Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Moved to Tears

What was the last piece of literature that made you cry?

I've just read some excerpts from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer, and that did it for me. There is a tear mark in my book to prove it and everything.

I remember when I was younger, I had this best friend- you know the type- who seemed like the epitome of cool to me, and when she said that Checkers by John Marsden had made her cry, I thought that this would be some way of measuring how intelligent I was. Of course, I must have meant emotionally intelligent, but I was to young to have known I meant it. I went out and borrowed the book from the library and I read it. I focussed really hard, sucking the marrow out of each word, and (I kid you not) even pretended to cry in sad bits, hoping that real tears would follow. I knew where I was supposed to be moved/shocked/whatever. But I was not.

That's not to say that Checkers wasn't a brilliant book. But I wasn't my best friend; it was her personal context that had made her react to it that way. This girl lived in a menagerie of sorts- at that point she had a dog and a cat, and heaps of goldfish and rabbits and maybe even a bird or two, although they might have come later. And in the book, animal cruelty is quite a major theme. Me, I'd never had a pet. In fact, animals kind of worried me. I was terrified of being bitten and I couldn't hold an animal calmly to save my life.

I think what makes a book most moving is that vicarious experience. Never having had a pet at that point, I couldn't imagine what it would be like to lose them, or even to love them. Now I do have a dog, and I love him in that embarrassing, obnoxious treat-your-animal-like-a-human-infant way. (I'm actually not ashamed of it either, come to think...) I wonder, if I read Checkers again, would I be more moved?

If you've read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close you'll probably be able to guess why I was disturbed by it. It was clever, poignant and heartbreaking, to use an overworked set of compliments in this industry. I recommend it to you, and I'm sure that Kleenex will too once they realise how high their sales will go because of it. (Oh gee, that was a really terrible joke...)

But make sure you have someone you love on call to give you a hug after. I know I needed it.

1 comment:

  1. Haha this is funny because I know exactly who your are talking about. I've read Checkers, and it did make me cry at the time, as does the Tomorrow series. Good old John Marsden. To be honest I think the last novel that made me cry was the last Harry Potter. And when I say cry, I really mean cry. I put the book down and sobbed and sobbed till I was dry when Snape died. Felt like I was dying myself. Haha! But I totally agree with you - it's a context thing. I'd invested so much time and love in this one character (I know that sounds retarded, but it's true) so to have him die, regardless of it being fictional, was so horrible to me. Crazy!


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