On story overload

September 29, 2015 at 12:04 am 5 comments

Wolfs_bloodI have mentioned before that I am a story junkie. While usually this is great — such as when I can get through a three-hour road trip by listening to an audiobook, or when the promise of getting back to my book spurs me to empty the dishwasher in record time — it can have its downsides.

For example, I had trouble sleeping last night. Ugh, it was one of those insomniac nights when I was so tired, and so happy to be snuggled up in bed, but my mind just wouldn’t stop. My husband had caught me watching Orphan Black earlier that evening, entering the room during a particularly gruesome scene and, incidentally, making me jump about a foot in the air. He shook his head, announced, “Don’t blame me when you can’t sleep,” and exited the room.

He was right, as he almost always is. But it wasn’t the nature of the scene that kept me from sleeping that night, or worries about schizophrenic clones creeping around my house at night. My bedtime routine usually involves reading a book until I pass out and then wake up, startled, with my glasses in an odd position and my husband snoring next to me, and I executed this routine as per usual. My “currently reading” is Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, and I found myself unable to put it down. Even when I did, I lay awake, staring at the wall, wondering what was going to happen next.

I tried to think about another, more calming book, as I often do when I’m having trouble sleeping. But my other books are Wolf’s Blood by Jane Lindskold and The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, both of which involve mysterious and devastating diseases with relatively unknown origins and both of which are frustrating me at the moment.

That was when I realized that I was probably on story overload. While I’m not a stranger to simultaneous book reading, it’s rare for me to have three going at once. And with the added story-heavy Orphan Black in the mix (as opposed to Parks & Rec or Modern Family, both of which are more episodic and character-driven), I found my brain bouncing maniacally around all of the plotlines. Clearly Firekeeper from Wolf’s Blood was going to discover the source of Me Before You character Will Traynor’s spinal injury as well as whatever was going on with Melanie in The Girl with All the Gifts, who was also probably a clone a la Orphan Black. Something about Orphan Black is also reminding me of Dead Like Me, so a little of that was mixed in there as well. You know how your brain gets when you can’t sleep.

I eventually took some ZZZQuil, read an issue of Kiplinger’s and managed to drift off, albeit not without some very strange dreams. (Firekeeper is also probably a clone, or maybe her friend Derian can be convinced that life is worth living again through a series of visits to concerts and to California, which Melanie, who is confined to a wheelchair like Will, would probably also enjoy. Is it possible that Melanie was raised by wolves? And is Sarah from Orphan Black going to be able to meet that deadline she has at work while dodging the zombie apocalypse? Oh, wait. I guess that’s me with the deadline.) And I have become convinced that there is a balance that needs to be struck regarding how many stories I personally have going at one time.

I do love reading a few stories simultaneously, even sometimes finding unexpected connections and common themes among disparate works. Orphan Black and The Girl with All the Gifts deal with scientific anomalies and fear and curiosity about the nature of humanity, while characters in both Wolf Hunting and Me Before You explore the impact of a physical trauma on a person’s identity. But sometimes, it really just can be way too much, and it makes it difficult to focus on any one story.

What about you? Do any of you find you have a limit to the books or number of stories you can follow at one given moment?

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Entry filed under: Musings and Essays. Tags: , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Corey  |  September 29, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Haha, this has happened to me, too! It’s a mess. A sometimes interesting mess of intersections and connections none of the authors intended (surely!), but I usually end up overwhelmed and give myself a reading time out.

    Reply
    • 2. Corey  |  September 29, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      I just remembered this post from years ago when I first discovered one could read more than one book at a time and the ensuing literary chaos I experienced: https://literarytransgressions.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/literary-polygamy One must do these things in a measured way, I guess!

      Reply
      • 3. Kate  |  September 29, 2015 at 2:50 pm

        Ha, too much of a good thing, I guess!

        Side note, I wrote this a few weeks ago…but it happened again to me on Sunday! I am now banning Orphan Black from my watchlist. It’s apparently just too much for my brain.

        Reply
        • 4. Corey  |  September 29, 2015 at 9:28 pm

          Well, I was thinking of starting to watch Orphan Black and you just made up my mind not to! Sounds waaaay intense.

        • 5. Kate  |  September 30, 2015 at 10:15 am

          I think it’s just the sheer number of questions each episode evokes. Every minute, it seems, you’re bombarded with more mysteries and seemingly incongruous facts, sometimes accompanied by teeth-grittingly gruesome violence. So it all sort of percolates in your brain even after you stop watching.

          Also, I started shipping a couple near the late-middle of season one and started becoming irritated with every plot point that did not involve this pair, so that contributed to my banning :)

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