Review(ish): Let’s Talk Tropes in “‘T’ As in Trapped”

For Christmas, the Engineer gave me a Detective Book Club book from the 1940s.  It’s one of those special printings for members of a specific subscription service, like Heritage Press, containing three separate mystery novels.  The first, Agatha Christie’s There Is A Tide, we’ve been reading together, mostly because I started reading it aloud to him as a joke (the first scene was amusing and I wanted to share it) and he ended up wanting me to continue.  The third, called Borderline Murder, is why he bought me the book (besides its old-book smell – both of us found it funny to consider the concept of “borderline” murder.  Is it like the difference between mostly dead and all dead?

The only one of the mysteries I’ve actually finished reading is the middle one, Lawrence Treat’s 1947 novel T’ As in Trapped.  It follows Wayne, an architect from New York, as his girlfriend’s estranged husband tries to frame Wayne for the murder of a psychic.  While I wouldn’t say I really enjoyed the book beyond the campy fun of a classic old-fashioned murder mystery, the other reviews seemed harsh to me.  Granted, only two other people on Goodreads have apparently read this book, but neither of them gave Treat any credit for the era in which he was writing.

Yes, Wayne’s constant monologuing about his own inner strength and how sure he was of himself became grating by the end of the book.  Yes, neither of the female characters seemed to pass the “sexy lamp test,” even though one of them was the murder victim.  Yes, Wayne uncovered increasingly convoluted and unlikely connections between his own colleagues and the murdered girl.  And yes, I barely rooted for any of the ensemble besides a side character, a forensic detective (such as you could be in the 1940s) named Jub.

But I honestly didn’t expect any better.  It was written at a time when murder mysteries were supposed to be full of strong, silent men and characters who all spoke the same.  It reads like a 1940s detective novel, which is what it’s actually supposed to be.  Modern writers and creators have parodied this genre so much (and with such fun results) that I think we forget there was a time that the tropes were executed in earnest.

I might not recommend this to a friend who adores mystery novels, even older parlor mysteries like Agatha Christie.  But someone who understands the era and can appreciate a bit of campy fluff would probably enjoy this as a light read.

3/5 stars on Goodreads, partly because I felt bad about its low ratings when it had accomplished what the contemporary genre demanded


Am I overthinking this?  Does understanding a book’s era mean we should cut it some slack?  What are things you wouldn’t forgive in a piece of writing, despite the expectations of the time in which is was written?

Advertisements

Review: Eligible

*Note: This is a review of a book I have already finished and therefore contains spoilers.  Proceed with appropriate caution.

I’m a sucker for anything involving Pride and Prejudice, particularly modern retellings.  So when I saw Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible on my library’s Lucky Day shelf (relatively new and popular books you can check out for only a week, no renewals), I snatched it up, anticipating a fun, if fluffy, addition to my P&P mental shelf.

I ended up feeling very divided about the book.  Sittenfeld’s modernization of Austenian issues was admirable and unexpected, which is difficult to achieve in an adaptation of such an iconic work.  The main characters’ relationships remained intact, with Lydia and Kitty as joined at the hip as ever and Liz and Darcy shooting barbs at one another.  The portrayal of Jane as a 40-year-old seeking to have a child on her own is one of the most independent adaptations I’ve seen of the eldest Bennet sister.  One of my favorite parts was the change in Liz’s relationship with Catherine de Bourgh, who appears here as a famous feminist speaker rather than a disapproving aunt; the switch from condemnation to commendation was a pleasant surprise!  The author even went so far as to split the scurrilous Wickham into two questionable love interests: Jasper Wick acts as Liz’s long-term (married) boyfriend, with the original Wickham’s jerkier aspects and scandalous back story; Ham is a decent guy who happens to be transgender, which sends the old-fashioned Bennet parents into conniptions when he elopes with Lydia.  So while the story is familiar (Liz is prideful, Darcy is prejudiced, they love each other anyway), it wasn’t exactly predictable.

