Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Change of Life

I am an inappropriate crier. I cry at weddings (real and movie), as well as at Hallmark commercials, videos of my kids when they were babies and sappy songs on the radio. But I don't cry after reading books. At least, not lately.

This, apparently, is a problem. I can hide behind "hormones" or "I'm just a big mush" when it comes to the first examples. But when everyone in my book group cries at the end of a book and I don't, eyebrows go up.

"You didn't cry?"

"Really?"

"What do you mean you didn't cry? Did you at least feel like crying?"

"Er, no, not really."

They look at each other and wonder how I got into this club. I can see their minds going, wondering what kind of cold-hearted, unfeeling biotch I am to have not cried at the end of this story. I actually consider lying and saying that I did, in fact, cry.

But the thing is, I used to cry at the end of books. When I was younger, and romantic stories showed me how love is supposed to be, what wonderful men were out there just waiting to fall in love with me, I cried. Mostly because my parents thought I was too young to date and therefore I had no way to meet these young princes, but still. The point is, I cried.

Until I became a writer.

Maybe this made me colder and more calculating when it came to words. I subconsiously read stories and think, "ooh, good line," or "no, that's not plausible after all we know about this character." Mostly, though, I think, "this could have been done better."

Granted, I'm not saying I could have done it better. OK, sometimes I feel like I could have. The point is, I no longer read stories purely for the emotional reaction they cause in me. I read them to learn how to write better. Or in some cases, how not to write.

So maybe this is not the book group for me. Maybe I belong in a book group made up of all writers, and our goal could be the same: find the formulas, the holes, the things that work so we can use them ourselves.

Or maybe I should just keep an onion near my nightstand when I am finishing a book. At least then I won't have to lie.

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5 comments:

Snowbrush said...

Find a passage that touches you, read it aloud, and let me know what happens (if you don't mind). I am suggesting this because of how it works for me. I can't even read funny passages out loud--without crying--if they're well written because I'm so touched by the artistry. This means that when I enjoy something so much that I want to read it to Peggy, I have to, instead, let Peggy read it to me. As a man, I find it all quite embarrassing.

Christine Orchanian Adler said...

Snowbrush, that's a good idea. I do often read poetry out loud, to appreciate the craft in a different way, but never prose. I'll give it a try. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I know first-hand, as the coinventor of your book club, that the first rule of the book club is 1) No breakfast is to be served, so that we might not exchange recipes instead of great insight, and revelation about the books and authors we read. But, the second rule, one which I urge you to remember, is that 2)we are to be open and honest in our club, share our views freely, and to leave eachother without hard feelings, knowing we have freedom of speech and opinion within the tiny arena of our book group. The fact that I know you personally, and have a great fondness for you, is really not pertinent here. We have only read one book that elicited tears from the Group as a whole, with the exception of you. You boldly held your ground with us and explained that The Shack simply did not have that effect on you. I know for certain that no individuals sat around eyeing eachother and wondering what kind of cold-hearted biotch(your words) you are. We joked about that right to your face. Give the women around you more credit. You know us as we know you, and there is no hidden agenda, no post-club bashing that ensues. You may be a writer, but only one kind of writer. I myself love to read and love to write, and have found many a writer that I think I, also, could best. I also believe there is many a writer that is reduced to tears reading some kind of genre or another. I suggest that your response, to not only the books you read, but to the collective book club reaction you experienced, has much less to do with the chosen professions and book/author preferences of the members of your club, and much more to do with the personal experiences of your own childhood and religious life. I challenge you to stay with your book club, us, me, and we will try to find a book that is so well-written that it leaves you blubbering for more, snot running down your face and crumpled tissues littering your bedside. Love you...Your Coinventor of the "After Breakfast Book Club"

Christine Orchanian Adler said...

You are absolutely right, my coinventer, and I suppose my musing was more for me to calm that feeling of being the outsider, borne out of long-buried adolescent insecurities. Of course, books, like art, are subjective and personal experience certainly plays a part in our interpretation and reaction to both. This is just one more reason I love our book club. Having grown up in a vacuum, I am now learning more about myself than I did as a child by safely sharing experiences--and exploring our different reactions to them--with people I love and respect. No more are my viewpoints the result of being told by someone else, "my way is the right way, therefore, yours is wrong." As a result, even though my reactions may be different from others', I know I can express them without worry of derision. And I'm optimistically stocking up on tissues.

Snowbrush said...

Good, Christine. I don't read aloud TO cry, but it sure puts me in touch with the beauty of language in a way that silent reading never does. I exercise the manly art of controlling my tears in most settings, and I never cry because of pain--although I have plenty of reason to--but crying over beauty is another matter. Music, art, literature all get to me... I would never read a passage aloud in public unless I was willing to cry while doing it because I know I couldn't stop myself. In fact, it's pretty much a waste of time for me to even try to read aloud because all the other person will hear is me crying.