I Like Books, Books are Good

Last night I ended up staying up much later than I should have to finish reading the last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I have no desire to ruin the book for anybody who hasn’t read it so all I’m going to say is that I think Rowling did a very good job at finishing off the series and that also, of all the Harry Potter books, this last one was my favorite. I don’t really care to talk about Harry Potter all that much here, I admit that I have enjoyed all the books and seen some of the movies but I do not feel all that obsessed about them. I never felt I had to be the first person to buy the newest book when it came out and I never stood in line for hours before an opening night of one of the movies. I read the Harry Potter series because I found them enjoyable and very creative but I do not really believe that they are any outstanding pieces of literature, I mean they aren’t Shakespeare (but then again being an English major graduate I can be kind of a literary snob about what counts as good literature). The one thing I am very proud to give JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series credit for is getting so many people to read. Being a huge reader myself there is nothing that delights me more than hearing that other people are also finding the enjoyment that can be had in a book (actually a new book by a favorite author might excite me more than that but oh well). What I really want to talk about is how I felt finishing the last book of the series last night at about one in the morning.

Whenever I finish a book, whether it be a part of a series or not, there is a twing of sadness in the read being done. Of course if the book is in a series and is not the last one then I can always look forward to the next book but likewise when it is the last of a series I’ve really enjoyed the finishing causes a even deeper twing of sadness in knowing that the story is now all done. I have wondered about this a lot. Why should finishing a book or a series of books cause such a reaction? I suppose it is not always this way for everybody, I suppose a lot of it depends on the individual reader and how involved they can get into their reading. I, personally, really get into my reading, especially if it is a book I am really enjoying. It used to drive my mother and brother crazy when I was growing up because when I have a book in front of me I am generally oblivious to everything else. My mom or brother never really understood this and so would try and ask me questions or tell me something and when I finally realized that they were talking to me I would look at them blankly and ask “what did you say?” Possibly the world could be ending and if I was really engaged in a good read I might not get up. In regards to my own reading habits and how engaged I can get in a book I am quite capable of suspending disbelief and accepting characters and events in a story as really happening or having happened (logically I am well aware that in works of fiction the characters are not real people, but I choose not to let that bother me while I read). With the suspension of disbelief I am able to form an appreciation and respect for the characters and their personalities but when the book or the series comes to an end I find myself wondering more. Very few books that I have read have ended in such a way that I do not find myself still asking questions, wondering what happens to the characters next, or something along those lines. Of course this is illogical thinking as well. Not only should it not, but in actuality it really does not, matter what happens beyond the work of fiction. The characters do not exist, the plot does not occur, and so all speculation of “what next?” is really quite irrelevant. The existence of the fiction is in the fiction itself and while we can easily wonder something like “what does this character do for the rest of his or her life?” really it doesn’t matter because they do not do anything, they have only ever done (and not really even done this) what they were written to have done. The existence is in the pages alone.  And perhaps that is part of the sadness that I feel in finishing a book.  Knowing that even the best described and most believable character of fiction is still just that, a character of fiction, that has no life or purpose beyond the story.

But there is a comfort too in knowing that I can always read a good book or series again if I want.  And the characters will be the same, once written they are constant and reliable.  Harry Potter will always be Harry Potter regardless of how many tames I read any of the books.  And while people may have disagreements about specifics of characters really that is all just subjective thinking.  The words in the book tell the story, and while we are free to interpret our reading in any number of ways the story can be nothing more than itself.  The story is only malleable in that interpretation varies from one individual to the next.  Part of this is the reason I always like to read a book before the movie comes out because then I form my own interpretation of the characters and events than what is shown to me in the movie (which is nothing but the interpretation by the screenplay writers and directors and so on).  Mad suggested the other day that she’d rather see the movie first because the movie always seems fails to live up to the book even if it is a really good movie.  Still I want the first interpretation to be my own.

Books end just as they begin, and in that we read them their stories exist.  They are momentary things that we take up to let us escape from reality for a little while.  I like books . . . a lot.  I can spend hours and hours just reading.  I love talking about a good book with people.  Every morning I wake up much earlier than I need to just so I can read for an hour before going to work.  I intend to read until the day I die.  Reading isn’t for everybody, in fact I am saddened by how few real devoted readers there seem to be these days, but I know that I can say, from personal experience, that there are few things more rewarding and enjoyable than being able to sit down with a good book and let oneself get lost for awhile.

~ by Nathaniel on October 8, 2007.

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