I’ve been reading (rather, finishing) a trilogy by Philip Pullman His Dark Materials; I will write later my impressions on the book itself, but now I’d like to capture an interesting feeling I’ve got.
The edition I have combines all three books in one volume. As it happened, I first watched the movie, Golden Compass. When you start reading, you soon realize that the movie follows the plot quite closely, and you gain a certain feeling where the first novel will end (which also corresponds to the number of pages you still have to thumb through).
The second book was a completely unchartered territory for me. Of course, I have an assumption that the second and the third volumes are of similar size, and so the fingers ‘know’ how many pages are left till the end. But in any case, these estimates were very approximate – which created an interesting feeling of freedom, a suspension, as if a ‘textual pressure’ disappeared. One would indeed need a very ‘subtle knife’ to make a precise cut between the books.
I remember Nabokov once wrote about this feeling of confident anticipation from the thickness of the book ahead of you, which is gradually give place to a growing anxiety, when the finger start trembling the last, and increasingly thin, pages of the book; the sand of the last seconds in a hourglass speeds up time in a similar manner.
How to retain this, I admit, pleasant feeling of freedom and independence of the text, unawareness of the end (and may be even of the beginning)? I remember having somehow similar experience when reading Cortázar’s Hopscotch or Pavić’s Dictionary of the Khazars; if I remember, Eco also write about similar things in his Open Text (Opera aperta). Besides already mentioned ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ also emerged a distinctive playful mode, a play with the text of a kind.