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?
Some examples:

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?"

Red Pill

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."

Further reading...

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.
Oh ,wow. I can still recall the emotions I experienced reading George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords. The author, who is is well known for killing off main characters, has beautifully set up a redemption ark for the Martells, championed by Oberyn, who duels the cruelest, most murderous and loathed character to this point (which is saying a lot,) Sir Gregor Clegane.
It's a David v. Goliath story that, as a cynical GRRM reader, you would be loathe to anticipate as his writing at times seems only to be a reminder of the injustice in the world. And yet, this confident-in-the-face-of-adversity prince, on a mission of retribution the reader is so longing for, actually seems to have a plan and it seems to be succeeding. As Oberyn faces down his opponent in a duel - a trial by combat to both save an innocent man from persecution and get revenge for a murdered sister - he deftly overcomes his opponent's ("The Mountain who Rides") shear size with tactics, slowly grinding him down until he finally delivers a fatal stab of his poison tipped spear to an exhausted opponent. Despite every logical resistance, the reader is finally presented with such a tale of triumphal justice that he can let his guard down just enough to savor it. The crowd is cheering, and there's a primal exultation of human spirit at this unlikely outcome.
It's at this point I considered that this series of books had finally paid off after all the horrible deeds committed by this monster of a character. At last we get a sweet victory to savor.... And yet, snatched from the jaws of victory, the dying Mountain grabs our victor by the boot and yanks him to the ground. The would be hero is slain in a such a stomach churning fashion that I can still recall the visceral repulsion I felt some decades ago while reading it. The cruelty matched only by the poignancy of the defeat. I couldn't bear to turn even a single page more at this point - I merely sat down the book and pushed it away, having to remind myself it's only a tale of fiction. I spent the next week in a slump, pondering the cruelness and injustice that must surely be possible in the reality of life if it could be so convincingly portrayed on paper.
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42 sats \ 0 replies \ @ek 30 Jan
I remember this scene but only saw it in the series. Definitely powerful scene.
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205 sats \ 0 replies \ @ek 30 Jan
I'm asking you to describe how a book, movie, or other piece of fiction altered your state in a big way.
Maybe nothing original in these circles here1 but 1984 from George Orwell was definitely a read I did not expect to impact me in the ways it did. I had a lot of expectations before reading it. I think I only read it because I couldn't stand one more reference to the book like Orwellian or doublespeak which I didn't get since I didn't read the book. People seemed to regularly use orwellian terms online to describe something. So I was like:
Certainly this book is overhyped, right? And these people just want to act clever because they read one book about a topic which isn't even nonfictional and now they need to show it off everywhere, right? There's only one way to find out though.
So I started to read it and finished the 500+ pages within a week iirc. I still remember how I read it in the train on my way back home from university. I also remember how a friend and me read books in the train which we never did before. I think I told him I want to finish this book so hard that I would rather read this book than to have a conversation with him. So he just also read a book while we were driving back home as we did several times a week (same home town).
After I finished it, I felt like this book just gave me a reality check I desperately needed. It's also one of the books where I feel like I watched a movie or series since I have mental imagery of a lot of passages.2 Additionally, it's not a book with a happy ending. But that's probably the reality check that I needed. That book left me in a state3 where I felt abused and betrayed.
The way it impacted me can be described as having a completely different view on governments, society and language ever since. I would say I am more aware of how language shapes our thinking (important for an aspiring writer, I guess) and can appreciate different languages more. For example, some languages have words for things that other languages don't have. Kind of crazy to think about. And this book basically describes how crazy it can get if language (and thus thinking) is politicized. We all think in a specific language, no? What if this language slowly ceases to exist?
And to be honest, I feel like this is very similar to what is currently happening. The latest example that affected me a lot was the discussion about master vs main. Or maybe that's just me becoming one of these annoying personas who push other to read the book, lol.
After I finished that book, I also read Animal Farm. Also a great book about power vacuums, how revolutions can mean nothing and how history repeats itself since people will probably always remain gullible.
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?
Mhh, good question. Funnily, I remember that I once watched a movie with a lot of friends and thought I would remember this movie since we all seemed to like it and thus discussed it afterwards (in probably childish ways however). I think I thought in that moment that I will remember this movie. But seems like I have forgotten, lol.
However, while thinking more about it, it might have been Kick-Ass:
I think I would call it simply "profound experience" or if we want to be a bit more creative to feel "more connected". I like connections :)
Footnotes
  1. But interestingly, no one mentioned it here yet.
  2. I wonder if this happens for other people, too? Like sometimes, I don't even remember in which language I read a book. The experience of reading a book usually ends up as a stream of images in no explicit language in my memory.
  3. Funny, the use of "state" is ambiguous here.
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I remember when I was on holiday about 5 or 6 years ago, It was the last day of a relaxing break, with great weather, food and drink.
I noticed a drop and swap shelf in the lobby and a book caught my eye, The girl on the train, now I know it's not the most high brow material available but as soon as I saw it, I picked it up and replaced the place on the shelf with some suncream.
