This state of mind makes me think there must be something to the idea that there are imperceptible veils between worlds that prevent certain kinds of Creatures, Spirits, and Sundry from completely inhabiting one universe or another – veils that leave you drifting, not unpleasantly, just above the surface of your proper world, before allowing you to emerge completely from the novel you have just put down.
Good writing does that, good books – no, good stories – in particular. The words sweep you off your conscious feet, twitch aside the veils, and deposit you firmly In The Story. There’s a reason some fanfictions are labeled AU for Alternate Universe (I’m a child of the Internet/Tumblr. Sorry.) – wherever your physical body may be, your essence, if the writer does their job, is far away and unreachable.
It may not seem like it. Family members, roommates, concerned colleagues can all reach out and tap your shoulder, jolting you from The Story to ask you something, but sudden as the tug was, you’re not really back. The Story is still hovering, hazing a more current reality. You submerge yourself again as quickly as you can.
But oh. When you finish the book.
When you finish the book you float for a while. You drift. Neither your own world nor the novel’s can quite pull you down to the ground again so you’re nudged this way and that by memories of both – on the one hand you have chores to do, but on the other you have a character death to deal with. There’s a plot twist you still haven’t quite processed, and a meal to eat, but neither has any weight because you’re still somewhere between the veils, uncertain as to the anchor for your perceptions.
It takes a bit to come back down to earth.
The longest time I spent in that In Between Space was after devouring The Fault in Our Stars in one day, huddled in my lower bunk in my freshman dorm room, barely speaking to either of my roommates and only stopping for one meal. The Engineer and I had only been dating for two months at that point, so he hadn’t yet experienced my Book Hangover State. To his credit, he took my silent, somewhat somber expression in stride, only occasionally squeezing my hand for reassurance that I was okay.
I know how it looks to outsiders, to non-readers – I must be angry, or upset, or at least annoyed about something. I must not be feeling social, or, when I tell them a book did this to me, it must have had a terrible, terrible, ending. But that’s not the point. The point is feeling my way back from The Story I’ve been immersed in for the past several hours, and reconciling it with my own reality.