But for a familiar yet engaging story, the book was slow.  Sittenfeld used Austen-esque sentences to describe her modern characters, with phrasing more suited to a Regency-era parlor game than binge-watching a reality dating show.  The chapters were ridiculously short, ranging from half a page to maybe seven pages; it was as if rather than adding a line break between scenes, she decided to just give every separate scene its own chapter.  Then Sittenfeld fleshed out the Bennet family’s financial instability and added Jane’s pregnancy and a reality show wedding (and all the behind-the-scenes experiences of filming such a thing) to a novel that already has plenty of connected story lines.  And she wrote all of those new aspects in the same short-chapter, long-sentence style.  It added up to constantly feeling like I must have made a lot of progress, then being surprised by how few pages I had actually read.

I also found myself truly disliking Elizabeth Bennet (called Liz here) for the first time in any version.  True, her pride and stubbornness are central character flaws, without which her eventual growth as a person and subsequent coupling with Darcy would fall flat.  But Sittenfeld brings out a new side of Liz that frankly felt untrue to the character.  In Austen’s original story, Lizzie asserts her independence by refusing to marry someone she does not love.  This is radical for the time she lives in, but understandable for the character.  In Eligible, Sittenfeld extends that desire for control over one’s own life into an almost manic desire to control her whole family.  Liz apparently needs to parent her own parents, going so far as to list their house for sale without telling them.  I understand wanting to help fix one’s family problems, but is it really possible that someone as smart as Lizzie Bennet would decide that being her family’s savior means steamrolling over everyone, kicking her family out of their home, and insisting on overseeing all the financial decisions from now on?

Ultimately, this felt like fluff that didn’t know it was fluff.  The three stars I gave it on Goodreads were largely due to the love I already bear for the characters and their original tale.


Have you read Eligible?  Have you ever read any adaptations of a favorite classic that disappointed you?

Review: Grimm’s Last Fairytale

I’ve always liked the darker versions of beloved fairytales.  There’s something fun about knowing the grisly details behind the glitter and glamour, perhaps because it makes sense to me that the malevolent beings in these stories should be harder to silence, harder to kill.

When I picked up Grimm’s Last Fairytale, I thought it was biographical, something about the Brothers Grimm and their fantastical collection of dark tales.  But when it turned out to be a historical novel, I was pleasantly surprised.  Middleton takes three storylines and braids them together like Rapunzel’s hair: the present, where Auguste accompanies her aging uncle Jacob Grimm around the German countryside of his youth, hoping to discuss family history he will not share; the past, where Jacob and Willi grow up together from happy boys to the family’s sole breadwinners to political activists; and some other realm, where a boy is sent by his mother to find a princess in the Rose King’s abandoned court.

Grimm himself is the common denominator throughout the book, slipping in and out of dreams that just might be the boy’s journey to the briar-bordered, sleeping palace – just might be, mind you, because here, reality is uncertain.  But the relationships between the major characters prevent the book from being too abstract.  Auguste’s hero-worship of her enigmatic uncle, the mutual devotion of the Grimm brothers, the boy’s unwavering loyalty to his mother, and even the manservant Kummel’s struggle to remain indifferent to his eccentric employers deepen the reader’s interest in the already engrossing plot.

There’s a lot of meat to this story: a man growing old, a lifetime of responsibilities piled up behind him; a woman whose life is on pause until she gathers the courage to ask the question burning a hole in her mind; the backstory of a well-known childhood tale.  And that’s not even counting the historical context that pokes through in parts of Grimm’s life, particularly as his deeply held belief in the unification of Germany’s many little kingdoms conflicts with the world events around him.  Then there’s Middleton’s gorgeous, expressive writing to carry it all.

While this type of dark, multiple-storyline book isn’t for everyone, I found it highly enjoyable and gave it 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.


What’s your favorite fairytale?  Would you want to know the dark version behind it?

Review: Daring Greatly

The Southern Belle introduced me to Brene Brown’s work our sophomore year.  She showed me Brown’s TED Talk on the power of vulnerability after a long talk about how we both deal with our emotions (spoiler alert: on my end, usually not well).  Ever since then, I’ve been on the lookout for more of Brown’s work.  When the Commodore and I finally made it to a local bookstore she’d been telling me about for ages (where I promptly set up a frequent buyer account and spent far too much money), I scooped up my own copy of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.

