Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bittersweet Book Ends

I finished reading The Handmaid's Tale. It took a few days for me to finish it. The last time I read a book that wasn't a nonfiction instruction manual on how to be pregnant/give birth/raise a child was Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner. It was alright. A friend recommended it. I was probably seven or eight months pregnant. The baby's almost four months, so...*computing math*...I haven't read a book in six months before this. That's a pretty long time. Especially for someone like me. I guess I'd forgotten about the horrible feeling of emptiness that accompanies the end of a good book.

When I ravage my way though a book in a few days, reading it at every spare moment, I get so used to needing to know the rest of the story that when it's actually over, I'm sad there's no more. I read as fast as I can, turning page after page, especially at the beginning, wanting to tear my way into the story and figure out what's going on. Then there's that point where I notice I've read more than I haven't. And the part of the book I haven't read turns into a little sliver, and I can count the pages until it's over, and I panic, and shut the book, and say, no, I'll save it for this afternoon, I'll do something else now...but its siren song calls me back to it and I read until it's over. Then...it's just over. There is no emptier feeling than the closing of a book for the last time. Sure, I'll read it again, but even if I forget most of the story, I've already read it. I've taken the story in like I've scarfed a piece of cake and the need to know what happens in the end, that itch that needs scratching feeling, is over for this book.

There's no more story. The characters are doing whatever they're doing, but I don't get to know about it. It's like I've lost a friend or been dumped. I leave the book out for a few days, getting used to the idea that I've finished it. I look at it longingly at first, wondering, why wasn't it longer? But knowing that, even if it was, I still would have finished it eventually. The longing turns to acceptance, I feel affection for this friend who has kept my mind company for the duration of our relationship, and I slowly push the book back onto the shelf, or give it to someone else to experience the newness and wonder of a good story.

I'll start my next book tonight.

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