Smoph's musings

Just my thoughts on the world

Post-book depression

Frequently, when I finish a book I enjoyed, or a series of them, I suffer what feels to me like a depressive state. Dragged from that world, populated by characters I could rely on and places vividly expressed in my head, adjusting to the often mundane, gritty and imperfect world is a challenge.

It seems that it depends on how you view books. Are they a gateway to knowledge? Escapism? Easy entertainment? If I answer it for myself, it was immersion. Being somewhere else, someone else.

I was a kid always with my head in a book. My home was always safe, I was always loved and cared for. There were bullies, times of maladjustment and loneliness too, but not on-going ostracism to build this need for a book into something innate. This melancholia, present before I could even spell the word or describe it.

There’s two reasons I can see for it in my case. A book will never reject you. It can disappoint you, be unsatisfying but never specifically make you feel insufficient. Having read it can connect you to others, though I can probably count on one hand the close friends I remember discussing books, particularly formative books with.

The second is you can be the best version on yourself. You inhabit someone’s psyche, a moment in time. You can stand up to injustice, dare to take on the evil, hold someone who you feel deeply for when they cry, and yes, love a little. A great author can make you feel everything. 

Their words can take you to places you want to go to but have never been without that cultural disconnect, the jet lag, the biting insects, or soggy socks and bone deep fatigue. There’s no work or cleaning or ablutions. No one needing anything from you.

Regardless of what drives you to disappear into a narrative world, the broken, flawed but very real life seems a disappointment. And the next book is unappealing for a time: it’s not the right world. You can’t know what is between those covers. 

Short of waiting, and wallowing, the only answer I’ve found is time, letting the echoes of that previous novel fade before you can begin that new journey. 

Until then, I’ll wait over here with my disappointment and personal grey cloud. Just until I am ready to start, all over again.

2 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Luke Cunningham

     /  August 29, 2017

    I think that part of the problem is that when you’re reading the book for the first time, you’re in some ways an active participant in the world. You are experiencing the timeline of events in the book just as the characters would, not knowing what the future holds. Even if you were to read the book again, you’d have a different experience because you’d know what was coming. You’d be something separate from and aloof from the experience of the characters.

    For me, I think the post novel funk is a kind of sadness that your time in that world is over. You’re finished with the story, and you’re leaving those characters behind. It’s the sadness of saying goodbye to someone.

    I don’t even think its as much about escapism, even though you are immersing yourself in the story. You don’t need to have crappy things going on to bond with and enjoy the characters in the story, but once you have become immersed and engaged, the end of the book (or series) is like you’re hopping on a plane saying goodbye to people you know you’ll never see again.

    Reply
    • One of the advantages of being a speed reader is that I tend not to retain high level detail about the stories, so I can drop back in to an almost new experience.

      But you make a great point: mostly you will never have that naive first time again, never take that roller coaster. Like the best holiday you can never relive…

      Reply

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