Tuesday, May 10

The book Affected me; its Effect was depression

Did you guys like that little grammar lesson in the title? People helping people. Now, back to regularly scheduled programming.

Whenever I've finished a Jon Krakauer book (or a film adaptation, for that matter), I'm ruined for days. And I'm pretty close to despair for the several reading days, so let's go ahead and round up and say Jon Krakauer messes with my life for a good two weeks any time I pick up a piece of his work.

Reading J.K. Rowling screws me up, too, but only because Harry Potter's universe is so fun (when you don't account for the evil magical warlord and all the death and horror—spoiler alert, it gets really dark at the end).

My latest foray into Krakauer was Where Men Win Glory. In the book, Krakauer distills and aggregates a lot of information about and conducts his own investigation of the fratricide of former NFL player-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman. I remembered the story vaguely (he was killed in action several years ago), but I probably didn't have a stronger recollection because of what Krakauer reveals to have been a pretty large-scale coverup of the true story. 

This isn't meant to be a book review, really, but I'm always struck by how Krakauer frames his narratives: He tells you the details of the Main Event at the very beginning—in the prologue, even. The way he tells the story, how he delves into the history of the environments, settings and people, is what gives his books their steam. And in this book, he interviews Tillman's wife extensively as well as quotes heavily from Tillman's journals. The more I learned about Tillman's inner life, the more I dreaded his story's culmination.

It pained me to read how Tillman had been used by the media on both sides of the political divide. Krakauer gave such a multilayered portrait of Tillman, his strengths as well as his imperfections, that I was reminded that you don't really know someone unless you know him. Something easily forgotten, especially in this wacko land of blogging.

I suppose reading and recovering from this book has contributed to my Serious, Introspective Mood lately. Noah quite tactfully suggested that Krakauer may be responsible for some of the complaints I've lobbed in his direction lately, to which I said, "Up yours, but also maybe."


When I was in college, a favorite professor of mine confessed to weeping at the end of Atonement (the novel). She also admitted that she didn't have a favorite book, because every book she loved was her favorite. Another beloved professor told us that serious marital strife happened in her household when she and/or her husband was without a book to read. I get it.

Please tell me you guys are affected by books? We'll even call it "artistic sensibility," instead of the probably more accurate but less grabby "emotional instability."


The Bug said...

Oh yes - I've read a number of books that just lingered in my psyche for weeks afterward - The Bell Jar, The Handmaid's Tale, Tales of the City, The Hunger Games (but not the sequels), surprisingly, a non-vampire book by Stephenie Meyer - The Host... My husband basically is a widower when I'm in the middle of certain books.

magnolia said...

i've definitely been grabbed by the throat and profoundly unsettled by a few books in my time. "the autobiography of malcolm x" was the first one. i reread "the shining" for the first time in a long, long time, and that always unsettles me. there's a memoir called "dixie" by curtis willkie that makes me severely nostalgic for my gulf-coast home.

but the one that gets me every time, and for different reasons, is "love is a mixtape" by rob sheffield. it spoke to my relationships both with my ex and my current man in ways i can't even untangle. it's an amazing, funny, powerful read.

so yes, i have the "artistic sensibility"/"emotional instability" thing sewn up. you are not alone.

Lisa@Pickles and Cheese said...

I love being swallowed up whole by a good book. I read "Sophie's Choice" when I was in college and it was that kind of book. I was deeply affected then but now when I think of re-reading it now that I have my own children, I can't do it. I am sure I miss out on a lot of great books because I do my best pick ones where nobody dies and children and animals are not hurt. I am a wimp. I am reading The Hunger Games right now which is a complete departure from what I normally like to read and I am absorbed.

luv2felt said...

"Cutting for Stone" moved me recently. It is fiction but you are immediately transported to another time and place. It makes me want to visit Africa in the near future. Like another commenter, I loved "The Host" as well. It changed the way I feel about relationships.

Emmi said...

When I was young(er) and very idealistic, I discovered Robert Heinlein - specifically, Stranger in a Strange Land. That book has forever changed the way I think, given me perfect relief and happiness. It's no so much that I completely identified with the ideas and themes, it's just that the way the story is told made me feel....more at home in my own brain, if that makes any sense. I read a lot of scifi/fantasy, but I'm branching out more lately. Of course I devour about 3-4 books a week, so one would HAVE to branch out at some point.

Books and movies do affect me, but I am learning to shake the effects off when I decide enough is enough.

stephanie said...

books definitely do affect me - i allow myself to be caught up in the lives of the characters. and i've been known to cry...but i try not to if anyone else is around. awkward.

Erin said...

Bug—For as much as I read, I haven't read any of those. You'd better believe they're now on my list, though.

magnolia—I can imagine the difficulty of reading about Malcolm X. Somewhat unrelatedly, American History X is one of those movies that was deeply unsettling to me. And I'll def. check out the relationship book—I'm always on the lookout for a good, non-schmarmy look at the emotional/love life.

Lisa—I've not read Sophie's Choice or The Hunger Games, but I feel like our interests are similar when it comes to books and movies.

luv2felt—Okay I'll have to read The Host. And (tragically) the last book I read about Africa was The Poisonwood Bible—way back before even Oprah had chosen it for her book club. I'll have to read Cutting for Stone.

Emmi—Someone who goes through books as fast as I do! And I'll definitely have to read that book, what with such a stunning endorsement.

stephanie—I laugh out loud more than I cry with books, but that can be just as awkward in semi-public situations.

Anna said...

I am very much affected by books. I'm in the middle of reading Bloodroot right now. When I started to read the book was much too heavy for me. I can't read it when I just wake up because it puts me in a mood for the rest of the day.

roysie said...

Oh my goodness. I am the same way! I cry in lots of book from Atonement, to Harry Potter, The Emperor's Children... I cry in short stories, too. I get very depressed when a good book (or TV series for that matter) is over and I have no more to read. I remember reading Dune as a teen and conserving water for weeks afterward ;).

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