Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sad: And a Good Thing, Too

I have that sad feeling again. Actually, two different sad feelings because I'm sad about two different things. First, my kids go back to school tomorrow; I’m one of those strange mothers who like having them around. I'll get over it, and fast. Specifically, at 8:00 in the morning when I realize I have five-and-a-half hours of uninterrupted work/writing time.

The other sadness is one that, thankfully, comes along a lot more often than once a year, but not as often as I would actually like it to. It's a kind of sadness that feels great, in the end. And, it's the kind of sadness I bet all of you also get, and are sort of grateful for: the sadness that descends when you come to the last words of the last chapter, on the last page of a book you love.

I know it's coming of course, and sometimes I purposely slow down my reading to delay the inevitable. Often, before I get to that bitter end, I already have another book I'm pretty sure I'll like as much waiting on the shelf. I've usually already Googled the author and have that "I loved your book" email half written. Undoubtedly, I've told several book loving friends why they have to read the book.

And more often than one might think, the too-soon-to-be-over sadness accompanies not the big important books by major authors, not the ones sitting atop best-seller lists or the ones every literary pal has declared a must read. It's the other kind I get attached to. The quiet memoir. The dusty biography. The nearly obscure novel. The underrated essay collection.

This time around, it was
Gregory Martin's memoir, Mountain City. A tiny, population-depleted Nevada town, grandparents and aging, Basque immigrants and mining legacies, the blessings of interdependence, odd extended families and familiar strangers, an elegy to a people who love and cope with a certain landscape, land and where one's planted. Best of all, it's a mostly non-linear narrative, my favorite kind. Mountain City is the only published book thus far from Martin, whom I discovered at Nonfiction Now last fall. He is at work on a novel and had some good advice for writers at the end of a Q/A interview I found on Argonaut.

There's a cure for this particular strain of melancholia, of course. I'll read something else. Write. Read it all over again – and soon. And finally, just sigh, wrapping myself in the luxury of being susceptible to this terrific kind of sadness again and again and again.


Anonymous said...

I recently experienced the same feeling with my children and the book Dear American Airlines. I'm excited, though, because with the kids I'm thinking of ways to extend the summer (bike rides, swimming, a trip to the Outer Banks this weekend),and with the book I have big plans. I got it from the library. Now, I'm going to buy a copy and mark it up, underlining my favorite parts and writing notes in the margains to remind myself of the author's "tricks" that I can use in my own writing.

kristen at

Michelle O'Neil said...

Love it! Hurts so good, huh Lisa?

Jenny said...

Yes, I know that sadness about the book (don't have kids, but I think I'd be bummed at the end of summer too). Anyway, back to book sad . . . I get a similar feeling when I take my last sip of coffee in the morning. :-)