I couldn't put it down and read it all the way to the airport in the taxi, in the departure lounge I was devouring the pages.
Then we got called to the gate for boarding and I was reading in the queue, after checking through security, I sat down on the plane and clipped in to my seat belt and suddenly realised, the book!
I'd left it at security when they were checking us, I was cursing until I realised I could download it on my phone, I quickly restarted where I'd left off digitally and finished it before landing.
Although simplistic to some, I really understood the characters and was completely immersed.
I watch the film a few months or years later and was utterly disappointed as one usually is with screen adaptations.
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I wanna introduce to you all “The Housekeeper and the Professor”.
Started “The Housekeeper and the Professor” last December and finished it today. If I had concentrated fully on it, I could have finished it much earlier but you know, life happens. It’s a testimony to the power of Yoko Ogawa’s storytelling that I knew that I would definitely finish her book. As the title suggests, this book centres around the relationship between a retired Maths professor and his housekeeper. Yoko Ogawa undoubtedly fleshed up her characters with complexities. The Maths professor met with an accident, which left him with a working memory of 80 minutes. The housekeeper is a single mother who struggles to raise her 10-year-old son who is nicknamed Root. I think this book pays homage to the resilience of the human spirit. Even though the Professor forgets his housekeeper every morning, somehow they have come up with coping mechanisms - so well that Root regularly comes to hang out after school. The Professor is aghast that the boy is a latchkey kid and insists that the housekeeper brings him along. In short, they are a surrogate family of three. I guess one reason why it took me so long to finish this book is that nothing major ever happens. No drama, just everyday events. (I cannot even use ‘vicissitudes of life’, much as I want to flaunt my vocabulary because this is not that kind of book.) Going to the barber, watching a live baseball match, celebrating Root’s birthday - not the climatic plot we have come to expect from page-turners. Still, this is a book about relationships, which is something the Japanese do so well. The housekeeper grows to care about Maths through interactions with the Professor and ponders hard to solve various Maths problems. At one point, she even goes to the library to do research. The Professor is fiercely protective of Root and encourages Root to think critically and arrive at an original method of solving Maths questions. The mother-son pair do everything they can to not inform the Professor that his baseball idol has actually retired donkey years ago. The process in which they learn to support one another is heartwarming to read. I really hope there would be a movie adaptation one day.
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Not all fiction is equal. It has potential for good and bad as well i think.
I want to say fiction affects me positively but how would i know? Maybe consuming it wasted time that could be spent having my own adventure or otherwise being productive and achiving goals.
Maybe consuming fiction is as good as having an adventure, and somehow makes you better off and helps you achive other goals. Who knows.
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I won't point to a specific piece but for the longest time I wasn't a fan of fiction. I preferred howto books because what I was after was practical knowledge. Over the past few years however I've appreciated fiction more. The main thing it provides is thought provocation, freedom to construction situations and get to issues and decisions which are more complex than that for which anyone would write a manual. There's inspiration as well. The fiction I've enjoyed most made me feel, like some music does, that anything is possible. Don't hold back. Sow your wild oats. Write from the heart and press reply.
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289 sats \ 2 replies \ @kr 30 Jan
i decided to read a moveable feast while i was on a trip to paris, and was shocked to find that the opening chapters discuss the exact square my hostel was located in.
ernest’s old paris house was just down the street with a plaque on it. having that real-world experience of being in the setting of a book certainly heightened my awareness of it and captured my full attention.
years later, i think i would still be able to identify the square if i was roaming around the streets of paris and stumbled upon it.
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what! that's fucking incredible. have you ever made any art about it? or adjacent to that Paris trip?
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10 sats \ 0 replies \ @kr 30 Jan
i haven’t, would have been cool to spend more time writing in some of the local cafes but i didn’t give myself enough time on that trip
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Fiction done right can teach truths too real for reality. What the mind rejects by day ☀️ , it often accepts by night 🌙 .
My favorite overall work of fiction is Tolkien's. It was my first serious mythological work and will always hold a special place to me.
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110 sats \ 0 replies \ @Roll 30 Jan
if i watch an horror movie, i will have nightmare, if i watch crime/thriller, i will dream of crime/thriller story, Until one day i understood if i told to myself when i watch the movie of this kind it is just a fiction, then i do not do this kind of dreams.
I i watch comic movies, it flips my mood to better ..... some say it can cure ...
Now is it what we need to generate emotions through movies, books... ? Cause, at the end, what we want is to be quiet, follow our inner flow... ?
well it s just some thoughts...
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I have watched Boyhood probably three times, most recently just a few weeks ago. Not many films speak to my whole family like that one does (my wife, my daughter and I). As an added bonus we're Beatles fans, so we loved the concept of "The Black Album"! The three of us also were touched separately and later together by Harold and Maude. That film still sticks with me all these years later. Ignoring convention to live your life on your own terms and find happiness is what it said to me.
So many novels have moved me during my life. Most are cliches at this point. The Catcher In The Rye, On The Road, Atlas Shrugged, all moved me and changed me at different times for different reasons. Richard Russo novels always refresh and renew me to this day.
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