Love, And The Way It Might Steal You Away

Today, this cynical old blogger wants to talk about love. *

Because just 2 short weeks ago, I fell in it. I found myself swimming in sticky, glorious, all-consuming love.

I tumbled into it while reading a book. I’m going to be mean, and not tell you which it was, because it was an old book, already famous, and I don’t want this to be a discussion about one piece of art in particular. I only want to talk about love.

For the past few years, despite wading through oodles of books, and enjoying plenty, I got no magic. I met no book which cradled my face between its covers before delivering a good slap to my hippocampus (or if we’re being more lyrical, heart). Nothing to give me all the glorious chemical releases and stomach-flutterings which only a cracking story and complete immersion in a fictional world can.

Love, And The Way It Might Steal You Away

I’m off from the real world for a spell. See ya.

This is storybook love, and when it’s done well, it can be better than the real thing. It’s by no means confined to romances. I’ve fallen in love with historical epics and fantasies and –  in one sordid little affair we won’t mention again – a violent thriller with insanity at its core.

In the real world, I favour predictability and easy contentment. I don’t want thunderclaps or action sequences or torrid episodes of tragic endeavour. They would make me demented. But that’s real life. In fiction, the more torrid and demented, the better, I say.

You know that feeling, when you’re about to see someone you have a massive crush on? Well, it’s the same feeling with storybook love, when you know that soon you’re going to be able to get back to reading again. You’re warm. Someone’s moving furniture in your abdomen, but it’s not unpleasant. Your pupils dilate.

And, while you’re waiting to reunite with that story, you’re nicer. You find more kindness to inject into everyday interactions. You feel the characters you’ve fallen for standing behind you, watching, urging you to be the best that you can be, so that they can love you back. You find vitality in the weather, amusement in the air.

When you’re finally back to reading, your face acts it out. Your pulse races when it’s coming up to a bit you sense is going to be very, very good. And when the battle, the chase, the kiss, or the tragedy is over, you are torn between heart-thudding thrill, and that sense of overwhelming loss, deep in your chest, that you can never again read that for the first time.

Love, And The Way It Might Steal You Away

What? I hear neither traffic noise nor toilsome reality. I hear only sweet, sweet music.

So basically, I’ve been fangirling all over the shop. Me! A grown woman of [indeterminate] years (ha!). But it’s been no less powerful than my first time. I remember reading The Thorn Birds as a teenager. I remember sneaking away from the coalface of my summer job to read just one more chapter, hoping nobody would think to look for me. I remember that feeling of obsession, the inability to think about anything else other than the world of that story. I know now that it was love.

It allows me to better understand the frankly scary teenage superfans of boybands and celebrities today. They’re in love, too: they just don’t feel they have to hide it, and they’re even more consumed by it, because social media gives them a constant supply of digital pheromones to feed on.

And the feeling is addictive. It’s not about the allure of fame, or even the pretty actors who make these books come alive sometimes in even more wonderful ways. It’s the fact that total immersion in a story can have the same physiological effect as falling in love. Torrents of home-made party drugs are released into our brains and a spring is injected into our step. Even after we’re forced to put these books down, our brains trot off on holidays whenever we’re not looking, back into the world of the story, serenely retreating to a place they would rather be.

Love, And The Way It Might Steal You Away

My brain, packing up, leaving a mere analytical shell behind to deal with everyday matters, such as spreadsheets, and the washing of socks

It is heady, powerful stuff. As a reader, it’s what I spend years looking for, but find only once in every three or four. Whether it’s a whodunit grabbing the reader by the throat until they know who, in fact, dunit; a romance, where the will-they-won’t-they protagonists are dancing painfully around a strongbox of potentially explosive emotion; or a fantasy epic, walking the reader through purple fields of jeopardy on a quest for the ultimate fulfilment – they all have the potential to make their readers fall in love.

I’m going to do my best to hold fast to these feelings of love. It might be years before I fall again.

It’s both the aim and the duty of a writer to tell the story well enough so that people can tumble easily. But could there be any more noble pursuit?

*Normal cynicism shall resume next week, when current affairs have once more poisoned my poor brain. Thank you for your patience.

