In case you haven’t realized, I love books. Like a lot.
Usually I only read literary fiction/classics, but lately I’ve been stretching beyond my preferred genre and reading fun books. Not that classics aren’t fun, but it’s difficult to discuss a shared love of reading with others who don’t have a degree in English when most of them are reading modern books, like Divergent series, and everything I’ve read is over a hundred years old.
While reading one of these fun books, W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton, I stumbled across a passage that really resonated with me (WARNING: Spoilers!):
It’s just a paragraph: a chunk of sentences which are lines of words and punctuation strung together. That’s it. But I felt such a deep connection to this passage that I had to take a picture of it, highlight the page, and write this post about it.
Although the book itself was one of my least favourite of Grafton’s work (you can’t call something a mystery if you’re able to figure out what happened before the halfway point of the book), this little paragraph made it worth reading. I’ve often felt this being “out of step with the rest of humankind” because of my inability to empathize with blatant shows of emotion. In fact, only a day before I came across this passage, my mother (who is at her core an emotional creature) implied that I have some sociopathic characteristics.
It’s not that I don’t feel anything, I do; I just don’t understand the use of showing it to the whole world. This lack of understanding has been something that’s dogged me my whole life–it’s made me feel abnormal and wonder if there really is some sort of connection between myself and the other sociopaths I am often compared to. Growing up, my nicknames were Lydia (the Gothic suicidal teen played by Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice) and Wednesday, the murderous child from The Addam’s Family.
It wasn’t until I read this passage, from a fun non-literary book, that I realized that my resistance to emotional outbursts is something that isn’t singular to me and the serial killers I see on Criminal Minds. Kinsey, the protagonist and narrator, isn’t the epitome of mental health by any means, but she’s not a bad person; in fact her whole career as a private investigator revolves around helping people. And she is like me.
Never in my life have I come across another person, fictional or not, who doesn’t understand emotions and is inherently good. I’ve spent my whole life feeling isolated and excluded from the rest of the emotional world because of my cold analytical nature, acutely aware that there is likely something wrong with me. Like Kinsey, I’ve thought that it’s everyone else who is normal, and me who is the the deformed cancerous freckle on the skin of society. It didn’t matter that I help people, and enjoy doing it and seeing them happy; I can’t show emotions so there has always be this implication that I have none. I felt destined to only relate to characters like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho as he says, “I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust.” But after the passage from Grafton’s book, I no longer have to associate myself with Patrick Bateman.
I guess the point of all of this is that I love books because even if something isn’t academic or “intelligent” reading, it’s still possible to stumble across passages like this that give you an understanding of your own soul. I’ve always been told that something must be wrong with me because I resist showing emotion, and I’ve only ever seen my relationship with emotions mirrored in self serving villains or characters like Wednesday Addams. But now after all this time, here’s Kinsey Millhone from Grafton’s book who resists emotion and is inherently good. I’ve never seen that before, and in fact, despite being like Kinsey, I didn’t believe it was possible. Now I do.
This passage has shown me that I’m not as alone as I thought.
My god, I love books.