I don’t know about you but I am a crier. A real sobbing mess.
Mostly these waterlogged events happen as I am deeply entrenched in a novel*, tearing up as the characters, who are by now close friends, are visited by times of sorrow and loss.
Just this morning I sat down to read a book called ‘The Lido’, the story of two women, 87 and mid-twenties respectively, who forge a friendship in the face of the impending closure of their local swimming pool. Half way through I looked up from the pages, noticing the wet blots that started to appear and suddenly aware that my nose had become stuffy and I gasped to breathe. My husband looked up startled and I tried to explain through my choking sobs how devastated I was that an old man died and how alone his wife is and how after all these chapters I just wanted him to be back. He laugh-hugged me and looked confused when I stood crying inconsolably in the middle of the lounge room about people in a book.
Entering into worlds of fiction, I become surrounded by people I’d never normally interact with. I walk in their shoes, see with their eyes and learn their histories, gradually sinking deeper into who they are and being carried helplessly but willingly along their narrative track towards the back cover and wondering where it will end.
And this is why I cry.
It seems to be such an intimate act as I sink into someone else’s story. It doesn’t matter that it is made in the imagination of someone else, it matters because most of the time these characters are just as complex as those people we meet outside the book. It gives us insight into someone else, their thoughts and justifications for acts we otherwise could never understand. We move beyond our own experience and step towards something incredibly important; empathy.
And this is the most powerful part of fiction. It gives you the chance to move into a different world, with strange people that become familiar, and who give you the chance to see things from a perspective completely different to your own. You are practising seeing people complexly, and just perhaps this ties over to the people you meet outside your book.
So I cry. I’m a crier. And I enjoy every minute of it. I hope there are more criers out there and I’d love to know which stories have let open the flood gates. Maybe we can swap stories sometime. I’ll be the one in the fiction section next to the leaky roof crying into a copy of the Book Thief and being totally cool with it.
*I have also been known to cry in Qantas and Telstra ads. Shhh, don’t tell them that their advertising worked.