Up late last night watching “Salt,” a political thriller starring the impossibly-svelte Angelina Jolie, I felt like someone stuck toothpicks in my eyelids. I’m not normally one to sit through an R-rated romp filled with terrorism, espionage and cold-blooded murder, but something about the flick enthralled me. Spencer, Dad, Kate and I watched the whole thing until 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday and I didn’t fall asleep. I consider this a major victory.
But then something funny happened.
I couldn’t go to bed.
I’ve noticed something about myself: I have a hard time separating reality from fiction. Whether it’s a movie, music or book, I have to make a conscious choice to focus on happy, upbeat things — like comedies — rather than darker, more serious tomes. Reading books like Room by Emma Donoghue, while compelling, leave me deeply bothered. I actually had a hard time sleeping after finishing that one, too, and you know that’s bad.
Because friends? I can sleep. I can sleep like it’s my full-time job. Anytime, anywhere . . . as long as I have a reasonably comfortable spot or, more awesomely, am in a moving vehicle of some sort, I am out. And I like it.
Many of the books I’ve read recently haven’t exactly been upbeat. Peter Geye’s Safe From The Sea, while fantastic, wasn’t exactly cheery. If anything, in many ways, it was bleak — just like the cold Minnesota landscape in which it was set. I completed the novel feeling so happy to have read it, yes, but my stomach hurt right up until the conclusion. Just like with Room. And Great House. And many other books I’ve finished lately.
Do you find yourself greatly affected by the books you read? If something is sad, are you crying in sympathy? Or, unlike sad-sack me, do you have no trouble completing novels with a difficult subject matter?
My solution moving forward is this: I’m going to shy away from “sad books.” Life isn’t all rainbows, puppy tails and candy corn, I know, but I’m making a serious choice to stay away from things I know will leave me up at night. There are many books that have had me shaking with sobs and yet I was so glad to have read them, but I have to achieve some balance. Like writing, I have to know where my line is.
And Lord knows I need my beauty sleep.