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  69 comments for “Love, And The Way It Might Steal You Away

  1. April 30, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Ahhh! Actually I feel exactly the same way, only it had never occurred to me before that it was love. I thought I was just obsessive about reading. And strange that you should post this on a day I have a Marian Keyes novel by my bed, and a terrible longing to get back to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 30, 2015 at 9:24 am

      Let yourself go, Elaine. She’s calllling to you…. I mean, who needs to work and pay bills anyway? We can live on love alone (as long as someone buys the books)

      Like

      • May 3, 2015 at 10:57 pm

        Gad, spent all yesterday morning in bed reading, with husband and daughter bringing up tea and toast in relays (and the dogs licking the plate when I wasn’t looking). Fabulous book. And today I did the ironing in penance and edited an appalling piece of shite that called writers ‘story facilitators’. I must go and buy another book…..

        Liked by 1 person

        • May 4, 2015 at 8:12 pm

          I need waiting staff for my book affairs! Do you rent out your family? And you really need to stop editing that stuff, Elaine. A guy I know had his soul poisoned by something like that once, and he ended up becoming a politician.

          Like

  2. April 30, 2015 at 8:46 am

    You never told us you once worked down a coal mine!

    The thing you have to watch with these books is they’re not ashamed to try it on with more than one person. You can bet as you’re being swooned by this book it’ll be chatting up someone else in another town.

    But tell us more about working down a coal mine. What was that like?

    Chris

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 30, 2015 at 9:29 am

      It was tough, Chris, but honest work. Carrying nothing but a pick, shovel, and a bitterness for conservative politics, the experience prepared me well for the career I now enjoy sitting in an office every day wearing a suit.

      And whilst I appreciate your advice, you cannot shake my love. Because of course nobody loves this book like I do. If it only knew, it would realise I was perfect for it, and come and take me away permanently.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. April 30, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Maybe its a man thing but I just want the name of the “Book”

    Liked by 3 people

    • April 30, 2015 at 9:25 am

      It’s not just a man thing, Adrian. But what kind of lady would I be if I didn’t retain some air of mystery?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. April 30, 2015 at 9:26 am

    “Someone’s moving furniture in your abdomen”

    Class. Love this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 30, 2015 at 9:33 am

      Thank you, Tenderness, for loving the love. Sounds like dire poetry, doesn’t it? I’m sure it’ll catch on, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 30, 2015 at 9:34 am

        I believe it can fly, I believe it can touch the sky.

        Like

        • April 30, 2015 at 9:40 am

          Soft as an easy chair… I never got that one.

          Liked by 1 person

          • May 2, 2015 at 12:37 pm

            On an unrelated note.. am laughing here listening to a round-up of festivals this weekend that reminds me of your toe-clipping festival. Includes the Cup of Tea Festival (Donegal – where else?) and The Mussel Festival. A cheesy song lyric festival is surely a goer…

            Liked by 1 person

            • May 2, 2015 at 1:10 pm

              ToeNAIL clipping, Tenderness! I would never advocate the clipping of toes. The very thought of it. I want to go to the Cup of Tea Festival and order a coffee. And I’m all up for the cheesy song lyric festival. Will you organise? I could supply crackers, and up to 12 synonyms for “Baby”

              Liked by 1 person

              • May 2, 2015 at 1:26 pm

                Oh sorry, I got mixed up with the toe-clipping festival in West Belfast. Kilmeaden can sponsor. A Billy Joel tribute act will be the fillet of the festival. I hope ‘mot’ has made the final 12.

                Liked by 1 person

                • May 2, 2015 at 2:41 pm

                  You have it all under control, I see. Brilliant stuff. And ‘mot’ did make it; it was a close call between it and ‘hoorbag’, but on balance it was an easy enough decision.

                  Liked by 1 person

  5. April 30, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Aw, so sweet! I’m a serial bookalizer, I’m afraid, with books stealing my heart left, right and centre. Sigh… What you must think of me now…

    Liked by 3 people

    • April 30, 2015 at 10:07 am

      A Bookalizer! Love it! But I don’t mind, Nicholas. I’d cheat with any book that had the same effect on me and not even have the decency to allow a respectable grace period. Love is very often selfish, after all.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. April 30, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    I know this magic but find I have lost in since I started writing. I want it back so badly that I pick books that have moved others, but nothing. I guess I have to get this book out of me before I can enjoy reading again! I’d even go in a coalmine for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 30, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      I have a theory about this, because I know people who work in the theatre, TV and film industry (properly work – I mean they get paid for it and everything!), and I’ve sat through productions with them, and I see how differently we view things, because they can’t take away their professional eye. They don’t allow themselves to disappear into story because they’re too busy wondering who did the special effects and how they got the actor’s arm to fall off like that. I’m not sure finishing the writing of our books can work because you can’t switch that view off. We have to get distance instead in order to become proper readers again, and that takes effort.

