Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Word Crack (*all credit for this amazingly accurate description of book obsession is due to Sabrina Simon)

"I don't know why, but every time I'd read a book,
I'd end up wanting to fall in love."
- Seyyed Ebrahim Nabavi

As any of my good friends can tell you, I have a serious book problem. My duplex is filled with books--I moved in with 14 boxes of them, and after only three years, I shudder to think how many more I've acquired. I am in perpetual need of bookshelves, and yearn for the day when I will have built-ins in a library all my own. It's an addiction, really, bordering on obsession, especially when I find something I like. And recently, I found something new.

For several years now, I'd noticed the proliferation (if a four-book series could actually be called that) of stark, black books, always bearing a hint of red, be it fruit, flower, ribbon or chess piece, on the cover. The Twilight Saga, I learned from the beginning, without much interest at the time, was about a high school girl who falls in love with a vampire. Honestly, it seemed silly. And since they were geared toward those in their teenager years, a time of life I left more than half a score ago, they didn't arouse my pique.

Then, about three weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Michelle, who, as a 35 year-old mom of two, hasn't been in high school for a while either. After mass one Sunday, we sat in her minivan chatting. She'd recently had surgery, and she told me that one day, while recovering at home, she happened to pick up Twilight, the first book in the saga, that her 17 year-old baby sitter had accidentally left at the house. Bedridden and bored with television, she decided to give it a shot. And to make a long story short, she was hooked. "You have to read these," she said. "They're so good. I know they're not 19th century English literature, and I do feel kind of goofy since I'm old (hardly!) but the writing is amazing. And Edward (the vampire/hero) is my new boyfriend."

Of course I didn't tease her. I've had my share of crushes on fictional characters, heaven knows (Laurie in Little Women, Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables, and of course, Mr. Darcy) . And she had me a bit intrigued. So on a trip to Wal-mart the next day, I picked up the first two books, Twilight and New Moon, both in paperback and both on sale. Between Tropical Storm Fay, who threatened to come this way and then never did, the primary election that caused all kinds of work-craziness and another book, a biography of Nell Gwynn that I was determined to finish before I started anything else, I didn't start reading Twilight until the middle of last week.

I read most of it Wednesday night. The next morning, driving to work, I found myself scrawling my thoughts about the book down on the back of a work email I found in my purse (because writing and driving are something you should do at the same time, right?), lest I forget them. Frankly, I was amazed. I'd stayed up until nearly 2 a.m. reading, then woken up and read some more between breakfast, showering and dressing for work. The act of putting the book down and leaving for the office was almost physically painful (not the first time I've experienced this with a book, I might add), like a knot in my chest. I was suddenly in their world, and leaving it to spend 8-odd hours at the newspaper had me yearing to go back.

The book, as all really good books do, transported me. My reading was so fast, and I read quickly to begin with, that I'd go a page and a half, skimming it practically, then have to stop myself and go back to re-read more slowly. As the plot thickened, an endorphin rush kicked in as my eyes flew in a frenzied rush down each page. As I drove to work, jotting down notes, even the songs on the radio seemed to reflect the mood of the book. Strange. Or perhaps it was only my imagination.

I think part of the fascination is that the story has such a sensual air, a guilty pleasure. When I wasn't reading, I was bouncing plot points around in my head. What if such-and-such a thing happens? Or if Bella (the heroine) does this? On my way home from work that day, although I still had one chapter left in Twilight and hadn't even begun New Moon, I stopped and bought books three and four, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, which had only been released earlier in the month, in hardback (I should point out that I rarely, if ever, "mix media." If I start a series in paperback, I try and keep it complete in paperback. This of course, can be frustrating if there's several years between books, and the waiting becomes too much to bear. I knew I wouldn't be able to wait a year or so to buy these in paperback, so went for it). Like Michelle, I was completely taken in by the flow of author Stephenie Meyer's writing--her attention to detail and the ease with which she seemed to capture so many "firsts" for Bella and Edward perfectly. Plus there was the mystery did the "traditional" vampire myths not apply here? Was it even possible for Edward and Bella to be together, when her blood called to him? And being single, I was of course living vicariously through this intense, deeply passionate yet chaste relationship she'd created for her main characters.

And reading them, there was even a part of me that, as a writer, was respectfully jealous--wishing I could turn a phrase or capture an image as well. It makes me wonder sometimes if, writing as I do these days for the deadline and inch-count driven format of the daily newspaper, if I've lost (hopefully only misplaced?) my creative writing ability.

