It is 6:07 in the morning, and I have been up all night finishing the novel that will be the choice for August’s Muse Monthly box. The last pages fall softly to the left side, the hardback cover closes. I run my fingers along the spine, where the title is printed in a bold silver. I take a breath.
I do not know where the term “book hangover” originated, but I do know this: the feeling of finishing a story is just as strong, if not more so, than the rush of starting one.
I suspect that as readers, most of you are familiar with the feeling even if you do not use that choice of name for it. It’s a very particular feeling – a heaviness, a thoughtfulness, and if the novel was particularly good, a desire to go back to the beginning and start the adventure all over again.
There is an investment we take on with a novel, as opposed to a work of short fiction or a poem; it’s a commitment to the characters within and their stories, which tends to extend beyond the first and last pages of the story. We give our time, our concentration, our emotions over to the world of the novel and allow it to carry us through a life that is not our own, to temporarily abandon the real world and inhabit a new one. We celebrate joys and triumphs, feel heartbreak and loss, and experience the ups and downs of the plot along with the characters, which takes energy on the part of us readers.
The end of a novel can feel like the end of the marathon. We need to steady our breath again, to look up and calibrate ourselves within our surroundings. It can be a shock to find ourselves back in our bedrooms instead of walking along the halls of Hogwarts, in the woods of Narnia, or the mountains of Middle Earth. This is the hangover feeling – the soreness in our heads, the molasses-like awakening back to our real lives. And it can be more difficult to recover from than a night at the bar.
So, how do we cure a hangover? Do we rest, drink plenty of water, take some aspirin? Or do we keep drinking, do we pick up another story and dive right in, desperate to continue that buzz that is particular to reading and to giving oneself over to fiction. Do we solve the problem by going right back to it’s source, slave to a vicious cycle? Are we addicts, then?
There are worse problems to have.
Drink up, friends.