October 14, 2010

The Ugly Cry

We had an interesting discussion at my Write Club the other night about books that had made us cry. I'm fascinated by which books seemed universally weep-worthy and which were very specific to one person's tastes and experiences. I'm developing a theory that which books make a person cry says a lot about that person, or that person's state of mind. It's not (that) often that I cry over my reading, and I've had fun looking through my memory for them.

1. The most recent would be Eat Pray Love, a book that took me totally by surprise by how much it affected me. I don't know if it was the honesty in the writing or the fact that I was going through a tough time when I read it, but that book made me all sorts of snotty. The author lays out her flaws and her failures with such heartbreaking detail. Who couldn't help but cry in her moments of sublime transcendence? I also think that a lot of her character traits and emotional longings mirrored my own so distinctly as to be almost eerie. When she sits on a bench in Italy, cracks her book open, and reads "and from my life there sprang a great fountain", I cried with her because I felt, in that moment, as if I was her.

2. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe. This book made me howl in the last few pages.

3 Othello. This was the only play of Shakespeare's that brought me to tears, and to this day I'm not sure why.

4. The first book to ever make me cry was Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls. I'm not a Hemingway fan, generally, but I have a deep love for this book. I love that he captures a man's whole life in three days and shows us that when one person dies, it ripples outwards through all of us. Or, more accurately, showed us how it should.

I've just realized that all of these books made me cry for a common reason: they all have to do with tragic separation and bone-crushing loss. I wonder if that's at the root of what makes all of us cry over our books: that most universal fear of losing someone well loved.

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