When I finish a great book it takes me days, sometimes weeks, to embark on the journey of reading another.
I go through stages of minor grief, withdrawal, frustration, longing and nostalgia… and somehow, finally, I am ready to start again. When I read the first words of a new book they often strike me as extremely awkward, foreign, and of a world I have no desire to move into. I miss the old words, the characters, the mood, certain phrases and syntax and images that echoed in the pages and in my mind for the days or weeks I spent with the book.
Sometimes I feel like I am cheating. Betraying the one I loved so much, the one I said was “my favorite,” the “best ever.” But then, the end of that story has come and gone for me. I go back to it in my mind and visit the characters and imagine where they might be later on, but the words are finite. And for me, the days without a really great book in my life are less full. Less bright and resonant and meaningful.
And so I must move on. Begin again. Set out and quiet my comparisons and missing and longing and move forward with characters who still have a future ahead of them.
It reminds me of relationships. The steps of one ending, sometimes in a manner that feels as unresolved or incidental as a really great book, and the stages of transition, and the wash of feelings and missteps you might take in trying to move forward. I try to remember that the great books will always be there, to re-visit not only those characters, but the way I felt when I was with them. On a journey that felt infinite and forever.
The last book was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Before that, the semi-connected The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Now: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.
Two passages I read this morning and want to share:
“You forget some things, don’t you?”
“Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”
“The last instance of a thing takes the class with it. Turns out the light and is gone. But the boy knew what he knew. That ever is no time at all.”