Reading a great book is a romantic relationship.
The beginning is different for everyone – it depends on your personality.
Some approach it with cool detachment. You’re not new on the scene, oh no. You’ve dated. Had tea with Dickinson (not quite exciting enough), partied a bit with Hemingway (way too exciting) and even had some coffee with Hawthorne (who was pleasantly stimulating). There was even that torrid threesome with the Shelleys that you try not to think about.
Others approach it with excitement. You’ve had a few fulfilling relationships in the past. You went the distance with Austen for several years, trying to even out the pride with some sense, and the prejudice with some sensibility. You even visited a few parks and abbeys together. You hope for similar fulfilling experiences in the future.
However you approach this new relationship, it often runs a similar course. In the beginning you are tentative – it’s logical enough, you don’t know if it’ll work out, and you should never put all your hounds in one basket. You may even continue to see a few people on the side; Fitzgerald never minded being your back-up, and he handles being strung along quite well.
But slowly something begins to change. You get further into the relationship, and you feel as if you are perceiving and experiencing something deeper than ever before. You feel you are understood, 20,000 leagues to the very depth of your heart. Nothing else matters any more. You stop seeing your friends, you neglect class, you stop dating – even Fitzgerald seems to have lost that green glimmer in his eyes.
Some days you forget to shower. When you absolutely must leave your chair to walk you do so while reading, indifferent to the hazards of trees, people, and cars. Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Forget it. Love is your sustenance! Perhaps a few energy drinks and Vitamin Water.
And then it ends.
Sometimes it ends well. You see it coming, and are let down gently. You long for the passion and the profound commitment of all those weeks where you were lost to the world, but in the end you understand. You understand that it had to end.
Other times it ends badly. It ends abruptly, with no resolution. You are left, by yourself, with more questions than answers: Will he come back? What did she mean by those last words? Why did he throw the ring into the fire?
In either case you swear you’ll never love again. Whether the romance ended well or poorly, you feel that, surely, no future romance could ever compare to this one. So what’s the point?
But then one day you’re sitting in the Starbucks of Barnes & Noble, sipping your coffee, working on a paper. From across the room, a cover catches your eye. It glimmers seductively, and your curiosity is piqued. You briefly remember the torments of your last romance, but it seems somehow faint now. You choose to wear your scars like a badge of courage, and to love again.