I would never do such a thing – ahem – but I’ve had friends who have done it. And I’ve understood.
I know what it’s like to get lost in a book. I remember a time when a book (books, actually) captured me to the point where I couldn’t stop reading – literally could not stop reading – for days.
It was during winter vacation several years ago. I was living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan at a major publishing house, which had an amazing holiday vacation package. We were off from Christmas Eve until the New Year.
I had all kinds of things planned for my time off: ice skating at Rockefeller Center, long bundled-up walks in Prospect Park, afternoons at the movie theater on Flatbush, dinners and drinks out with friends.
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None of that happened. I spent most of my vacation in my apartment. I blame George R. R. Martin.
A friend gave me the first book in the series (yes, I’m talking about A Song of Fire and Ice, the series that inspired the hit show Game of Thrones). I remember holding its mass market heft in my hand and thinking, “It’s been a long time since I’ve read fantasy, I’m not sure….”
But over dinner, my friend couldn’t stop talking about it – the cultural complexity, the inventiveness, the rich characters, the magic, the politics, the sex – so I promised to read it.
I started the first book, A Game of Thrones, the next morning. I read all day long. I ordered in from the Thai place down the street. I turned off my phone. I cuddled with my cat, and as the snow fell outside, I read and read and read and read.
For days, I would read until 3:00 a.m. and fall asleep with my cheek pressed into the pages. I’d sleep in until 10, then read through the afternoon, doze off at 7:00, wake at 1:00 in the morning, make some tea, and pick up right where I left off.
I lost track of whether it was day or night. I was cocooned in my apartment: just me, Coltrane, and my book. Over the next four days I left my apartment for only one reason: to buy the next books in the series.
When I stumbled out into the bright winter cold, I felt raw. I walked through the busy streets of Park Slope in a daze.
I could barely speak to the person behind the register at the bodega. I think I’d forgotten how to talk. So I stocked up on groceries, trudged back home with arms full of food and books, and settled back into the world of Westeros.
I devoured the entire series in one sitting. When I was done, I had a serious book hangover. I was unfit for society.
I re-entered the “real” world with a movie. I don’t remember which one, a romantic comedy, I think. It helped, a little. When it was over, I felt almost like myself again – almost ready to attend to the friends and family and holiday fun that awaited me.
So I went out and enjoyed myself. If my friends noticed that I was quieter than usual, they didn’t say. Truth is: my body was there – in the cafe, my friend’s apartment, the book store – but my mind was still in the world of the book.
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Have you ever been so caught up in your book you’ve barely left the house, neglected your chores, forgotten to eat, gone without sleep, or even – gasp! – called in sick to work? Confession time in the comments.