Like Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (a book that changed my life), Daring Greatly brings devalued parts of our thinking to light.  Brown takes readers through the various strategies we use to avoid vulnerability, many of which were familiar to me (especially numbing).  And then she explains how dodging vulnerable moments adversely affects us.  It turns out, frustratingly, that while we avoid vulnerability out of fear of disconnection, vulnerability is necessary to truly connect with those around us.  We’re stuck, then, between the exposure of being vulnerable and the isolation of the very disconnection we were trying to escape.

Even as Brown outlines this uncomfortable truth, she admits that she’s frustrated with it too.  Which is comforting.

The title comes from a Theodore Roosevelt quote about being all in, about the arena of life and who really wins and why, about the people who “strive valiantly.”  Roosevelt says that “there is no effort without error and shortcoming,” which is something we don’t like to think about.  We’re supposed to make everything look effortless – our makeup, our fitness level, our accomplishments at work, our homes.  But when we’re vulnerable, we can admit that we’re actually “daring greatly” and that life is scary, but it’s worth it.

Brown describes years of conducting research and interviewing people who live “Wholeheartedly,” as she puts it, identifying trends in their behavior and attitudes that allow them to recognize the importance of being vulnerable.  She even gives examples from her own life, times when she shied away from vulnerability and times when she embraced the discomfort in order to live more Wholeheartedly.

My academic brain, trained as it is in editing and workshopping, wished for a bit more flow to the general style (the writing was sometimes choppy and the organization unclear), but other than that it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.  There were several parts that made me set the book down and stare at the wall as I absorbed the truth of what I had just read, parts that made me think, “me too.”  Teetering as I am on the edge of a new phase of life, I think this will be a book worth revisiting.

4/5 stars on Goodreads


Have you read Daring Greatly?  What did you think?  Do you think Brown’s work will change anything about the way you live your life or try to interact with others?  Share your thoughts below!

The Importance of Fluff

I had been reading nonstop, thanks to my all-English class schedule.  In my freshman frenzy of enthusiasm for focusing on my favorite subject, I had neglected to allow my brain some breathing room that first semester of college, electing instead to fill it with literature, articles, and essays.  All of these made for good reading that I waded into with a will.  But in my down time, I found myself unable to focus on the old standby novels I usually reread to relax.

One evening, the Southern Belle brought over a striped beach tote filled to the brim with paperbacks.  All their covers had images of flipflops and nail polish or a title in a swirly pink font.  I grinned.  It was a tote bag of fluff.

Fluff books are guilty pleasure books, the type of thing we hope our intellectual friends don’t catch us reading, the ones we might even pretend we read in high school rather than just last week.  Their plots are predictable, their characters often underdeveloped, and their overall style unpolished.  But fluff can overlap wonderfully with more stimulating reading matter.

I tore through that tote bag in four days.  It gave my brain a break from thinking critically about every written word I saw – reading was relaxing again.

Even now, post-graduation, I like to devour a fluff book like Royal Wedding every once in a while.  As much as I love thought-provoking literature, I never want to drown myself in it to the point that reading becomes a chore.

Binge-Reading

Ever since my graduation a week and a half ago, I’ve been staying up way too late.  Not partying.  Not playing videogames.  Not even as a mild form of continued celebration that I no longer have to get up for class in the mornings.

No, I’ve been staying up late to read.

I’m reading old-fashioned books filled with madcap hi-jinks, nonfiction books about introversion and vulnerability, contemporary fiction that makes me think, fluff that requires no thinking at all, and old favorites that I’ve already read a few dozen times.

It seems that my brain, overexcited by the realization that I am allowing it to read whatever it pleases, instead of using up all its energy on schoolwork, is getting carried away.  Even if a book isn’t really that exciting, I can’t put it down until the words are swimming before my eyes.

I don’t really mind this.  During the school year, I felt as though the “reader” part of my identity was only active when I sped through novels assigned in class.  I missed being the sort of person who had a book in her purse, and another one waiting at home, and a third one for reading at bedtime.

