I’ve been away for a while. I drifted into some self harm, was pulled out, went to India for 3 weeks, got pneumonia, and have been trying to stop coughing for a month. I will get to that, I hope. In the meantime, I read a few books…
When I finish a novel, I am reminded of birthday parties and all the emotion that went into them when I was very young. I think it’s what put me off birthday parties by the time I was a teenager, but nevermind. I’d plan, I’d worry no one would come because they were fashionably late, and then it was awesome, and then it was over and the house was empty, the cars had driven away, and I was left looking out through the glass door at the yard. I never had the heart to close the proper wood door, so I’d just leave it for my parents to do, and go sit in a chair and mope.
Between novels is a period of huge mental upheaval. It must be so much worse for people who read just one book at a time. I must have 10 or 12 books on the go at any given moment, in multiples of novel, short story, fiction, non, guide book and others. But I get the attachment to one book because there’s always a point when one dominates my attention, and the rest get neglected while the one whisks me into its labyrinth of text. The intense focus on one book inevitably ends said book all the faster – and now I wonder if I started reading multiple books in order to avoid the Hullabaloo Period by having other books to start, or by hardly ever finishing any one book very quickly.
The Hullabaloo Period is an empty state full of tangles and woes, and the best of furrowed brows and mopeyness. The mind is busy smoothing out the chaos instilled by the conclusion of the last book, but it is also lonely, bereft and unguided. The companion of however-long-it-took-you has to be put away and can’t help you anymore. It’s as if a teacher could stop teaching, quite suddenly. It doesn’t matter how long it took to read the book. A well-written book is as well versed in your mind as you are in the feel of flipping its pages, and its grasp on you is tight and unforgiving.
This is all inspired by the book I just finished: Possession, by A.S. Byatt. It was recommended to me for its ending, and I recommend it onwards for the same.
I loved it. The truth is, past the centre point, the chapters connect with achingly cruel jumps to other characters or moments, entirely necessary for the tumultuous ending, but the drive to finish the book turns a novel about Romantic poetry and academia into a frustratingly beautiful page-turner. The anxiety about this story was absolutely killing me – I actually got a headache in my final sit down and romp through the last quarter of the book.
And with a rush there is silence. A warm pensiveness settles for a while in the last thoughts that the book brings me to. Some books transition to haunting, casting spells around my vision that make me reek of Thoughts for days or weeks. I do not yet know, but I think Possession was of a different breed. It was so well finished and cathartic that I am currently bathing in beautiful passages and ideas, some friendly and some very sad, and I think it will stay that way.
The Hullabaloo Period can be rampant with all sorts of emotions and thoughts, but the real core of it is its inherent dichotomy: a nagging, dull aching feeling of loss and emptiness, almost inexplicable-like, with also a satiated fullness of a ghostly meal that you know you ate but can’t feel in your stomach, and finally a turmoil of all the new thoughts the book created. The irreconcilability of this Christmas dinner that has abandoned you and left behind its loudness ringing in your head is the Hullabaloo itself. It comes like a surprise and stays like forgetfulness.
But the going out of a book is like the departure of a pen pal, a dear one that you share intimate thoughts with and can connect with on paper in a way that fills the room, as if you had had both a party and a quiet tea together at the same time. And the pen pal, being gone or the letter being finished, cannot write the exact same thing again – the party is over, the tea is drunk, and there is nothing left for you but napkins with crumbs and a house full of the sunshine that’s streaming through the open, empty doorway.