Saturday, June 27, 2009

The tracks of my tears

On Saturday morning Noel lets me sleep late. But sometimes I don't use all that time for sleeping. This morning I woke up about half an hour after him and reached for the book I'm reading. I had gotten through all but about fifty pages the night before.

The review will be up on the A.V. Club in a couple of weeks, so I won't give you an extensive evaluation of Alice Hoffman's The Story Sisters. The reason I bring it up is because I lay in bed this morning and read the last few chapters through an almost constant stream of tears. I don't think I've cried that much over anything -- real life or artistic creation -- for two or three years.

Worse, I wasn't really crying about the events in the book. I was crying about the overall message they seemed to be conveying: unavoidable love for family coupled with the inability to control what happens to them. I couldn't dry my tears by reminding myself that it's fiction; I couldn't get any emotional distance whatsoever. Every separation and every hope of bittersweet reunion sent me off again.

A while back, a reader asked the A.V. Club staff what movies make us cry. My answer was -- what doesn't? Yet even as a confirmed weeper, the effect of this book was extraordinary. This wasn't just a welling up, a sniffle, something caught in my eye; tears were literally rolling down my cheeks and collecting at my jawline.

I confess that I don't find crying at movies or books particularly pleasurable, although it's memorable and affecting. I actually put off finishing this book because I knew that how wrenching it would be.

What's your experience with being moved to tears by pop culture or art? How do you respond when it happens, and how frequently does it happen?

1 comment:

Eric Grubbs said...

Without fail, the combination of strong, emotional music with a really emotional scene in a movie or TV show can make me well up and unload. Many episodes of LOST do that to me, especially the final flashback in "Walkabout" from the first season. So does the final sequence in Good Will Hunting.

Recently, I saw UP the day after I went to a funeral. I cried throughout the film, as well as laughed, and I found the experience quite cathartic. Then I saw Dear Zachary a few weeks after that, and wow, was that a punch in the stomach.

Anyway, my point is, movies and music can really get to me, and I like that. As much as we're told to not cry about things, sometimes it's good to cry to release whatever is stressing us out.