      On the other hand, I don’t think any book I’ve fallen in love with and subsequently recommended has had the same effect on the recommendee. These things have to sneak up on you, which is another reason I’m refusing to clarify which book I’m talking about here!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. April 30, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    I love so many books, but I don’t love (picture this word in italics, I’m writing on an iPad) that many at all. When I was a child I used to adore (again, italics) so many, now I immensely enjoy many, think others are ingenious, strongly admire more, but in general I trot out the same few when recommending books, and none are recent. Is it my imagination?Or has writing hardened me to full enjoyment of books?Or maybe everyone’s trying so hard for books to be different,that nothing really (italics), shocks us any more.

    Liked by 2 people

    • April 30, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      Btw, I do know italicising is possible on an iPad, but the touchscreen capabilities are slowly leaving it, it’s been dropped and stood on, poor thing …

      Liked by 1 person

    • April 30, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      I have to say that a lot of stuff which has blindsided me with my rush of affection for it has been old. Sometimes very old. I think when we read our contemporaries we can over-analyse, wondering about success, writing style, genre, whether we could write the same kind of stuff… it doesn’t allow us to disappear into them and actually become (italics, haha) the characters we’re reading about. We can’t empathise when we criticise. I don’t analyse old books I read. They have pedigree and seniority and force me to sit back and shut the hell up.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. April 30, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Stick to your guns, Tara. A real lady never reads and tells… story love is a delicious secret. Makes me want to read ‘The Thorn Birds’ again. Oops, what a giveaway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 30, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      Now, see, Veronica, I’m not going to fall into that trap. If you think for one moment that your slip of the tongue will make me do the same with Noddy And His Little Car, you’ve another think coming. Oh dear…

      Like

  9. April 30, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Oh I still get that feeling when reading a good book! It doesnt matter that I write myself, if the book is truly that good, it transcends critical thought. I love many different books for many different reasons, but they all make me feel the same way. And btw, you shouldnt feel guilty about falling in a big way for a trad pubbed book, it could happen to anyone, and frequently does! You were the innocent… it cast its wicked spell on you and you were powerless to refuse, we’ve all been there, its ok…

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 30, 2015 at 7:26 pm

      Oh, I have no shame at all, Ali. In fact, I haven’t been this unashamed since I was last less than sober. Drunk on love, that’s me 😀

      I’m glad critical thought isn’t encroaching on your book love, though. I agree, if the book is good enough, I’m helpless in its clutches.

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 30, 2015 at 7:34 pm

        Well if its crap, I cant concentrate on reading, as I’m far too distracted by all its imperfections. But then its a good lesson in how not to write. So no love, but still useful before I toss it in the garbage.

        Liked by 1 person

      • April 30, 2015 at 7:36 pm

        Of course some are just too terrible to waste time on… the first which springs to mind is a successful Indie turned trad – no not that one – I couldnt get beyond p17.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. April 30, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    This was like an electric shock to me – because it reminded me that I have the ability to do that. I have the power to make a reader fall in love with the story. I’m not saying I’m perfect or near as good as the Real Novelists who get all the attention in the Proper Papers, but that seduction thing I can do, and I am damned good at it. And when readers confirm it’s happened – it’s a powerful feeling and a vindication. Thank you for the reminder and for keeping me on the path.

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 1, 2015 at 9:31 am

      You can and do indeed, Susan, and have the credentials to prove it. I think like singing, it’s a skill that simply not everyone has: those who do are duty bound to use it. NO PRESSURE. SERIOUSLY. Just provide us with enough magic over the next 20 years or so and we’ll be grand.

      Like

      • May 2, 2015 at 5:05 pm

        Heheh. Between writing, promoting and a demanding dayjob, I’m always doing something 😀 Thanks for the kind comments. And congrats on the Date with an Agent gig, best of luck!

