Some thoughts on trance
The trance of novels is one of the best feelings —and the way you can carry the world around with you, and want to hold onto that clarity in your mind until it starts fading when life's responsibilities need to be tended to.
Wow yes, that idea that non-fiction is somehow more virtuous than fiction. I'm married to someone who likes nonfiction more than I do, and I'm still training myself not to think that their reading is "better" than mine and feeling guilty because 95% or more of my reading is fiction.
You know, I'm beginning to wonder if you are living my life on some level, at least in part. Last year I managed to finish only six books, and none of them were novels if I remember correctly. I found it quite odd because I did more reading last year than I had ever done. I was almost always reading something.
And then towards the end of last year I realised that I could no longer read fiction easily. I tried to read some new things, none of them worked out. Then I tried to get back into the world of some of my favourite stories and that didn't work either. Coming into this year I think I've subconsciously given up on it but this essay has given me hope. I'll pick up a novel right after this.
What a delight to read this email. I recently decided that reading during the day is perfectly acceptable for an adult. I used to do it all the time but now it's 30 minutes, half an hour before I get up. But reading during the day is another thing entirely.
I also get absorbed by the storyworld of novels. Like you, I always had novels on my person in my teens, and I remember reading them a bit at a time--between classes, on the bus, etc--though sometimes also consuming books whole. Now that I live by myself and work from home, though, I seem incapable of anything but the voracious cover to cover reading that derails sleep and food, not to mention work work and housework.
I'm trying to learn to make space for this kind of reading in my life. Rather than opening a novel thinking I'll read for 30 minutes in bed before sleeping, I go to bed early so I can read the whole thing and still get a decent amount of sleep. Reading novels is important to me both personally and professionally, so if cover-to-cover immersion in the story is what reading looks like for me now, I need to make adequate space for that in the rhythm of my life.
There's a meme that pops up in my social media feeds every once in a while--"I don't have insomnia. I have a good book and insufficient respect for tomorrow"-- and I think this is spot on.
It has become unusual for me to have that sense of being possessed by a novel that you so wonderfully have described here. Being able to read for long stretches of time (usually when I'm on holiday) makes it more possible.
I also loved your description of that desire to share things with a fellow reader (your reader) without breaking the trance of putting into words 'that moment'. Shared points of contact that give a sense of release. It makes me look at literary allusions a bit differently.
Thank you for this lovely essay.