Sunday, July 05, 2015

A God in Ruins

Mind-blowing books make my world go round.  They also bring my world to a screeching halt.  And they devastate me.

In a perfect work of literary fiction, the outside world is a source of confusion, and I look up (blinking blankly like an awakened mole in a children's movie) from the pages only to make sure my family is coping without me.  Don’t worry.  The kids are alright.  They are readers, too, and they understand.

These aren’t real problems, of course.  A Saturday will continue just fine without my attention.  The Musician will feed the children breakfast and will even bring me a refill on my coffee.  The children will tiptoe into the bedroom, sidle up next to me on the sofa, or peek outside to find me on the porch swing, and they will ask whether I need anything.  They will also ask if they can have ice cream, knowing I will say yes just to gain myself a little more reading time. They are smart little hooligans.

The true problem begins shortly after the book ends, though it isn’t when I shut the book and sit quietly for some time, closing my eyes to savor my last thoughts on the story, weeping (as happened yesterday) at the beauty and magnificence of the story-telling, or rushing to social media to see if my reading soulmate has put this book on her list yet.  Those are normal companion activities to my reading.

The issue is what to read next when all else (no matter how exquisite) will pale in comparison, when all other characters will appear vapid and one-dimensional (no matter how well-drawn), when all plots will seem contrived and trivial (no matter how well-crafted), when all dialogue will come across as stilted and uncomfortable (no matter how well-written).  

There are, I think, some works of fiction that just cannot be followed by another work of fiction.  A break will be necessary.  Nonfiction might be in order, or possibly one of the recent glorious YA novels (eleanor & park, I’m looking at you).  Maybe nothing short of a movie or a Netflix binge will provide the gap needed to let the next book shine on its own and to give a much-needed palate cleanser to an actual mind blown.

There have been a handful of books that I have read over the past two years that have left me reeling and unable to appreciate anything else for a time.  Life After Life. The Goldfinch. Fourth of July Creek.  The Enchanted. A God in Ruins.  

I will be thinking about A God in Ruins for a long, long time to come.  

Have you read any masterful novels recently?  I would love to hear what books have moved you.  And if you have not read one of the books mentioned above, I cannot recommend them highly enough. These are novels that have stayed (or will clearly stay) in the forefront of my mind for many months, and from which I hope to never recover.

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