I'm not going to tell you the title or Author's real name; you'll understand by the end of this post. I was happily reading Well Respected Book this afternoon when I got to the tiniest amount (seriously: roughly 4%) of Book in which Something Bad happens to the heroine. Bluntly, she's tortured. But it's the way she's tortured. She's tortured by someone who wants to impress upon her that he has all the power and she has none. Oh, and she's friendless, and all hope is gone.
In the hands of a lesser writer than Famous Author, this would just be a bit of melodrama, some Snidely Whiplash mustache-twirling with a nasty old henchman. But Famous Author gets it. She knows.
Right. Back to my reading. So I read this 4% bit of Well Respected Book and thought nothing of it. Maybe there was a little chill, as if the fridge door was left open too long. No more than that. Then I'm futzing around on Facebook, where a woman I have never met and don't know very well politely informs me she can't help me with a game we're both playing. It's a game. It's not real. I have no claim on this woman's assistance. Doesn't matter -- I completely overreacted. Now it doesn't feel like the fridge door is open; it's like the door's shut with me locked inside. I started having really off-kilter thoughts, that somehow I'd committed some solecism, offended this woman somehow. Bluntly, I went crazy.
This isn't the first time I've had a bad reaction to something Famous Author has written. Her books are, for the most part, keepers for me. But one of hers that other people adore was so difficult for me to read I suspect I never finished it, and it's not too surprising that I didn't read any others of hers for years.
Now, I don't know anything at all about Famous Author in real life. I hope these tiny black holes in her books -- which suck me in but barely register with most readers -- aren't evidence that she too had a Bad Childhood. I really hope that, but I can't think why else this stuff would make it into her books.
It reminds me of reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. When the Dementors are introduced, the description of how they make a person feel is easily recognized as the symptoms of clinical depression - - but only to a reader who has experienced depression. To everyone else, they are just particularly nasty bogeymen. But J.K. Rowling has admitted that she wrote them after a time in her life when she was clinically depressed.
I have been treated as the heroine in Well Respected Book was treated in that 4%. The pain is negligible; it's looking at people who are supposed to be protecting you and seeing the opposite intention on their faces, that's where the coldness comes from. And rather like Book's heroine, I assumed I deserved it. That's not a rational assumption, but then nothing about the situation is rational. The intent of the perpetrators is not rational, their actions are not rational, that there is no rescue and no one to seek help from is not rational. So concluding that I have earned this treatment is both irrational and logically consistent with reality.
This isn't my favorite form of emotional synergy when reading. Like brushing up against a Dementor, these experiences linger unpleasantly. I suspect if these bits made up more than 4% of Book, I would decline to read Famous Author again with no real idea why. Which would be a shame, because she's a great writer, and these are great books.
They certainly have the power to make me feel.