I won’t be able to read a book a day forever.  But for now I am a happy little bookworm.

My Life in Books, Part 3: Writing Guides

I love books, and I love writing.  It follows that I would have several books about writing.

1. Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine

writing_magicMy parents bought this for me at a Scholastic Book Fair in elementary school and I had read it by the time we got home.  So I promptly read it again.  Already a fan of Gail Carson Levine’s Ella EnchantedThe Two Princesses of Bamarre, and The Princess Tales series, I wanted to learn how one of my favorite authors made her books come alive.  It might be written for 4th graders, but I’ve revisited the prompts and advice in this book time after time, even now that I’m in college.  This was the book that instructed me never to get rid of anything I write – and, cringe-worthy as some of my early “stories” are, I’ve followed that mandate ever since I read it.

I think reading this was also a step in taking ownership of my writing process.  At one point, Levine writes that to her, revision is a relief: “When I’m working on a first draft, I feel like a prisoner…I notice a bit of moisture condensing on the walls, four or five beads of water.  Each bead is an idea. I scrape them off and write feverishly till I use them up.  Then I wait for more moisture.  But when I finish my first draft, the walls come down…No more waiting for condensation.  All I have to do is make the book better.”  I feel the opposite way.  I hate revising.  It feels like I’m penned in, cut off from the excitement of finding out where the story goes.  But that, Levine acknowledges, is just as legitimate a process as her own.

2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

download (5)Part memoir, part writing advice book, part general life advice book, this is another one I reread over and over.  I just love the way Lamott writes, the anecdotes she tells, and the brutal honesty she displays about writing.  It sucks sometimes, trying to be a writer.  Lamott doesn’t romanticize it, but she also understands that it’s not about fun (or at least, not entirely).  It’s that you have to write, or go crazy.  Or maybe a little bit of both.

Lamott gives advice more episodically than anything else, but that makes her relatable as another writer.  When I discovered Levine’s writing guide, I was looking up to an idol; this was my introduction to Lamott’s writing, so I took the advice differently.

Best of all, the stories she tells and the people she quotes send me running to look them up.  I actually bought another book on this list purely because Lamott quotes from it a few times.

3. Do Story by Bobette Buster

do storyThis one has a bit of a back story.  I found it originally in a bookshop down an alley in Nottingham, UK, but didn’t have enough cash on hand.  When I went back, the last copy had been sold – a trial run of only 5 copies, the proprietor said.  But if I emailed him, he’d let me know when he got another order in.  Which turned out to be the day I went home.  So instead he put me directly in touch with the publisher so I could order my book, regardless of whether he ever saw a penny.  I think I love the book more for the story of obtaining than for any advice it gave me.  (So by the way, if you’re ever in Nottingham, go find Ideas On Paper down an alley from Market Square – it’s worth it!)  Although this little book is more about storytelling in general than writing specifically, I liked what it had to say.  It emphasizes the idea that everyone has a story to tell, and everyone’s story is valuable.  It also plucks examples from history, showing how our ever-shifting global culture depends on stories like ours, and on telling those stories well.  “And, why should you do this?  Risk your vulnerability?  Because…someone is telling a story all the time…it is necessary for us to harness our own stories, and tell them well.  If not, then someone else will come in and wallpaper our culture with their stories…In the end, all you have is your story.  Tell us your story.  Do.”

4. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

writing down the bonesAfter reading excerpts from various bits and pieces of this book in numerous creative writing classes, I figured I might as well go ahead and read the whole thing.  Specifically, I loved the chapter/section/essay on living twice.  I loved the idea that being a writer makes you experience the world differently, and not always at the same pace as everyone else.  This is also a book that can be read in fits and starts, depending on how much time one has.  I haven’t read all of it, but I read the sections I need when I need them.

My Life in Books, Part 2: Rereading Runaways

Elementary school was a time of reading and rereading for me as I discovered the escapism of my favorite books.  Several of my favorites tended toward children cleverly making their own way in the world – with a lot of detailed lists of the chores and tasks involved in their survivalist adventures.

1. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

download (4)This was the best runaway book ever.  Claudia spends the first several chapters of the book preparing extensively for her escape from her boring suburban life – saving her tiny allowance, choosing a sibling to accompany her, selecting a destination.  Needless to say, I identified with this level of forethought; I was never one to just take off in anger.  I also loved the idea of living in a museum, having it all to myself at night, and investigating a mysterious statue.  And then, when Claudia and her brother meet Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler?  I wanted to be her too, this little old lady living in a house full of her own personal collection of artifacts with a secretive filing system that makes sense only to her.  She was great!  But more than that, the characters seemed to understand the escapism I was seeking in the very books I read.  It wasn’t about anything specifically bad in everyday life.  It was about “coming home different,” as Claudia puts it, having something to assuage the ordinariness of home life.  It was about having a piece of adventure to hold onto while one quietly assumed one’s daily duties – precisely the reason I read.

2. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

9780064400589_custom-0dc27ef1292bfe782c935e615a12b66a172f4107-s6-c30Like Claudia, Julie is realistic about her plans.  She wants a change of life, not just to make a scene.  Escaping a fairytale-esque step-family situation (in other words, not good), Julie ends up living on the Arctic tundra and befriending a pack of wolves.  She lives by the same rhythms of nature as the animals she follows, from lemmings to caribou to the wolves themselves.  Even though the book was full of detailed technical descriptions (e.g., Julie makes her own winter clothes out of caribou skin…after making her own needle and thread from other parts of the caribou), I pored over it as a kid.  I think I liked the idea of being self-sufficient, of filling my day with simple but useful things.  There wasn’t much dialogue, except between Julie and her imagined voices for the wolves, but it reassured me that I wasn’t the only one who imagined conversations in her head.

It was also one of my first books with a bittersweet ending; the wolves move on.  So does Julie, who goes to live with her father.  As much as I wished she could go with the wolves every time I reread the book, Julie’s sense of self was more important than a happy ending for the sake of happy endings.

3. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George…again.  Hmm.  Honestly never knew that.

JacketAnother self-sufficient, outdoorsy runaway book, I think I mainly loved this one because of the falcon.  I wasn’t planning to burn my home out of a hollow tree, or make snares, but falconry?  That’s just cool.  Minus the part about stealing a nestling.  However, in case I ever did decide to dash off to the forests of Washington (and goodness knows there are plenty to choose from), this book would have provided a wonderful manual.

This was another unsatisfying ending, at least for me.  Sam’s family shows up, agreeing that they could all “get away” from society.  But I wanted Sam to live happily ever after in his solitude.  It frustrated me that his family caught up with him, even if he was lonely.  I liked the idea of carving out a life (literally) alone somewhere.  It appealed to my introversion.  So I kept rereading it, despite the ending.

4. Mandy by Julie (Andrews) Edwards

mandyEven before I became familiar with the flawless Queen of Everything Julie Andrews, I loved this book.  I actually recommended this book to my kindergarten teacher’s daughter (she was in 4th grade at the time, so this made me very proud).  Although not exactly like the other runaways on this list, Mandy also has a secret escape from her everyday life.  Again, this appealed to my introverted side; I preferred my books, imagined experiences of my own or shared with Bird, to playdates or sports.  Mandy climbs over the orphanage wall (what young reader doesn’t love a good orphan story?) and discovers an abandoned cottage on the neighboring estate.  She begins fixing it up.  She figures out how to budget for supplies, schedules her visits when she knows no one will be looking, and works until her fingers blister.  Weirdly, I enjoyed the lists of her chores.  It was like vicarious cleaning pleasure, and as a kindergartener I wished I could find my own little house to fix up just right.  This may sound as though it goes against my feminist grain, but it was more about creating a world, a haven of one’s own (Mandy only wants something that’s hers, rather than something charity or the orphanage gives her) than just following some kind of societal norm.

My Life in Books, Part 1: The Formative Favorites

I can divide up my life by books: epochs of reading indicated by the particular volume that served as my security blanket, my favorite refuge, for that period.  These are the formative few that found me at exactly the moment I needed them.

