There is that moment when the book is finished, the last page pressed against the face of its opposite, and the entire book sags against your palm. The weight of the book seems to pull the last of the story away from you and you decide whether the place you have left was pleasant, whether it sank knives into your heart or your head, whether you are yet released from the rhythm of the words that carted you across the book's terrain.
This is a good space for laundry. Pull soft, dry towels from the what could be the bowels of an interstellar pod and stack in them in warm drifts in the bins balancing on the dryer. Towels that have been traveling in darkness, in the slush of a watery cave, in the tumble of a hot, spinning metal cabin. It's a good place to realize the book hasn't left you yet. You're still in the mood to argue its certainties, to debate whether the definition of good literature is still Everyone Dies in The End.
Towels, as Douglas Adams rightly intuited, are a perfect, a necessary, accompaniment for this activity.
I have just finished Marina Keegan's The Opposite of Loneliness and Michael Moorcock's Wizardry and Wild Romance, two books that are similar only in that they contain essays. TOofL was a revelation. It did the hard work of showing me, when I would have rather avoided it, the perspectives and pain of others. Reading the essay about why people care about whales, I was reminded of the constant FB status questions about how we care about Cecil the Lion but not other people! I want to make an easy answer--we can surely do both--but the essay was about the effort we make to find solutions for problems that appear to have a solution. The man who killed Cecil cheated. It's an easier thing to comprehend and be angry about (which doesn't make it wrong to be angry) than about the more complex issue of faked videos and proper sex education and healthcare. Outrage is simple enough to cram into a FB post. It's too soon for me to go into greater detail on the stories and essays: I'm still sorting out my responses. I know that once I started reading, I wanted to keep going. That I'm glad I read the stories and that many of the characters--Audrey, Ellen, and Claire, in particular--will stay with me when I think about people I know. That they will help me give myself a break and hold myself to standards because, hopefully, I will be (at least for awhile) paying closer attention.
W&WR just reminds me that I disagree with more F&SF readers than I agree with and that I wish read more when I was younger. I can't make myself love certain books anymore than I can abandon books I love. However, thanks to the suggestions in this book, I have started The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and think I would have liked it if I'd read it at the same time I originally read Susan Cooper and Tolkien. Except maybe for some of the slow-going dialect in the earlier parts of the book. It's atmospheric. And the lead characters (brother and sister) don't have to automatically encounter potential romantic partners along with the rest of the story, a balance that it sometimes reversed to the detriment of the story in contemporary YA fantasy (IMHO, of course). W&WR reminds me of the way I read when I was younger and that is just as appreciated as the additions to my reading list.
Books have been finished and laundry has been sorted. It is a good time to slip into the kitchen for a snack. :)