cultural device, which uses the principles of book therapy.
«The idea come from The Novel Cure ‒ explained Cinquemani ‒ a book written by the English authors Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, adapted to Italy by Fabio Stassi, which provides prescriptions based on books against many diseases by applying a practice known as “book therapy”». It is an innovative method, which became popular during the 1930s first in USA and then in Europe, by which reading a work and sharing it with a specialized therapist, called “book therapist”, carries the patient into another dimension, where he can begin a process of self-discovery through the analysis of the book’s plot and charcters.
A PLAYFUL APPROACH TO WELLNESS. «Book Emergency Room ‒ said Cinquemani ‒ uses a playful approach, even if its purpose is the patient’s well-being. During the therapy sessions, we dress-up as doctors with white coats and stethoscopes, establishing a light-hearted atmosphere without losing the focus on our mission». The goal is to show that books can give a deep pleasure and let reader to reunite with himself. «A book is a mirror ‒ said the project designer ‒ which lets us confront our fears, anguishes and worries. It helps us to think and meditate, while giving us the freedom to decide the time and intensity of our thoughts. During the digital era, in which everybody needs acceptance through likes, a book is the only mean that doesn’t make us feel so lonely. It reminds us of who we are and what we can do».
From Buenos Aires to Tokyo, by way of San Paolo and Catania, the Book Emergency Room staff, which consists of the psychotherapists Alessia Sciuto and Alessandra Leucata, the editorial consultants Agata Squillaci and Diana Anastasi and the publicist and social media manager Sara Adorno, has set up many help centers in numerous cities around the world. «During the examinations ‒ said Cinquemani ‒ our patients receive some test tubes containing quotes from books. For example, the shipwreck in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe lets us to explore pessimism and how we can live differently. Despite tragic adventures, the main character goes beyond hard times by staying positive. That is, looking at the glass as half full».
BOOK-BASED RECIPES. Our treatments are not comprised just of group therapy; our patients also receive consultations with a book therapist too. «We use proper recipes in our therapies, like those prescribed by your doctor. We identify the emergency code, diagnose the disease and choose the most suitable book for the cure, but without a real psychotherapeutical analysis. It’s like choosing and giving a novel to a friend trying to help him», told Cinquemani.
«Of course, we can’t promise the recovery from severe conditions. However, many people approached psychoanalysis after our sessions, which helped them appreciate the importance of seeking medical attention. Books can help you to process and understand your needs, and this is why they can save your life».
NEW CHALLENGES. Cono Cinquemani has a clear vision of what are the issues his emergency room will have to tackle in the near future: «We want to talk about bullying, cyber bullying and anorexia in schools. All of which deeply affect mainly kids in school and that we can reach more easily with our soft approach based on books». That is not all, Book Emergency Room alsoplans invade the streets with real ambulances to create a sort of field hospital. Expanding the book ER network is necessary too: «We would like to collaborate with other booksellers and editors ‒ concluded Cinquemani. ‒ Everybody will have to wear a white coat, write prescriptions and take care of the soul through books».
Translated by Daniela Marsala