Reading with feeling

Posted: June 21, 2013 in reading
Tags: , , ,

‘One reviewer didn’t even talk about the plot, just about how the book made him feel.’ – Neil Gaiman

It’s a funny thing about novels – a huge part of the experience is how they make you feel, but we’ll often discuss our thoughts on them rather than our feelings.

The Neil Gaiman quote above comes from a Q&A session. What’s interesting to me is that, even to Gaiman, that review stood out. We’re used to reviewers talking about structure, about descriptive skill, about plot. But how often do they mention the many different emotions the book evoked? Yet that’s what many people will read the book for.

It’s often the same when we talk about our favourite characters. If I’m discussing Game of Thrones with my brother (it comes up at least once per conversation) we’ll talk about the things characters did – Tyrion said something funny, a Stark did something noble but stupid again. We’ll talk about theories on where the characters are heading (what GoT fan hasn’t discussed Jon Snow’s lineage?). But have I ever said out loud that Petyr Baelish fills me with queasy unease and guilty admiration? That my 95% rage at Joffrey is tempered by 5% pity at his messy upbringing? That my pride in seeing Arya grow up is mingled with real worry at what sort of person she’ll become?

queasy admiration all the way

These are feelings the author has set out to inspire, and yet when we analyse a book we’ll often ignore them. Perhaps that’s just a matter of habit, born of education and reading others’ reviews. Perhaps it’s because our feelings are subjective, and so it’s harder to argue our case. Perhaps it’s because they’re not entirely consistent, and admitting our own inconsistencies is a difficult thing to do. After all, who wants to admit they feel a little sorry for Joffrey, when he spends his whole time being so awful?

Joffrey

Next time you’re discussing a book, take the time to feel as well as to think. To poke around in ugly emotions. Maybe step back into thoughts again and work out why. I started when I read that Gaiman quote all of twenty minutes ago, and I’m already interested in the results.

Now I’m off to watch some Game of Thrones. I’m feeling the need to go hate Petyr Bealish. It’s just so satisfying.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. John Moley says:

    I’m very scared of Petyr Baelish. Have you read this essay?
    http://tinyurl.com/lhe9spe

    • Interesting reading. I’d always taken Littlefinger’s love of Catelyn as sincere and showing the presence of deep but hidden emotions within the master manipulator. Now I’m not so sure. My feelings are definitely moving past queasy.

  2. […] life isn’t just about facts – ask that kid in the science class. It’s about feelings. They are as important to building meaning and understanding as any amount of information. And this […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s