First off, it’s not Wednesday, but I’m counting this as a Wordling; life has just been super crazy, so we’re posting when we get the chance! Then, I need you to excuse my 9th grade ~*fLeXiNg*~ in the title of this blog post – I just absolutely couldn’t resist. Nothing, to me, quite says EMOTIONS as early high school, though. Remember when we used to type texts like that? And we thought we were cool and funky! My ten-year high school reunion is in, uh, 10 months. *plucks another grey hair from temple*
So, if you haven’t picked up on it already, what we’re chatting about today is emotions – specifically the huge range of them that we feel when we read. This topic was inspired in part by the fact that I’m reading I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson at the moment (as recommended by the marvellous Sofii) and I’m just, like, feeling a lot. (sidenote: JANDY, PLEASE WRITE LESS HEARTBREAKING BOOKS? WITH, UH, LESS DEATH? K THANKS!) It was also inspired by these magical cartoon strips by the inimitable Nathan W. Pyle:
I laughed so hard when I saw both of these, because they are SO RELATABLE. (if you aren’t yet familiar with Nathan W. Pyle’s Strange Planet comics, GOOOOOO CHANGE YOUR LIFE.) I’m not gonna make this a whole thing, because I know I’m among friends who’ve been where I am, right?! There are authors for each of us who are capable of crafting incredible characters – ones that are flawed yet fabulous, smart or funny or brave (or ALL of the above) – and weaving worlds that leave us gasping. We hang on each sentence of these word-wizards, devouring their work, pestering them for answers to things left unresolved in their stories. We invest our emotions in ‘being ideas’, in imagined people and their imagined lives, and we are devastated or elated (or sometimes both) by what they experience and where they end up.
What is it that makes us like this, and is it a good thing? Is it too simplistic for me to think that all humans crave the essence of story at some level, and that books (as well as movies and games and all manner of other things) provide us with a fulfilment of this need? Our very lives, after all, are some kind of story – so when we read something true or painful or relatable, we can apply that story to our own lives. We absorb tales of adventure and bravery and excitement, romance and friendship and magic, because we crave those very things in the corporeal world in which we live. The very best books, I think, are the ones that inspire us to change our own ways of existence. The fact that we’re emotionally connected to characters and their lives is an indication for me that we’re capable of greatness, of forgiveness, of acceptance. To quote wordsmith extraordinaire Marilynne Robinson, “I think fiction may be, whatever else, an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification” – the fact that we’re capable of loving and sympathising with fictional beings who are so different to us is an indication that we’re capable of doing just that in our own lives! (if you haven’t read her essay on why she thinks reading is so important, here you go!)
When next you find yourself overcome with emotion while reading, then, I hope you feel not an ounce of embarrassment at all the feelings you have. I think they’re not only valid, but necessary, and an indication of your propensity to connect: a truly human trait that I think is invaluable 🙂
What was the last book you read that made you incredibly emotional? What do you think about the connections we form with “being ideas”? Leave a comment below – I’d love to know your opinion! 😀