When you read a really, really great book, it changes how you perceive the world. I was talking to a fellow writer friend about this a few nights ago. We couldn’t quite pin down what we thought about this—it’s at once freeing and scary, intimate and distancing. It feels as though you’ve invited another writer to come live in your head—or crawled inside theirs.
I tried to think about the last book that made me feel drunk on words, and I have trouble bringing one to mind. I think it must be The Empathy Exams, a series of essays by Leslie Jamison about pain, the body, compassion, femininity, and other slippery subjects. On the other, fictitious hand, One Hundred Years of Solitude still makes me feel strange and a little dizzy every time I read it. The Unbearable Lightness of Being turns me into a overly touchy yet emotionally reticent partner. Margaret Atwood makes me bubble and fizz with nebulous anger and self-righteousness and Toni Morrison makes my heart hurt in a way that is sweet and uneasy. I just hope that I don’t lose each of these tiny personalities that forms inside my skull. I like to think they snarl together (like a mental rat-king of great authors and ideas) and wait for when I’m ready to use them. Maybe they do.
It’s my goal in life to write one thing, one book, that changes the way just a few people look at things. I want my writing to ask people to really, truly look at each other. To see them in a new, hopefully more forgiving, light.
Image by Pablo Gallo