February 29th, 2008

flying man

so I cynically, cynically say, the world is that way

The story in a book is no longer than the book that contains it.

That is to say, when reading a book, I know exactly how much more of the story there is left to read. I may or may not be able to estimate how long it will take to read to the finish, but there is a continuous, inescapable indicator of the boundaries that contain the story. (I guess the exception to this is a collection of stories in a single volume.)

This affects how I read a story. I'm tolerant at the beginning and through the middle, expecting that plots and characters and ideas and background and detail will be presented so I can interpret the events that unravel or the thesis the author develops. But when a majority of the pages have accumulated behind the left page and fewer and fewer remain behind the right, I start to get anxious. I read faster and less carefully. I start expecting resolution, clarity, completion, I start actively imagining how the story will end, and I look for clues, because it has to end somehow, and there are only so many possibilities, and there are only so many pages left. Sometimes I get nervous, sometimes I get sad.

I don't like the way I react to knowing how much more of the story there is; it's an artificial feeling that intrudes upon, and interferes with, how I otherwise feel about what I'm reading; it taints the experience. This is why I don't like to look at my watch when I'm watching a movie or a performance, or glance at a time indicator if I'm listening to music. (It might also be why I'm bad at estimating how much time it will take me to do something.) In general, I think, I prefer to immerse myself into whatever experience I am having at the moment, letting it grow, develop, and subside organically, without being conscious in advance of its termination.

Of course, this is probably one of countless manifestations of my tendency to take my own sweet time doing damn well anything.

I still think I'm going to live forever, you see.