<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
One Paragraph
Or, Thank You, Connie Willis

I finished up Andre Schwartz-Bart's The Last of the Just a few days ago, and it left me completely emotionally toasted. Overwhelmed. Reeling. The book itself is actually rather good on quite a few levels, though not light reading, to be sure. (The translation is very good, too--quite readable.) But the penultimate paragraph ... wow. Never have I read anything so emotionally charged in my entire life. I don't know if it was that I'd read a whole book to get to that one paragraph, or just the paragraph itself, but it totally flattened me. I started reading that paragraph dry-eyed, ready to close to close the book. I read a line, two ... and then I realized what he was doing, what I was reading. And I kept reading, each word, and by the time I was halfway through the paragraph my throat was closing and I was choking down sobs.

A paragraph. A single, small paragraph. Sweet lord.

After I put the book down, I went to watch part 2 of the Battlestar Galactica mini-series, which I enjoyed, despite only seeing the last ten or so minutes of part 1. Nearly cried through part of that, too. I blame Just.

But that level of emotional burnout transferred over into everything else. I sleepwalked my way through Elie Wiesel's Night on the bus, and stumbled halfheartedly through other things, before saying "Enough!" I grabbed an old issue of Asimov's off of my shelf (May 1986, to be precise) and read Connie Willis's novelette "Chance." It was like being able to breathe again. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Connie Willis.

Course, reading "Chance" I noticed something odd: it was almost eerily similar at times to Elizabeth Hand's Waking the Moon (except without the Benandanti, and the killer goddess). It was the setting, memories of a college campus in the eighties, and it was the people, this triangle of college students with nicknames taken from their last names. It was the aura and the feeling and the energy of the story, and it made me think, "Is this what college life was for people?" Is there this similarity in tone popping up in different stories simply because when people talk of college (in that ever-so-American way that makes Community College into college and University into college), is this what they mean? Is this what they experience? I am confused.

Ah, well. I went to Bakka this afternoon (which is different than usual, because I usually go on Tuesdays to pester Sarah), and bought a Connie Willis book that I didn't have (thank you, Connie Willis) and chatted with Chris for a while. Happy. Now I'm blasting music through my earphones, delighting over anything with a fast tempo. No Doubt's version of "It's My Life" is absolutely fantastic ("It never ends...").

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:14 PM


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