Literature and emotion and Deep Wizardry

Early this morning (or actually, all too late) I finished reading the “New Millennium Edition” of Diane Duane’s Deep Wizardry. I have the first edition (in multiple copies, even), and in fact read the first edition as a library book when it came out not quite thirty years ago, but out of all the Diane Duane books I’ve read at all (and there are still a good number that I haven’t), it’s the one I have read the fewest times in any version.

(Before I continue, I should explain that the “New Millennium Editions” are DD’s series of partial rewrites to bring the “Young Wizards” series, of which Deep Wizardry is the second title, into a consistent chronology and a less dated technological background. The original novels were written over the course of decades, and were generally written in the “present”, which makes a hash of the internal chronology of the series; with the new editions, Duane restarts the internal calendar from a definite point in real-world time. These are available only as direct-to-reader ebooks, as her conventional publisher is not ready to change the text they currently have in print. I had purchased these new editions much earlier, as they came out, but didn’t have a usable ebook reader — my phone doesn’t cut it — until recently, and I wanted to see how the updates actually worked out. So far, so good.)

The reason I have rarely reread Deep Wizardry (and I think the past few days represents only the third time for me) is the incredible emotional power this particular book has for me, far greater than the other books in this series (that I’ve read so far). It’s a book that I can’t read all the way through without stopping multiple times (there aren’t too many 250-page Young Adult novels that I could say that about!) and the ending resonates in a way beyond my ability to explain. I finished the book at about 3:15 this morning and was literally left crying in bed for half an hour. No other book has ever done that to me, and Deep Wizardry does it to me every single time — even knowing well how it ends.

As I lay awake this morning, waiting to calm down enough to sleep, I wondered: do other people respond to this book in that way? I do tend toward books that have a very particular sort of emotional resonance (even if not usually ones that reduce me to tears); many of Misty Lackey’s books leave me with a similar feeling, if not quite so strong. (And I think I can say without too much fear of contradiction that Duane is a better writer than Lackey, if less prolific.) And there’s a lot of that in the sort of music that I like as well; see my playlist. (A good example would be the sequence “Metaphorical Reasons” and “That’s What the Lonely Is For” from David Wilcox’s Live Songs & Stories, which is clearly supposed to be uplifting, and even a bit funny, but often leaves me in tears anyway. I haven’t done the math, but it seems that a pretty large fraction of the music I like is about falling in love, being in love, falling out of love, missing someone you love, and so on. Let’s not go into the ones about abused children.)

Perhaps the relative emotional emptiness of my everyday life demands that I seek out this sort of release in literature and music, at least some of the time. Even if it makes me feel terrible, lose sleep, and whatever else (increased cortisol levels?) comes along with, it’s a damn sight better than getting flaming angry at someone or something and making a fool of myself that way (especially if it happens at work). It has taken me a long time (nearly twenty years!) to get to the point that I don’t get so emotionally tied up with work, even when the users or the administration are being unbelievably, mind-bogglingly stupid and short-sighted. But still, sometimes I’m sad, often I’m lonely, and on occasion it’s helpful to read or listen to something that speaks to those feelings, and hints at the possibility of a better outcome.

There. I’ve said it.

This entry was posted in Books, Music, States of mind and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.