Reading the first words in a new book sends a shiver of anticipation down my spine. I wait for the moment when I am pulled into the story, no longer a passive, external watcher but a participant. Descriptive passages seem to reflect what I can actually see in my mind’s eye, conversations relay what I am hearing. The words become a conveyance used to transmit this reality to my brain, different but no less valid than what eyes and ears do. The world within the book becomes more real than the physical world that surrounds me. Despite that, no matter what adventure is being experienced, it is always safe within the pages of a book. Nothing can hurt me when I am reading.
Books, for me, are magic.
For as long as I can remember, there were few things that beat the feeling of being immersed in a good book. I was an awkward, geeky kid and we moved a lot; I never had many friends. What I did have was books, and I read them nonstop. I’ve spent many weekends sucked into a book, eschewing friends and activities to find out what happens next. There have been nights when I was so tired I could barely see, but I wanted to read just one more page – and then just another one more page – until I would fall asleep over the book.
The switch to eBook format didn’t faze me one bit. Sure, the physical feel of opening a book and turning pages was gone, but that was more than made up for by being able to take every book I was currently reading with me, and the thrill of finishing a book and being able to start a new one right away.
The magic is gone. It disappeared two years ago, during the month I spent sitting next to Rick for hours every single day. Most days he was unaware I was there; I held his hand and read. I read 4 or 5 books that month and I don’t remember a thing about any of them.
Except for the last one I read.
For some reason I had never read A Tale Of Two Cities. I started reading it mid-August. Despite being written 150 years ago about a story that was two generations old even then, the book is a great read. As with all of Dickens’ novels the characters are honest and real; even minor ones are engaging. The story was exciting, and switching the narrative between characters kept the pacing to a much more modern level than most Victorian novels. I am a sucker for good writing, and love to encounter a combination of words so effortlessly elegant it makes you stop. TOTC had many of those lines.
This was the book I was reading when I looked up to see the somber faces of his doctors as they walked in to say there was nothing more that could be done; this was the book I stopped reading the day he died.
I just checked; I’m at page 161 of 237, 68% complete. I will never read another word of A Tale of Two Cities; it remains inextricably bound with those painful, final days of Rick’s life, with the realization that there wasn’t going to be any bottom of the 9th home run to save the game and that all hope was gone.
That day, I lost the magic. I couldn’t immerse myself into Paris of the 1790s and forget where I was. The world – the real world – was right there and it wasn’t going anywhere.
The magic never did come back. Books are no longer an oasis. Oh, I still read, and probably more than most people do. I can critique and analyze as well as I ever could, but I don’t have that shiver of excitement anymore. I can enjoy a book, but I can no longer become immersed in it. Most of the time, I’d rather watch a movie than read.
I’m not a bookworm anymore.