What once was fluid has become static. No matter what you do, you’ll never get that story to move like it did before.
I liken it to watching over the shoulder of a true-life painter as he puts a busy street on the canvas. What will he include and not include? Where will each new brushstroke take you? The wonderment that fills you as the blank canvas becomes filled with people and cars and trees and animals is the truest joy of reading.
But then you start to notice how little blank canvas is left - how few pages you have left to turn. And you are filled with an implacable dread, because you know it’s almost over. The mystery is fleeing; it’s coming to an end and all you can do is keep watching.
And then it’s over. He lets you keep the painting. You put it up in your bedroom with the rest and you know that at any point in the rest of your life, you can go back and look at it again, but it just won’t be the same. Because you’re not watching it in real-time anymore. The street you saw bustling with life is now dried on paper.
That post-book depression is the longing for the words on the pages to move for you like they did the first time you read them. When you didn’t know what the next paragraph held and the world in which the characters found themselves was entirely without limit. Because any time you re-read the story, you know that they aren’t free to roam anywhere like they were before. They are stuck in a cart on a track and all you can hope for is to notice something about the scene you didn’t before, and to just try to relive those feelings you had the first time around.
Our literary history has shown a common desire among mankind to become immortal, from the Epic of Gilgamesh through the alchemical belief in the Philosopher’s Stone, to modern characters like Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is evidence of a general desire of humanity to defeat, or possibly cheat, death. I say general, because there are exceptions.
But in contrast to this fear, many people have learned to accept, even embrace, death. To do so, to have this emotion that is the antithesis of the desire for immortality, is not to be suicidal. It is to see your place in the universe, to realize what it is, recognize how fortunate you are to be able to experience life, if only for another minute, and to accept that you are not powerless against some complex entity, but that you exist, nothing more, nothing less.
“Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?”