I didn't bring the books to work with me to read during my lunch breaks. When I'm into a book, I'm noisy. I giggle, sigh, laugh, make sounds of frustration, cry (this happened several times when Edward said something moving...ok, sappy and romantic), talk to the characters, or even beat the book against the sofa cushions (which I did once when Bella was about to do something stupidly heroic yet unnecessary). My coworkers would think I'm mental...which clearly I am, but there's no reason to make it more obvious. Plus, I knew I wouldn't be able to give the books my undivided attention with certain coworkers who interrupt my lunch to ask work-related questions even when they see I'm reading (rude!) or when one of the customer service ladies up front inevitably starts yakking about the latest exploits of her cat. I am a very selfish reader.

But I digress (if that's even possible in a post this long!). Coming home that Thursday night, I finished Twilight and dived immediately into New Moon. I was off the next day, since I'd worked the Labor Day holiday, and so I just kept reading. I did stop to make a sandwich for dinner, and to watch about three hours of Turner Classic Movies (the original Ronald Coleman version of "Raffles" and a William Powell film "Jewel Robbery") for about three hours. There was the occasional bathroom break, but before I knew it, it was 4 in the morning and I'd finished the book, essentially in one sitting. Nut that I am, I figured out how many hours it had taken for me to read the book, which I then (quite nerdily) broke into pages per hour. 565 pages in about 6 hours equals roughly 94 pages an hour. Yes, I know, it isn't "War & Peace," but still. Scribbled on the back of an envelope next to my calculations is the sentence "Can't wait to start Eclipse. But must get some sleep--Edward-like dark circles under my eyes will result. 4:13 a.m."

Going out of town to visit my friend Michele and her husband Tim in Lakeland this past weekend certainly slowed my reading of Eclipse (which I don't regret, since it was great to hang out with them. Ironically, Michele (who's 32, btw) had been hearing about the books from several friends (and teens in the youth group she helps out with) and had meant to ask me about them when I told her of my new addiction). But I did manage to get some reading done, and finished the book this past Sunday night, staying up far too late. I was tired at work, and at night, I was actually having dreams where Bella and Edward were having conversations--too bad I can't remember what they were about.

Monday and Tuesday nights after work, I came home, scarfed some dinner and settled onto my love seat to read Breaking Dawn, not even bothering with the TV or the Internet. And as I reached the last 50 pages of the book Tuesday night (ok, it was about 12:15 Wednesday morning), I slowed my pace, reading dawdling and even reading passages aloud to savor what was left. And when I finished, I just sat there, musing, almost amazed it was over.

Michele (the one in Lakeland) had made it to the middle of book two last night, so I had the satisfaction of emailing with her back and forth today while we were at work, asking her what she thought (she's equally sucked in) and trying my best not to hint at things to come (she "yelled" at me in all caps at one point when I teased her too much with an insinuation about how my feelings for one of the characters flip-flopped through the third book. I promised I'd give myself 50 lashes with a wet noodle and then refused to give anything else away, even by hinting).

Tonight, clearly, I still have these books in my head, or I wouldn't be blogging about them like a giddy teenager. I almost felt bereft, not having one of them to come home to after work. Is it too early to start rereading? And my friend Michelle (the one who persuaded me to pick them up in the first place--she has two ls in her name-- perhaps I should be using last names) and I have a pact. We're going to go see the Twilight movie together when it comes out in November, so, if we happen to be the only 30-something, obsessed Twilighters in the crowd (which I doubt will be the case), we at least won't be alone.


Brina Bat said...

Loved running into you at (big surprise) a book store. oh my goodness...that was so awesome!! And I'm a totally noisy reader too. Paul and I will be reading together and I'll laugh or freak out or something.. and he'll ask me what's happening and such - because usually if its a good book I share a bit of the plot line with him. My last BIG word crack session was with Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series. IT IS AMAZING. HIGHLY RECOMMEND it!! You should at least try one of them if you haven't already - but be sure to buy the first book - I think its Fool Moon... OH - and I completely want a library - like built in bookshelves one day that are in a tall room - so you have to have one of those cool ladders that roll on a track so you can reach the upper shelves. And I now need to go check out the books you mentioned...

Brina Bat said...

PS - did you see that they are making Twilight into a movie?