A Small Death
Every time I pick up a book - the cover having drawn me in for some reason, or a review or description online making me rush out, sight unseen - I get a rush of anticipation similar to what I imagine a blind date is like.
Will we like each other? What if the inside doesn't match the outside? What if it's smarter than I am? What if it's boring and doesn't challenge me in the right ways? What if I get to a point in the middle where I'm just ready to be done? What if I get to a point in the middle where I can't wait a second longer and have to stop myself from leaping to the end just to find out how it will end? What if it leaves me desolate and pining for the rest of my life and nothing will ever be as good as it was and even though it's there in front of me, it's not really there because nothing will ever be like the first moment all those years ago....
Okay, the last one may be a bit extreme, but I believe my point is made. And for me, over the course of a story, some of these things will happen. Sometimes, all of them will happen.
But one thing is for sure: when I close that back cover, it is like a small death. I have lost something. Sure, I may have gained an immensity of other things - language that sticks to the inside of my soul, characters that will haunt me like ghosts for weeks to come, parts of myself I did not realize existed until the author put the words in front of me and made me sit up and know myself....
But I finish a book, and I'm useless for a solid chunk of time. Ending a book is an emotional experience for me, and after having my head in another world, it is difficult to bring it back to this one without feeling a void. It doesn't matter if I was stuck on an island of cannibalistic mailmen - I can't help but feel like the book doesn't come with me, but part of me stays with the book.
It's a difficult feeling to explain to people who do not share an entrenched love of literature. I often find myself saying in social situations, "Sorry, I just finished a book. I'm not quite here yet." And I do have some friends who understand, who smile that knowing smile - the damned fool.
She never learns.
And I don't. I go back. I flirt with the spines on those various bookshelves. I toy with the jackets, unzipping the synopses and laying them out. I devour the first line or paragraph. Sometimes I play hard to get, leave it behind, only to show up days later, finally ready to commit.
And even though I die a small death every time, I can't imagine living any other way.
As the release of my debut novel approaches, I find myself swinging wildly (but somewhat predictably) between sheer glee and crippling terror. I am the book now, asking the same questions of my potential customers. Will they like me? Will they find me boring? Will I stick to their insides and refuse to let up?
I do not know how many people will buy my book or, of those people, how many will like it. But if you are one of them, and I ever meet you, and I ask you what you thought, trust me when I say the best answer I could get is,
Sorry, I need a minute. I'm not here yet. There's been a small death.