Books and Time

December 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

Sometimes I hate books.  Even the best books, my favorite ones, the books with words and phrases that echo in my heart, that make me cry because they’re written so well.  Sometimes I hate them, and it’s only ever at times when I’m lonely.  Because no matter how well-written a book is, no matter how good the author is at capturing human emotion on a page, no matter how deeply you can immerse yourself into the world within a book, they don’t give the proper sense of time.  Even for a devoted reader like myself, it’s impossible to lose time when you read a book.  (I’m not talking about getting really into a book and then looking up and realizing you better throw your shoes and coat on because you’re going to be late for Mass because you read for 30 minutes that felt like 5.  That happens to me almost every Sunday morning.)  It’s because you can get to the end of a book.  You can see it, and feel the thinning chunk of the remaining pages between your fingers.  And even more than just the ending, it’s that time passes in a book between the turn of the page: the end of one chapter is summer and the beginning of the next is autumn.  It doesn’t work like that in real life. You don’t flip the pages of your days, saying “the trees in Pennsylvania are crimson and orange and gold” and then “the snow is drifting gently down outside my bedroom window.”  Oh, I can’t explain it well enough; I’m trying to write about why you can’t write about it!  It’s the minutes, the minutiae.  I know you can’t put them into a book; I wouldn’t want to read about them.  But you lose that sense of the long, slow passage of time.  Now, don’t stop reading just because I’m about to reference Twilight.  Because I’m about to reference Twilight.  If you’ve read the second book, New Moon, you saw the way the author tried to convey the way time dragged on for Bella after Edward left her: the pages had only the names of months on them.  November…December…January…February…March…April.  But you don’t get it.  You flip the page and think it’s a powerful image: the blankness, the single word.  But when you’re lonely in real life, the pages don’t flip.  They flow- the pages of your life- slow as molasses and not nearly as sweet.  They don’t move from month to month, but from day to day, hour to hour.  But this isn’t a critique on novel-writing, I have absolutely no leg to stand on in that regard… it’s just my thoughts about how I hate books when I’m lonely.  And I am lonely.  Even though that’s probably the most horribly selfish thing I could say: me, lonely, with so many friends and my family and my big social whirl, and the two best rats ever, and my faith.  Maybe I am just horribly selfish.

This might come as a surprise to some people, but there’s times I’m really afraid I’m becoming a bitter person.  I wrote a long post about bitterness and how it terrifies me to see it within myself, but the post ended up being really depressing and a lot more, well, bitter than I’d intended.  So it’s probably just going to stay in my Drafts folder.  This Advent season, I’ve been finding out just how thin the line is between yearning and bitterness. Between longing for something with your whole heart and being too caught up in your own sense of personal injustice.  You start with a sad resentment- an “if only”, something that seems so unfair- and end being eaten alive inside the cold and sullen maw of bitterness.  It might not seem like these emotions are closely related, but in my heart, it scares me how intertwined they are.  Actually I’m going to stop now, before I start writing the whole thing again that I just said I didn’t want to post.  I don’t want to lose my joy, but I don’t know how to hold on to it either.

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