Friday, December 30, 2005

Good stories always make a person lose all sense of time

While reading this novel by Carmen Martín Gaite, I ran across a rather wonderful statement about stories.
Recently, when I happened to mention to [my mother] that nowadays houses have very little mystery about them and all living rooms seem to be the same living room, she got to talking about those old houses and I asked her to draw me a plan of the one in Cáceres. In the beginning it struck her as a silly whim of mine and she began to draw it rather reluctantly, just to please me, but then, as she drew each room and started having trouble with the proportions and the way they fitted together, she got all enthused and went to get graph paper so as to try to solve the problems, and finally we both got so interested we forgot to set the table for lunch, and I told her that good stories always make a person lose all sense of time and that thanks to them we keep ourselves from being overwhelmed by practical tasks, and that remark led to a really delightful chat.

In my edition of The Back Room, the quote is found on page 86. That is near the end of the third chapter. Really good stories do make me lose my sense of time. Sometimes I also lose my sense of place. Occasionally, I will half forget where I am until I get really hungry and realize that I'm hungry because I was sitting on a couch or futon reading so contentedly that I haven't thought to have anything to eat since 9 am and now it's dinnertime. (This happens most often on school vacations when I've got a 350+ page novel. J.K. Rowling is the author most responsible for such situations in my experience as a reader, with Madeleine L'Engle a close second.)

This reminds me of what my sister said to me almost exactly two years ago as we left a movie theater. It was something along the lines of that the best sort of movie is the one that after the end credits roll, you walk out through the lobby in a daze and cannot for the life of you remember where you parked the car. As I remember, that comment was also part of a really delightful chat!