When was the last time you were head over heels in love with a book? Most recently for me, Game of Thrones had me in its thrall for a solid two months (come on! It’s 5,000 pages!), and before that, I couldn’t put down Mary Karr’s Lit.
The one and only time I’ve ever purchased an actual porn DVD–I promise, this is related–it was because the Fleshbot reviewer wrote this (link NSFW):
“When I read the seventh Harry Potter book, I was so excited I immediately called my then-boyfriend and forced him to listen to me recite the entire plot from memory. (I realize now that that was more than a little crazy.) That’s how I feel about this movie. I want to call everyone I know and tell them every single thing that happened in every scene, from interview to orgasm. It’s that good.”
So I bought it. Did I like it? Yes, but this is not a post about porn. This is a post about that kind of mania the reviewer describes, where you try to relive the joy of a particular book by forcing everyone you know to love it too. There’s the initial pleasure of reading it yourself, and then after the experience is over, there are all the weird, vicarious ways you try to get at that initial sensation.
I read reviews of books after I turn the last page. I read all those pages of praise that publishers stack at the beginning. Sometimes, I go back and read the first few pages again just to remember how it all started. I read interviews with the author to see what layers I can add to the experience. Sometimes, I draw crazy maps of the characters. And sometimes, depending on the book, I make the people I love listen to me talk about it for aaaaaages. They are very nice people, and only rarely tell me to shut up.
I’m halfway through David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, and I’m in the moony-eyed, swooning, delirious phase of infatuation. I pull my face out of it when I get off the train, and it’s like a cartoon fade-away as Mitchell’s world recedes and the train platform comes into focus.
The book is built like a boomerang though time, or so says the book jacket. It begins in 1850, rockets through six separate stories related by the thinnest of narrative threads, peaks well in the future, and then ricochets backwards through the same six stories in reverse order. Each chapter is so uniquely intricate and wholly realized, I would happily read six separate novels.
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