A Reader’s Tears – A. Bogel

Sometimes a great book makes us feel the loss of what could have been – a dream, a baby, a future. Several years ago I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent Abraham Lincoln biography Team of Rivals. I knew the basic outline of his life from history class; American students know that story’s sad ending. But Goodwin’s version astonished me, making me feel, for the first time, an overwhelming sense of how much was lost that night at Ford’s Theatre – by his family, yes, but also by the nation and the world. [I had a similar experience last year while reading Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln.]

Goodwin demonstrates how important Lincoln was to the cause of what was right, painting a vivid picture of what he accomplished in office, of what he was carefully working toward after the Civil War, and of why the man himself was desperately needed. And then they killed him. When she described what happened that awful night in Ford’s Theatre and across the city, I felt like I was there, and for the first time I understood the scope of the disaster and how it affects me even now. I didn’t expect her history to make me weep, but it did – because Goodwin made me feel its weight.

Sometimes a book prods you to grieve with its characters. You’re immersed in the story, so much so that you feel what they’re feeling. When a beloved character experiences loss – of someone they love, of a friendship, of their innocence – you feel their pain. When he grieves, you grieve with him. Sometimes you grieve the characters themselves; they die, you feel like you’ve lost a friend, and you weep.

…I don’t relish crying over a book, but I’ll say this; it’s not easy to earn a reader’s tears – and if an author writes well enough to earn mine, I’m in.

Pass the tissues. It’s time to read.

rather-be-reading-bogel-2018Taken from a new summer read I recently bought at Baker Book House. In I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life, lifetime reader Anne Bogel reflects on the paradoxes of readers and bibliophiles like herself. The chapters are short and packed with great insights and encouragements about the literary life – the highs and lows, the tears and triumphs of reading.

The above quotation is taken from her third chapter, “I’m Begging You to Break My Heart” (pp.32-36).

If you think this is only a woman’s reaction, think again. Men can and do experience such emotions through reading too, even if we don’t want to admit it. Just this weekend I was brought to tears through reading a section of Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance (a powerful section where he treats the death of his “Mamaw” [grandma] who had had such a profound influence on him.) Ah, yes, the power of words and stories are great, and it is part of the experience of reading to be taken in by them.

Published in: on July 29, 2019 at 10:36 PM  Leave a Comment  

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