Sometimes I think that reading has ruined my life.
Ok, I don’t actually think that. It’s just that, sometimes, reading gives you some unrealistic expectations for how life should go. It’s not just the happy ending syndrome, because I’ve always read books that don’t end on any particular high note. It’s mostly, I think, that books focus on a person to whom remarkable things happen. And most of us will never be people to whom especially remarkable things happen. It can be hard to be content with a small, quiet life when you contrast it to life in fiction.
And I read, a lot. It’s probably telling that a lot of the time, it’s not the central character that grabs me and holds me, it’s the support. I mean, I get hooked by the star, of course. But some sense of realism makes me think, should something huge ever happen, I’d never be the star. I’d be pretty happy to be the person who the star leans on, though.
I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about that lately. I realized, as I finally finished Sherlock Holmes, that I tend to define small periods of time by what I was reading through them. Last spring, things were fairly terrible, and I remember cold nights curled up reading London at War. I was comforted because it was one of my mother’s favorite books, and comforted because the suffering of that enormous city during huge horror was enough to keep my problems in perspective. Not all books sink down in my soul that way, but the ones that do won’t fade. I read the Magicians sitting in my car in front of the ocean at West Dennis beach, nursing a terrible grudge. Northranger Abbey was my comfort during several days without power or heat last year, during a blizzard. I’ll remember Sherlock Holmes, I suppose, as my companion reading during a time of personal unease & gathering resolve, and as my escape during storm after storm as the winter finally faded away.
That’s why, no matter how much I go on about video games and their immersion, I’ll probably always read more than I play. A video game DOES immerse me completely. Books are a bit more subtle, though. I’ll get lost in them, but then I’ll close the cover and they’ll stay with me, coloring everything I see or do.
It’s a rainy, misty kind of day on Cape Cod. I woke up early, and Baxter stared at me till I took him for a walk in the deserted woods. It was peaceful, and I was glad I did it, but I stood at the banks of the river and looked out into the blank fog, so thick I couldn’t see across it, couldn’t see the houses on the opposite shore, and it smelled like Cape Cod. It smelled like Swan Lake and like the Kettle Hole and like so many spring and fall days. Salt water and sand and wet pine needles and … it was comforting at the time, but now I feel discontent and edgy.