Beware of Books
A book can be dangerous in the wrong hands.
I’m not talking about dusty old turds like Mein Kampf or the Bible or the Koran. Of course literature that fills readers with fear will eventually cause problems.
I’m talking about really good fiction. The type of story that resonates with a reader so deeply that they completely lose themselves in it. The stories that tempt us to give up sleep or food or our first born child to read just one more page. I hope you’ve been there before. If not, keep trying on new books and eventually you’ll find a book so captivating that you’ll experience this incredible book-drunkenness.
But beware, a mind that’s high on a great story can start exhibiting risky behavior.
Sounds silly, right? I thought so too – before a book caused me to crash my car.
Once upon a time I discovered Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. From the first chapter of the first book, The Golden Compass, I was hooked! Steampunk mixed with spirit animals mixed with a subtle commentary on modern society. Even now, many years later, thinking of that series sends shivers up my spine. I couldn’t gobble down the words fast enough.
As I read, my mind was there with Lyra, her daemon, and that armored polar bear dude on their fantastical, desperate adventure. Unfortunately, my mind resides in my brain, which is part of my body, which was still tethered to this mundane meat-sphere.
I stayed up way too goddamn late reading that series. I was helpless. I may have slept for around 6 hours over the course of one weekend. My mind tattered by sleep deprivation, Monday snuck up on me. I had to go to work and convince everyone I took my job seriously (something I’ve become quite proficient at over the years, thank you very much!).
I plopped the book onto my desk next to my computer, and snuck sentences whenever I could. I was in Act Three of the third book, The Amber Spyglass, and shit was getting craaaaazy. At the end of the day, I clocked out and hopped into my car, anxious to get home and finish the amazing motherfucker of a book that Philip Pullman had gifted me.
Driving Under the Influence of Literature
Traffic struck. As I pulled onto the highway I came to a complete stop behind an endless river of cars. I squeezed the steering wheel. I’d have to wait longer to finish the damn book.
The damn book looked up at me from the passenger seat. I swear I saw the corner of its cover flitter open.
I glanced back up at the road, at the shiny silver ass of the BMW in front of me. We weren’t going anywhere for a while. My grip loosened.
I flipped open the book to where I’d left off and started ravaging the words. A huge battle had just started. Airships. Winged beasts. Thunderous voices.
A car horn rudely brought me back to the driver’s seat. The shiny silver BMW had advanced a few feet. Apparently, the asshole behind me couldn’t resist the opportunity to nudge me along. I took my foot off the brake and let the car roll forward. Then, foot back firmly on the brake, I turned again to the book.
God was there, in the battle. But it wasn’t God, it was actually some weird creature posing as God. The little girl Lyra was in the middle of it, separated from all her friends, the outcome resting on her should–
Another car horn. Again, a few feet had opened up in front of me. Again, I released the brake and let my car inch forward. Again, I stopped and turned back to the book.
The battle was intense. Lyra had to make a choice. The fate of many worlds rested on her decision. She clutched the knife, trembled, and–
Motherfucker! Another honk–this one long and extra obnoxious. I held my middle finger out the window toward the honker. I took my foot off the brake. The car started rolling.
I couldn’t believe what she’d done. The battle was dying down now. The monsters and war machines were retreating. There, laying at her feet was the defeated–
My head jerked forward. The book flew onto the floor. I’d forgotten to put my foot back on the brake!
Ok, so maybe “crash my car” was a little bit of an exaggeration. The driver of the shiny silver BMW and I assessed that my car had miraculously been spared any damage. The BMW’s bumper had a minor dent and a few scratches. She silently took my driver's license, car, and insurance info and curtly advised me to get a lawyer. Shit.
Before I drove the rest of the way home, I popped the trunk and tossed the book inside. I couldn’t have such a powerful aphrodisiac within reach.
I arrived home ashamed and afraid. I put the fear of a lawsuit behind me and finished the goddamn book. It was awesome. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy–the trilogy is a classic. Then the fear crept back in. I’d have to deal with insurance and lawyers and all sorts of other bullshit.
Turns out the owner of the car, the woman’s husband, didn’t take any action against me. He called soon after and explained that she had a suspended license and wasn’t supposed to be driving at all. If the coppers found out she’d been driving they’d have been in deep shit. He thanked me to forget all about it. I did.
But honestly, to this day the thing that scares me the most about that whole story is... it was totally worth it.