A feeling of anxiety, sadness and overall gloom takes hold of me; I dread what comes next. No, I am not referring to the start of the semester, but to the end of a novel. I am struck with thoughts of, “What am I going to do when I finish this book? What am I going to think about during the day? When I wake up? Before I go to sleep? How will my life go on without the exquisitely crafted journeys of Count Alexander Rostov, stuck in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel?”
I find myself frequently lost and depressed once I finish, or am close to finishing, a great book, and “A Gentleman in Moscow” is just that. I am in a free fall until the next story saves me from Netflix. Why must books end? Can the author not ramble on for a few hundred pages more, like Disney does with its obsession with the Skywalker family?
It’s not like movies, where only two hours are devoted to a story and its characters. Passages are not re-watched, and a hero’s journey is not followed for days to weeks at a time, as it is in books. A character and their personality are reflected upon over many days, its decisions weighed as if you made them yourself. An inextricable bond is created with relatable and beautifully crafted characters, as I, and many others, have with Alexander Rostov. Perhaps you have developed one with Daenerys Targaryen as she suffered many a fool, and fell in love with one too. Or maybe you became enamored with Amy Dunne as she revealed her masterfully executed plan to destroy her husband. The bonds you make with characters from your favorite books can never be replicated in other mediums.
Watching the movie before reading the book is a capital crime, betraying the written language for nothing more than an abbreviated summary. Freshman year, my friend group watched “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. I read the book during high school, and my surprise upon reading “Day 1, Gone” cannot be overstated. Needless to say, such surprise was not replicated on the faces of those watching for the first time. You cannot just rewind the film while watching with others in the room or at the theater. Rereading thought-provoking passages can help digest information and form opinions on the adventure, or it can be done to appreciate a unique part you never noticed before.
A book can transport us into faraway realms of fictional characters, a tool to distract us from the ordinary reality of our own lives. How amazing that is: to read through someone else’s mind of characters and scenery. An alternate reality easily achieved with only several hours of time invested; far less dangerous than taking a mind-altering drug and far more impactful. I still ruminate about Katniss Everdeen’s decision to kill President Coin, years after I first read it.
There are the legions of fake Game of Thrones fans that spent months of Sunday nights binging on the show, giving money away to HBO. All the information, family history and character development is skipped in the show in favor of frequent trips to the brothel and the normalization of incestuous relationships on the throne. Not that these are bad, but they don’t accurately portray the intricate world of Westeros — so intricate, in fact, that the author of “Game of Thrones,” George R. R. Martin, is not even close to finishing the series as HBO has just done. Condensing complex stories into minimalist versions of the original have probably led to the record-low levels of pleasure reading we’re now seeing in the United States. According to the Washington Post, between 2004 and 2017, the amount of Americans age 15 and over reading for pleasure on a normal day dropped from 28 percent to 19 percent.
With reading falling out of favor, there’s a lot more that’s lost than gained. Although you may love characters like Captain Marvel or Black Panther, imagine what they could have been if first created in a novel. Next time you decide to binge a major series like “Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu or “Game of Thrones” on HBO, consider immersing yourself fully into their worlds with paper instead of a screen.
Nicholas Walker is a senior majoring in biomedical engineering.