When I approach the end of a wonderful book I am reading, I feel a sense of loss. I do not want it to end. Is it over? Really? Sure, you can read it again, but without the sense of discovery. Yes, there are more fish in the sea, but it is just not the same.
I feel this most strongly with long books, such as Shogun and Infinite Jest. You invest a lot of time in a one-thousand-page book! But nothing came close to what I experienced with Victor Hugo’s remarkable Les Misérables.
I stumbled into the stage musical of Les Misérables fully thirty years ago. I had no idea what I was about to see. Sure, I had taken college world literature classes and read that part of Les Misérables where the priest buys Jean Valjean’s soul for God with the silver candlesticks. So now it was time to read the book.
I spent months reading it, re-reading sections to get the characters clear, taking notes and driving friends and family crazy by pointing out all the things in the book that the musical left out. Did you know that Javert was born in prison? Did you know the innkeeper became a slave trader?
I had a “relationship” with the book. Then it was over. I felt betrayed. How can Hugo write such a book and then just stop?
I’m feeling a similar kind of regret with a book I have now written and given over to a publisher. The book is A New Haunt for Mr. Bierce, an imagined afterlife of Ambrose Bierce, American Civil War Union soldier and writer.
The book was inspired by a dream about Bierce and began as a kind of ghost themed murder mystery. Then it changed, evolved into a reflection on aging and death. Then I finished. It is due out early 2022 through BQB Publishing.
I think I stopped too soon. I regret that I…
I read. I write. I learn. I’m in a writing group and I have four published books. I’m still pretty sure I’m not Steinbeck, but my heart and soul have found their way back to where they should be.