The Pain of Reading

The Pain of Reading

Ominous title, yes? Perhaps not such an ominous subject matter, but still, worthy of a few lines here. I recently finished The Chathrand series of novels, by Robbert V.S. Redick. Fantastic books, all of them, some kind of British Empire – Naval Adventure – Epic Fantasy combination, with enough new and interesting ideas to make it certainly worthwhile. It’s well-written, too, and for me, that makes all the difference – powerful prose is almost hypnotic in its power. It fills me with sadness that, at least to me, it seems that we are drifting away from novels as an art form, and instead everything reads like an ideas document for a film spin off. I digress; anyway, the final novel in the four part series ends with quite an extended epilogue. Without wanting to spoil it for everyone who might want to read it, suffice to say that the ending doesn’t go in the direction that I had expected – or hoped for.

This is not a criticism of Redick; after all, it’s his story, and perhaps Romeo and Juliet would not have had the same emotional impact if the title characters had lived happily ever after. I finished Chathrand and felt a similar emotional punch: a sense of sadness that stayed with for the next week – only after talking with my brother did I begin to feel better about it, and the bitter taste I was left with after reading it slowly disappeared.

So what? Well, I guess I’m writing about something that I call the Pain of Reading. I can list books that have left me with this feeling on maybe two hands – I read a lot, and no more than 10 books in all my years of reading have left me with that kind of emotional sucker punch. And almost universally, they are also the books that I consider to be the best ones. So, despite feeling almost sick by the end, I still consider these books the best. It’s testament to their power – and therefore the power of the written word – that they have such an emotional impact. And I guess that’s why we read – even if sometimes it feels like we are ripping a scab off an open wound.