1. Angelfish by Laurence Yep

41LEKDC-oYL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_The W-Z shelf in my elementary school library formed a corner with another, lower shelf that, when I settled criss-cross onto the nubbly carpet, made me feel safe – walled up in a castle.  The books at eye level when I situated myself this way included Angelfish, which I checked out so many times throughout the years at St. C’s that the librarian gave me that copy as a graduation present at the end of 8th grade.  She said it was clearly mine.  I called it my Belle book, after the scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast when the bookseller gives Belle her favorite book free of charge.  The reason I read it 17 times in a single year is that Angelfish is a love story about a girl and dance.  Robin, the narrator, loves ballet so much she declares she will always find some way to be a part of it, even if it means just sweeping the stage.  “That’s the way you love something when you’re young,” her teacher responds.  The plot involves Robin helping a victim of the Chinese Revolution rediscover his own art – originally dance as well, now painting – and reaffirm the value of having that joy in one’s life.  Having quit my own ballet lessons years before, I probably couldn’t have told you in 8th grade why I loved this book so much.  Now I think I needed it to give me an example of how to hold on to your passion despite the naysayers.

2. Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede

51eC4uO6deL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_This must have been one of my first feminist books.  The stubborn, witty heroine, Cimorene, gets bored being a princess, so she runs away to serve a dragon.  Although irritated by the conventions that bind her (dealing with all those princes trying to rescue her against her will, for instance), Cimorene also frequently uses her society’s stereotypes of silly princesses to her own advantage (e.g., getting an evil wizard to let slip a few details of his plan).  She finds a way of life that makes her happy and fulfilled even though few people originally understand her desires.  Beyond the quips and amusing dialogue that appealed to me as a sarcastic teenager, Dragons showed me that if you persist in chasing your dreams, you’ll find people who will listen to you.  The dragon she serves, for instance, believes Cimorene when everyone else wants to write her off as just another hysterical princess.  Plus there’s swordfighting.  Who doesn’t love swordfighting?

3. Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner

41unxgoV6iL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I gave up reading anything but religious books for Lent one year, and it led me to this memoir of a Jewish girl turned Episcopalian.  Nearly every page held a turn of phrase that made me think, “Yes, exactly,” or “I thought that was just me!”  In a section on Lent, the author’s priest asks her to give up reading for the liturgical season, and I nearly dropped the book in surprise.  I just saw so much of myself and my own questions and confusion about faith (and life in general) in this book, even though I was raised Catholic and intend to remain in the Church.  I love the honesty about the difficult parts of belief and the self-awareness the author demonstrates in her writing.  Once I finished the book, I immediately turned to the first page again, this time with a pencil to underline and annotate the parts that spoke to me the most.  Since then, I’ve read it nearly a dozen times, at least once a year, each time making new notes and looking back on my past self’s questions and scribbles about faith and life.

4. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

6a00d8345169e469e2016760e64a3f970bFrankie does not get the guy.  Her friends and family don’t accept her as she is.  But that’s not the point.  When I started high school, I could identify with Frankie’s sense of confinement within others’ perceptions of her.  Her family doesn’t deem her smart enough to use her cell phone when she gets lost or attend a prestigious boarding school without a nice boyfriend to “look after her.”  The boyfriend is not much better; although most of Frankie’s schemes are designed to earn his respect, she soon discovers that he preferred it when she was arm candy in need of his protection.  But she keeps going, realizing that she actually wants to prove something to herself more than to her boyfriend.  After that, others’ opinions don’t matter so much.  By the end, no one quite knows what to do with Frankie, except Frankie herself.  In my freshman year of high school, when I discovered this book, I had just been frozen out by the group of girls I used to rely on for approval.  I needed the self-discovery role model that Frankie provides.  And I needed the honesty of the last chapter: “She might go crazy…They do sometimes go crazy, these people, because the world is telling them not to want the things they want…another possibility – the possibility I hold out for – is that Frankie Landau-Banks will open the doors she is trying to get through.  And she will grow up to change the world.”

Book Hangover

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.