Sunday, May 8, 2011

Savoring the pages

Darling MT, thanks for sending.
You're right: it cries out for seal skin.
Since March, I've been re-reading His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. This re-reading has been a lifesaver throughout my deep grief over the loss of my beloved Jasper, long may he run. Because truly, truly he was my daemon, and our separation from each other has been a deep, deep wound, one from which I wonder if I will ever truly heal.  It's still a pain unlike any other I've ever felt.  I still look for him, my little prancing ghost.  Sometimes I wonder how it is I can continue to exist, in this place now bereft of him.

With that in mind, I am so very grateful to Philip Pullman for opening a window for me into this parallel universe, for distracting me with heroic children, talking bears, and witches, and even the fine, fine character of Lee Scoresby and his rabbit daemon Hester. Such a marvelous world in which I have been so happy to lose myself completely for hours at a time, healing with each page a little bit more, in joy chapter after chapter.

But now I've come to the part in the third book, The Amber Spyglass, that I know so well, so well that I've stopped reading.  It's that crazy point in the whole arc of the story where I want to slow it all down, make it last, and also where I am just dreading what I know comes next, the very crux of the story.  The first time I read it, many years ago, I cried out, "NO!," set the book aside and sobbed.  Really, I mean it: shoulders shaking, box of tissues at the ready, the full treatment.  The second time, reading it aloud, it hit me just as hard.  Right now, still in the depths of my grief, I am hanging back a bit at the threshold, preparing to take these next steps with Lyra and Will, but also sick with what I know is coming.

It's just a story, you say.

It's not real.

Oh, but you're wrong.  Like any good book, while you're reading it, it's all that is real.  That's the point, especially for me right now, as I slip myself away from this lonely daemon-less reality into a place where the daemon is always present.  While I'm in any of the many worlds of these books, I am completely there.  When I'm not reading, I yearn to go back, to imagine each place, to learn everything it reveals about the actual world I live in when I'm not nose in a book.

Story is everything.

This is the essence of what books have always offered me: solace, company, delight in a different truth, and sometimes escape.  As a child I was criticized for reading, accused of caring more about the characters in books than the people in front of me.  That was true then and I don't deny it still happens now.  I will shush flesh-and-blood people in order to hear the words on the page.  I will leave a room filled with people talking and having fun to find a quiet spot for reading.  Because it's worth it.  How often do our words to each other advance the plot, reveal something essential to whatever quest we're on.  So often it's just chatter, complaints, inessential, edit-able.

I'm stalling right now.  The Amber Skyglass is next to me on the table and I am not allowed to pick it up until I can devote a solid, uninterrupted hour to diving back into its pages.  I know where it will take me and I need to be ready to give it the attention it deserves and the time it will take.

I'm savoring all of the pages I've read til now, every word that's built the story to this point. Even though I know exactly how it will turn out, it's still a fine, fine pursuit, to be carried along in this way, more conscious this time of how it's constructed, and all the more grateful for the illusion.


1 comment:

Martine said...