My hunches about whether or not I will love a book are almost never wrong. I don’t know what it is within me that every so often solidifies the certainty that a particular book is going to be a game-changer. It’s more than just liking the cover, or the sound of the plot, or being impressed by the endorsements and the names of those endorsers plastered across the cover. Sometimes, I just know, and the certainty often makes me delay my reading of the book about which I have this feeling, that is, until I feel the time is right for me to submit to total devotion and, often, to being completely ruined. I delayed my reading of Patti Smith’s Just Kids until I knew I would be seeing her in concert that summer. I had previously missed her set at a festival I’d attended and I knew that my love of Just Kids would only intensify the regret I felt about having missed her, if I wasn’t guaranteed to see her again.
Me | Via Giphy
Anyway. A Little Life is one of those books. I knew I would love it, but it’s a solid 800 pages so I put it off because:
- I do most of my reading on the train to and from work when I’m already fairly laden down with bags and laptops etc. and so a book weighing roughly the same as an infant is not the ideal commuter read, and
- 800 pages don’t come cheap and I had yet to stumble across a reasonably priced copy and also I’m an idiot and haven’t joined a library since moving to New York so really my second reason is pretty much just ‘I am stupid,’ but look.
Let me live. So I was browsing in the gorgeous secondhand book and record store Mercer Books at the end of March and came across A Little Life for a very little price. The time had come.
It was all I feared it would be, and more: heartbreaking, all consuming, impossibly good; it’s a feat of literature potentially unlike anything I’ve read before. It also, as the title suggests, spans a lifetime. It is a book that I would hesitate to indiscriminately recommend to everyone. It’s important to be aware that it contains fairly graphic scenes of abuse and self harm, but as difficult as parts of it were to read, how rare is it to find a novel that delves so deeply and with such confidence into the human psyche, a novel where the authorial voice is completely absent. While reading, it never once occurred to me that what I was reading was a story someone had made up and written down. I believed every word, unquestioningly. How could it be anything but real?
Now that it’s over, I feel bereft. It took me nearly two months to read and has therefore become, like, part of who I am. I turned to Twitter in the hopes that it would provide me with something of a support group, and it did not let me down. I relate especially to those who note the predicament of reading A Little Life in public. Last week, a flight attendant brought to five the number of strangers who saw me reading it and asked me if I was okay. “That book will rock your world,” the flight attendant told me. He was not wrong.
Thank you, strangers in public places. Thank you, strangers on Twitter for making me feel a little better as I embark on a life I now have no idea how to face.
Me and my new friends on Twitter.com | Via Giphy
update on a little life by hanya yanagihara: sad sad sad sad sad so fucking sad
— oeishi? (@oeishiidesu) May 9, 2018
Today’s episode of Kit Openly Weeps on a Plane is brought to you by: A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
— Chaco John’s (@KAsfeldt) May 12, 2018
I hate all these ‘books you should buy your mom for Mother’s Day!’ lists that are like….. chick lit or bestselling tearjerkers. My mom is even more into hardcore depressing lit than I am. She read A Little Life on vacation.
— Rachel (@paceamoregelato) May 11, 2018
I just finished A Little Life. I don’t quite know what to do with myself.
— Gemma Milne (@gemmamilne) May 9, 2018
Non CHL is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Single best book I’ve ever read. Dark and long, but stays with you forever. Everyone should read this book.
— Josie (@JustPlainJo7) May 15, 2018
— FurCats (@furcatsshop) March 21, 2018
— Caroline Ranson (@CarolineRanson) March 23, 2018
Just finished reading @alittlelifebook and feel utterly bereft. Such a brilliantly written book that’s an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. Trying not to sob at its conclusion.
— Julia Sumner (McWatt) (@juliamcwatt) February 7, 2018
— Charlotte Nice (@CharliNice) July 15, 2017
— Justin Low (@Justin_Low) July 23, 2017
Featured Image Via Mr. Turner.