Following up from this great photography post, I'm asking you to describe how a book, movie, or other piece of fiction altered your state in a big way. I'm curious about the phenomenon of heightened experience as a result of a certain arrangement of words on a page, or shots on a camera. I think of the movies I have walked away from, yet remained within for long afterward. As the consumer of fiction and also the creator, I like knowing other people feel this way just as a human connection thing, because this feeling can be so singular and lonely sometimes, but it's also where I write from. Even as a kid, I was affected by fiction like this, and I would linger in it as long as I could. The name I'm giving it now, "heightened experience," is really unsatisfying. Sometimes I'll say it's when I feel unordinary. What would you call it?
A Moveable Feast
This book by Ernest Hemingway is atypical for his well-known style. While I was reading this book, I did something unordinary. I took it with me into my favorite cafe, alone. I ordered the most indulgent items on the menu. And it was so right to read this book that way. Food for a starving artist. I did not simply read this book, I experienced it. I think that's a big difference between fiction and nonfiction. I'm not going into it to learn something, I go into this book because I want to know another person and compare notes.
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
Films by Richard Linklater - Before Sunrise, Boyhood
I've seen Before Sunrise enough times to feel like I'm living in it anytime I pleasure in recalling it to memory, especially when I visit a new place. Linklater is interested in truth before anything else, I think. His films have a sense of realness that can read awkwardly at times. That may lose some viewers, and I think that's fine. After I saw Boyhood, I had trouble returning to my life. If someone had asked me to remember my own childhood, I would have struggled to bring it into focus because Linklater's picture was that clear, clearer than my own (and memory is always clouded anyway). I've confessed my love for Ethan Hawke before on this site, and his work is featured in both of these films very heavily. I don't think you can have Linklater without Hawke. Before Sunrise is the first in a trilogy, and I once went to a showing of these films back to back. I sat in a theater for a whole day watching movies I had already seen. I guess it's because I love the experience I'm left with, the emotional residue.
"Fifty thousand years ago, there are not even a million people on the planet. Ten thousand years ago, there’s like two million people on the planet. Now, there’s between five and six billion people on the planet, right? Now, if we all have our own, like, individual, unique soul, right, where do they all come from? Are modern souls only a fraction of the original souls?. Because if they are, that represents a five thousand-to-one split of each soul in just the last fifty thousand years, which is like a blip in the earth’s time. You know, so, at best, we’re like these tiny fractions of people, you know, walking… I mean, is that why we’re all so scattered? You know, is that why we’re all so specialized?"
Right before I came to an understanding of bitcoin and discovered hope in the future, I read a little book called Red Pill by Hari Kunzru, very appropriately named. Overall, I did not like this book, I have to say. I'm not someone who can diagnose these things, but I believe the experience of reading this book put me into a depressive episode. It serves to articulate all the existential anxieties that are very present within the culture but perhaps are better left unsaid. To me it seems the articulation of such thoughts can only serve darkness, and I don't want darkness in my life. But I think I had to go down into the pit before I could appreciate the light, so perhaps in that sense, this book was useful.
"People never talk about the insanity of the decision to start a family with everything an adult knows about the world, or about the terrible sensation of risk that descends on a man, I mean a man in particular, a creature used to relative speed and strength and power, when he has children. All at once you are vulnerable in ways you may never have been before. Before I was a father I’d felt safe."
I've already written quite a bit, and this post is meant to gather info rather than supply it. So as a teaser in case you want to read more, this blog post, from years ago, is my response to the existential meltdown that The End of the Tour inspired in me. I hope this collection of examples shows you how fiction can be infinite, right? How it can inspire multitudes of feelings, reactions, epiphanies. Because maybe you and I watched the same film or read the same book, yet we had something so different going on inside us. But maybe that's just me, a literature girl. Thanks for reading, your turn.