“He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods; the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”
― C.S. Lewis
As I write this I’m sitting in the middle of it. I finished a book this morning and returned it to its home on the library shelf hesitantly. Not wanting to let go of it just yet. There was magic within the pages and castle towers, ancient tombs, and trees swollen with corruption and madness. Bravery, deception, foolishness, and perseverance were there as well.
After reading at night I fell asleep with a shiver and dreamed of creeping vines, ancient rivers, a ravenously expanding forest, before waking up to read more in the early hours of the morning.
I wanted the characters to succeed so badly. Will they stop the raging power in the forest? Or will the Wood consume one town after another, snatching people from their beds and taking them hostage?
I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it wasn’t the ending I expected, and I finished the last page wishing the story would continue on for several more chapters.
I wanted to carry the book around with me today, which is my way of mourning that there are no more pages in it to read I suppose, as if I could absorb even more of its vivid magic by keeping it in close proximity a little bit longer. The book itself seemed thicker too, like with each page I read, it inhaled a bit. I think books do that. They seem to bloom and breathe, unfurling in the spotlighted focus of their readers, and then they slowly deflate again the longer they sit undusted and unread on the shelves. I think that’s part of why I like to carry them around too. Every once in a while I’ll take books off the shelves that I love dearly and thumb through the pages, letting them inhale again and casting off their dust. I wanted to keep this one longer, but I replaced it on its shelf so that I no longer had a due date looming over my head. I’m still daydreaming about it some more while I work, drifting back to the last few chapters where I was sure that one – if not all – of the main characters would be corrupted and overtaken by the Wood. I have other books to finish reading, but I don’t want that ethereal quality of this last one to be wiped away just yet.
This post-reading state, a book hangover if you will, is one of my favorite feelings. I love that certain books are so good that I miss them when they’re over. Because up until now, I hadn’t read a book exactly like that one, and I think my life has been enriched by it.
I love that books can have this power. This way of turning the volume up on really good adjectives and metaphors and how the world around me becomes more vivid, more enchanted, more exceptional. The stakes are higher and the views are prettier.
But first you have to stare the Wood in the face. Like I mentioned at the beginning, this particular book had some creepy elements to it (without being horrific) and I genuinely enjoyed that. When the villain in the story isn’t scary, it’s difficult to get invested.
I love that, by reading stories, the reader goes on the same journey the characters do, and oftentimes in fantasy there is a moment when the characters are forced to acknowledge that their world is not how they thought it was. There are sleeping dragons in mountain halls on the other side of the world. There is magic in your very veins you had no idea you had as you slept under the staircase year after year. This opens up the mind to the possibility that the way I see my own world isn’t necessarily the way it actually is either.
I love how books have the power to teach us what we couldn’t once see. So many characters fight their revelation. They don’t want to acknowledge that their view of the world is just a fractured piece of what it really is. They also rarely want to accept the importance of their place in it. And the longer they struggle to acknowledge these, the more miserable they make themselves. But some of them don’t fight it so much. And they stare with wide-eyed wonder at the snow falling heavily in the back of their wardrobe.
After reading such stories, I can’t condone the injustice of haunting my own story with my unbelief.
I can’t try to reform what was always a supernatural world and make it small enough to understand and comfortably accept. I will not turn the wine back into water.
I want to welcome what makes my world bigger. Books are so powerful in this way, and I cherish the people who work hard to present these stories to me. They crack open doors in my mind and hand me the wondrous possibility that I just might not know everything.
Ever since one reads about Snow White and her poisoned apple, there’s a little sense of mystery and extraordinary around the apples on the kitchen counter. It is the memory of Story that makes me look out the window at the giant tree with splotchy maroon leaves and see it differently. It has a hazy sheen to it that I hope I can see for a little while longer. It makes me want to write about shiny orange pumpkins that get crushed underfoot beneath grey wolves with foaming jaws, or about cranky wizards who lock themselves in towers to read old tomes with raspberry tea without being disturbed. About polished marble floors in castle halls and a room on one of the upper floors that goes up in flames at the worst possible moment. About characters who show up when their invitation arrives.
There’s a clock ticking somewhere. Midnight is almost here.
And each page conjures up something new.
I couldn’t even pronounce the main character’s name, but I did feel like I was right there the whole time. And while I’m sad that the recorded adventures she had are now over, I’m still delighted that books possess the magic that makes me miss them when they are done whispering their tales.
What are some books that you absolutely LOVED and you sort of mourned a bit when they were over?
Like this post? I’ve written a few another one on the Magic of Reading Aloud here: