Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vertigo

At the end of most books I read, I smile. Sometimes the book stays with me, sometimes not. A few tick me off, others barely register.
Yesterday I finished reading Water for Elephants. As I closed the book and looked around, I felt a sense of vertigo. It was as if I were being pulled from one world into another, duller place. While not a perfect book--what is?--it drew me in to a Depression-era circus and kept me there. That's a very rare thing.

It was a more common experience for me when I was a kid. Each book was a new experience, something I'd never read or thought of before. I was also more willing to let myself be drawn in.

There have been several times in my adult reading that I remember the feeling. Both The World According to Garp by John Irving and The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy had such strong pulls that I turned around and reread each one immediately after "The End." The Harry Potter books give that sense of vertigo, too.

So what is it about certain books that make the reader feel as if she has been transported somewhere else? I could answer with the usual: three-dimensional characters, great settings, a strong plot, excellent craftsmanship. But there are books with those things that don't have that same effect. I don't think you can quantify it or point to one thing that creates it.

But wouldn't it be nice if we could?

Any books that caused vertigo for you? Can you figure out what it was that affected you?

3 comments:

Jenny Maloney said...

I know it's a good book when I dream about it. That's only happened a couple times--Harry Potter, of course, being the big one for me. When I absolutely refuse to leave the world (the kids are bleeding, the house is on fire, the car just got stolen) I know it's a winner. Again, that's only happened two, three times at most....

Deniz Bevan said...

Oh, is *that* what that feeling is called!? :-) The best books always give me that feeling, even on rereads, and most of the time it's the books I read as a child that have that effect. Tolkien, of course. Anne of Green Gables. Charlotte's Web. Anything from 1920s England that makes me all nostalgic for a time and place I've never even lived in...

Oliver said...

The Hobbit. Update your blog.