        Liked by 1 person

    • carolannwrites
      May 2, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Yes, Susan. You can and you did and I’ve been telling the rest of the reading world to go fall in love with you too!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. May 1, 2015 at 12:15 am

    What a great post. I love that feeling of being passionately in love with a book. It’s a heady experience and so tragic, because I know that tthe sands of time are running out and the book will eventually come to an end. It’s like an ill-fated love affair.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 1, 2015 at 10:12 am

      Exactly! And like all the best stories, the more ill-fated, the better. Nothing like a good tragedy to beef up the love. Oh, but we’re an awkward lot, us humans.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. May 1, 2015 at 12:56 am

    I have no idea how old an “old” book has to be to have that magic, but I think you’re on to something. Perhaps the magic that makes books lovable will return, when people stop trying to write “best-sellers,” no longer confine themselves to writing according to a “genre”, give up following the “rules” that current fashion says are “right,” return to regarding writing as an Art (not a craft), without rushing to write for a market trend, and by simply writing because they have a story to tell – to write for the love of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 1, 2015 at 10:15 am

      I think it’s more to do with the distance between the reader and writer over time, Christine, at least that’s how I feel about it anyway. I find it easier to lose myself in an old book than a contemporary one which is closer to home for a variety of reasons. I’m not sure anyone really writes to rules or a formula, it’s too hard to sustain! Although don’t tell anyone, because half my blog content and my reputation would be in tatters.

      Like

  13. May 1, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Not exactly the same thing, but I love the sort of book where, when I stop reading, it takes me a few seconds to recognise where I am because I was so immersed that the fictional world became more real than the real one. If that makes any sense.
    Confession – I’ve never read the Thorn Birds. *ducks*

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 2, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      It’s a big confession to make, Rhoda, but you know what to do in contrition – off you go now to the bookshop! It’s that long since I read it myself, but I think it had to have been as good as I felt it was when I was young, because so many people loved it so fiercely. It makes complete sense, what you said. Being that immersed in a book is the greatest pleasure there is, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. May 1, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    I’m laughing because as I left the house three days ago for a short holiday my hand accidentally-on-purpose fell on an old (and old-fashioned) favourite, and blow me, there it was in my luggage along with several other must-read books. I opened it on the last morning of my stay, and read it in bed, in the airport, on the plane and finished it after lights-out that night… sigh!

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 2, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      I can’t wait until enough time has passed for me to do that with my last love. A week might do, right?!

      Hope your holiday was as good as the book…

      Like

  15. carolannwrites
    May 2, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Like Adrian, I want to know he name of that book! I didn’t think we had secrets, Tara! A beautifully written piece about true love!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. May 2, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Lol – I’ve RPed Sauron, Glorfindel, Idril and Melian (last 2 are heavy hitters from the Silmarillion for non-Tolkien junkies) so I totally get the ‘immersion’ factor with literary obsessive infatuations… 😛 However, when reading a great yarn I still need the Edina Monsoon (Absolutely Fabulous) take on suspending reality – total sensory deprivation and back up drugs so I can bask within the pages in blissful peace 😀
    I read the Thorn Birds too but it was Valley of the Dolls for my teen mega-crush (showing my age here…) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 2, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      That’s hard core, Jan! I like your single-minded devotion. When you think about it, real life is very inconsiderate for getting in the way…

      Liked by 1 person

  17. May 4, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    So beautifully expressed. Gosh, you make me want to write, girl! Can’t you just whisper the title..? Is it Lady Chatterley’s Lover? Long shot I know… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 4, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      It wasn’t, Jackie, but I almost wish it was! I spent time today at a garden centre, as per national decree, and thoughts of that book would have put a MUCH different spin on the horticultural experience 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  18. May 4, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    Noooooo. I think I’m ok. I forget what I’ve done as soon as I get to the end, so it can’t harm me, can it?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. May 8, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Now I really, REALLY want to know the name of the book!
    I haven’t felt that way in a long time. I fell in love with a book years ago, bawled my way through it and used a passage from it in our wedding. I want to read it again but I’m afraid I won’t enjoy it as much. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 8, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      I’d hope that the pleasure of re-reading a loved book would outweigh the now-vague memory of how it made us feel at the time. And in much the same way, I can’t say what this book is, because making such a thumping recommendation would put so much pressure on anyone else’s opinion that I’d be afraid they’d ruin it for me!

      In other words: TOUGH. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  20. May 17, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Tara, if feels like decades since I last visited your blog! But I’m happy I’m doing it on this post, because I love it.
    Yes, that’s exactly the feeling. And yes, it happens once in years… but it’s so much worth that I don’t mind waiting.
    Doesn’t happen just with books either. Truely, we live in a world that gives us so many occasions for love. We should appreciate it much much more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 17, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      I haven’t been able to keep up with blog content myself and I feel guilty about it – but I’m delighted to see you here any time! And yes, we should appreciate such occasions more. I’m going to do my level best to do that in 12 hours time, when Monday morning slaps me in the face.

      Liked by 1 person

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