As noted previously, we had the pleasure of watching Strictly Ballroom the other night, and it was a resounding success. Highs, lows, thrills, chills, etc. For the faint of heart (which is what I guess we are), it was a little too exciting. You might not think it really matters who wins the Latin competition, but for the rest of us, once we get caught up in a plot—well, let's just say that though we all made it through, there was some screaming and squealing that was not entirely of the happy variety.
When it was over, it was 9:45 (!), a very charged time of night, I'm sure you'll agree, what with it's being so very excitingly late and all, and I had a very agitated and buzzing Chestnut, flush from the thrilling conclusion, whose heart was going pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat. Bed, while a clearly recognized need, was out of the question for the immediate future. We needed to calm down. But how?
"You just need to read in bed for a while," I offered, because to me that's one of life's great pleasures, the kind that I actively envy my children when I see them nestled in there while I slog around putting away laundry and taking out the recycling.
"I need a book with no emotions," Chestnut agreed.
This took me aback. But really, it made a lot of sense. We were up high, way too high. We needed to come down, and emotions weren't going to help. But what the hell kind of book does anyone want to read that has no emotions in it? I started rummaging through her shelves, and came up with this:
I mean, the cover makes it look a little intense, and it retrospect it seems like it's got nothing but emotions. At the time, though, I figured: how many emotions is a guide going to have? Especially when it's American Girl?
But no. Chestnut did her own rummaging and announced, "This is it."
At first I thought, No! That's WAY too exciting. She'll get even more worked up! And then I realized that she was right; there is a clear difference between emotions and action. Pippi is exciting, sure, but it isn't about emotions really. And while Strictly Ballroom is exciting too, what really got to her was the feelings—the hurt of Fran's being rejected, the dad's fear and hope for his son, the longing and shame of the young man.
It's made me think of books, and excitement in books, in a whole new way. And it makes me think now, when I read: is the book I'm reading exciting? Is it a book with emotions? Or is it both?
Anyway, it chilled her right out. Sleep came fast. Would that there were more books like that.
Any books with no emotions you can recommend?
6 thoughts on “A Book With No Emotions”
I do so wish I could meet your Chestnut. She sounds so much like a slightly older version of my daughter.
we just love the American Girl series! So well done. But no emotions? Hmmmm. I guess I’d turn to non-fiction! Or have Chestnut review her social studies textbook the next time she needs to chill out. I always read my husband’s copy of The Economist. It puts me right to sleep.
I think she’s right that funny books are often without the sort of emotion that can get people really riled up. So I would think certain Roald Dahl novels might also fit the bill. I think older novels can also do it because the way that emotion was expressed and the sorts of situations portrayed aren’t the sort of in the moment things we connect with.
But for moments like those, I usually don’t want a book without emotions, I usually want a “feel better book.” A book I know backwards and forwards. A book that I love dearly. A book that is already so ingrained in me that I don’t need to think about it as I read it and can just let the words wash over me.
We always think some of Elizabeth Enright’s have that kind of mellow (limited emotion) kind of appeal*. You find a lost summer colony? Cool but not scary/emotional. Mille Mollie Mandy ditto.
*Hmm what does it say about us that these are favorites?
I wonder if Pippi was a book that Chesnut had read before, perhaps many times? Often, when I really need comfort, I read a book I know very well. It may be less about the emotional content of the book and more about knowing exactly what’s going to happen next so you don’t have to get worked up over anything. In fact, I still sometimes read The Secret Garden or A Little Princess as a 38-year old when I want something to help me drift off to sleep, and both of those books are full of emotion! But I’ve read them at least 50 times each, so it’s like listening to a lullaby sung by an old friend. Puts me right out.
Yes! The whole “I know what’s going to happen” thing. It’s like a broken-in shoe. For those moments when you just wish for no surprises. I have different re-reads for different trials and tribulations as well, Jane Austen for despair, Air Force Wives for fevers above 101, Patrick O’Brian for depression…