Wednesday, October 1, 2014

If you cannot say it yourself,

great books can say it for you.  Or at least, you can use their words to try to describe the feelings that you cannot put into words of your own.  We read to know we are not alone in our feelings.  These are the books that speak to us.

On Saturday, I lost a dear, wonderful friend to cancer.  At first, it was surreal.  Or maybe unreal.  Whichever.  I do know that I felt a sense of relief that he no longer suffered.  I also raged inside because I could do nothing to save him.  I could not kill the cancer.  I could not trade myself for him. I could only wait.

That's the thing about cancer.  The waiting.  The sense of powerlessness.  Your body is killing itself and it doesn't even know it.  Or, perhaps it does know, but it's too mixed up to understand.

Tonight, it really hit me that I won't walk into a room and see him there.  I won't be able to call him if I have a problem that I know and trust he can fix.  I've lost someone who took care of me for over a decade.  I don't want to turn this book blog into a personal blog, but suffice it to say I have comfort in the solid belief that I will see him again.  But that doesn't make my soul stop aching.  It doesn't stop my tears from running or my chest from heaving these gasping sobs that only go in and never come back out.  Quick little breaths like I'm suffocating under the grief of it all.

I got home and all I could think about was the funeral scene in The Fault in Our Stars.  I stand by my assessment that it's a great book.  Some bloggers and critics reacted to its mega-success and John Green's subsequent popularity by saying that it wasn't that great of a book and that female authors have been doing the same thing for years without recognition.  I can see their point--Laurie Halse Anderson, Courtney Summers, Nova Ren Suma, Ellen Hopkins, and so many other female writers have written raw and beautiful accounts of life, death, and everything in between.  Yet they didn't get a major motion picture deal or garner legions of screaming fans.  As a serious introvert, I'd be quite happy with not having any rabid fans, thanks.  I feel uncomfortable when I read all the comments on John Green's blog posts and tweets.  Kids have this obsession with him and every word he's written.  Granted, when I was thirteen, I obsessed over a writer too.

It was Jane Austen and she doesn't have a verified Twitter account, so I couldn't send her a cyber-barrage of ultra-hyper megafan messages.  Thank goodness.

Anyway, the point of this ramble is: I loved The Fault in Our Stars because it touched me.  It made me ugly-cry (although my as one of my friends wisely told me this evening, "Nobody pretty-cries.") so hard that I scared my little brother.  It put into words what I believed about love and life and fighting in the face of death.  It didn't sugarcoat death or put it on some weird pedestal.  Both Hazel Grace and Augustus recognize that death ruins everything.  This is not a Nicholas Sparks novel, people.

So, tonight, I went back and read some passages from The Fault in Our Stars.  I cried even harder, but it was a cathartic sobbing.  I could share my emotion, even if it was with people who lived inside the ink and pulp of a book page.  And when I was done, I felt that they had said what I wanted to say but couldn't.

It's why we quote books, isn't it?  We put them on our walls and our Instagram feeds and some people even tattoo them on their skin.  We can point to them and say, "This," because we have no other words at the moment to express the depth and intensity of our emotions.

Now it's midnight.  I realize that for most people the party's just getting started, but for this sleepy librarian, it's far past bedtime.  I couldn't rest without saying something, though.  I suppose this is both an expression of love to my friend and one of gratitude to all the books that resonated with me.  I'm sure I'll regret writing this in the morning because even now I'm afraid it's maudlin and trite.  I'll just say that's a combination of grief, exhaustion, and a smidgen of Valium.


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