Monday, March 26, 2012

I read a book with so much imagination, it's like I'm writing it myself

Hey.  You wanna hear something about me?  You probably do, you're already reading this:

I think The Hunger Games is my book.

I mean, logically, I understand that it isn't, but, in my heart, I know that it is.

I read the first two books in the series summer 2010, just before I started grad school, and, truth be told, I didn't have a lot else going on.  My luxury was time, and I allowed the story to wash over me, immerse me, pull me far out to sea.

By the time Mockingjay came out at the end of August 2010, I knew I was in trouble.  I finished it one afternoon a week before school started.  I put on big sunglasses and hit the streets, crying.  Actually crying as I walked through Park Slope.  I ended up at McDonald's where I bought a large coke, my remedy for a bad day.  As though I had just been through something.

But, I had, in a way.  I'd become subsumed by the books.  James worked long hours and I spent a lot of time alone.  Reading is always solitary, but this experience was especially so.  The reading, and the miles I spent running, and thinking, and piecing the story together; seeing it from all possible angles.  This made these books feel particularly personal.  I didn't own them, or try to keep them from other people.  I recommended them, and loaned my books, but I didn't talk about them.  I evaded when people wanted to discuss them.

The books are good, and powerful too.  But it wasn't just that.  These books captured a specific piece of time in my life that I can never again duplicate.

The end result is this: when the movie was announced, I decided I wouldn't see it.  I didn't want to bear watching my experience shared.

I've changed my mind, and want to see it, but am still leery.  That's why I avoided opening weekend, and hearing other people talk about it.  It's not that I'm not interested in what they have to say, it's just that--and I know what this sounds like--it's not relevant.  Not to me.  

I will read these books again.  I will recommend them to my daughter.  These books will mean different things to me later.  But, first, they meant this:

...the books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all human habitation--a book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.

-Franz Kafka

The Hanging Tree.

*title loosely quoted from I Capture the Castle.


  1. Thanks for this post, Val. Tyler and I are reading this series now. Ty is almost done with MOCKINGJAY, I just finished CATCHING FIRE, and now I am (im)patiently waiting for him to finish MJ so I can start it.

    We both love these books. We discuss and analyze aspects of the stories from socio-economic and moral standpoints; from cultural and fashion standpoints; from geographical standpoints.

    Basically, THE HUNGER GAMES series has become the topic of choice in our home. It seems that anything can somehow tie back to Katniss and her stories.

    We, like you, have not yet seen the movie. We look forward to it, but (like you) we're wary of the film's interpretation. The arenas and districts of our minds are vivid and raw and personal. We can only hope that something similar is translated on screen.

    Thanks again for your post. You put into words exactly why we love reading.

    ~ Terrah & Tyler :)

  2. The Kafka quote is just right. That IS how it is when a particular book comes along at that particular point in your life. Me with Cold Mountain? Completely. And with I Capture the Castle, too, so I appreciate the reference even more.
    Don't I wish I was in NY (or you were here) to have this discussion in person!
    I've been waiting to see the movie, too, so I'll be interested to hear your take, since it is so personal for you.

  3. Thanks Tyler and Terrah. James and I read them at the same time too. I've never read that love languages book, but I'm pretty sure reading awesome books at the same time is one of the languages of love.

    Sarah, thanks, I love it too. I read it right after I finished Mockingjay, and gasped. On the subway. I wish you were here too.

  4. I'm afraid to see the movie. I had nightmares after reading the first book. I get scared at everything though. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter. I'm pretty much a wuss.

  5. I love how you so eloquently explained to the world exactly how I feel about my Hunger Games experience. I still haven't decided if I'm going to see the movie yet. My experiences with the books was so surreal, and I don't want that experience ruined forever.

  6. So, if I never read these books, will I never truly know you?

  7. I would suggest that you continue to be hesitant about seeing the movie. Indefinitely.

    I read these books because of you. My family read them because of me. It was an invaluable bonding tool during the early stages of "blending". So thank you...

  8. Donna, I can't deny a certain number of tense, Hunger Games related dreams myself. But Lord of the Rings? Really? Amazing.

    Katie, thanks, I know what you mean.

    Sus, I don't know. Maybe not.

    G-town, I'm glad. Reading something together, being able to talk about it . . . it's an amazing, amazing thing.

  9. Val, the Kafka quote is wonderful.

  10. Every since the Harry Potter movies repeatedly broke my heart, I resolved to never tie movies to books ever again, to have zero expectations when it comes to the movies. I view them as being completely separate, and that preserves the magic of the books for me. Let's talk soon.

  11. Mark, tell me about it.

    Jen, tell me about it. I remember telling myself, years ago, that I HAD to see the movie as a separate thing. It's taken years to master this.