Joanne Palmer: Literary hangover hell
Life in the 'Boat
July 22, 2007
I am hung over. Massively and completely. My head is pounding, but my heart hurts more.
I finished a book. Now, I have a literary hangover.
The audio book I just listened to, “Forgive Me,” follows a woman journalist’s love affair with South Africa. (OK, and maybe a man or two.)
For the first time I understood what happened during apartheid. The descriptions of the atrocities suffered by blacks left me wide-eyed at night. I spent seven hours and 43 minutes bonding with the main character – Nadine Morgan – wondering if she was ever going to commit to a long-term relationship, biting my nails while she waited for the results of her pregnancy test and agonizing with her as she worried about leads for her newspaper articles. And now, now when we are best friends, she’s gone.
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There is no cure for a literary hangover, no hair of the dog. I can’t start another book because I’m still connected to all of the characters in the last one. And so I allow myself a 24-hour mourning period. I must.
I love to read. It is my favorite past time, my escape from the world. I own more books than clothes, more books than skis, more books than I’ll ever be able to read. I read in bed, in the bathtub, while I’m eating, at traffic lights and while other people who share my house are watching TV (you know who you are). I never leave the house without something to read. If the car breaks down or the person I’m meeting is late, great, a chance to read.
About a year ago, I started listening to audio books. I always thought this was cheating – that I really had to have my eyes on a page to fully absorb everything a book had to offer. But because I work alone, I needed other voices to keep my company. Audio books were better than I ever imagined. Not only did they keep me company, I loved hearing the characters come alive. They had voices, not voices I bestowed on them, but their own.
I am deeply, darkly suspicious of anyone’s house that does not have a bookshelf sagging with the weight of books. How do they get through a sleepless night? What do they refer to when they have a question? What are they doing?
When I am reading, I am not making a mental shopping list, I am not worrying about the balance in my checkbook, I am not thinking about what comes next. I am in a Zen-like state. Books are more reliable than airplanes in their ability to transport me to a different place.
Before I leave on a trip, I will spend perhaps more time than I’m willing to admit selecting the right books to take with me. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle seat of an airplane with the wrong book. And so I will contemplate my bookshelf, check out a few books from the library and buy a book from the bookstore. Then I will spend another 30 minutes at the airport browsing their selection. Even on a short trip I always have a minimum of three books and a couple of magazines.
I know I am weird. I know I am not normal.
I am just a recovering English major waiting for 23 hours and 59 minutes to pass – so I can get started on the next book.
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