There ought to be a word for the way you feel when you finish a book you have loved—a word to describe the longing when those characters leave your life. Not quite grief, not quite emptiness or pining—c'mon, I do have a life—but something close to that. Book-mourning? Bo-reavement?
I remember the first time I had it: I was 14, and I had just raced through Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles
. I read everything by Hardy, escaping ninth grade into the English countryside. Then there was Ayn Rand. Yes, me, too! Boys had adventure books, and I had my own call to courage from Ayn. When I read The Fountainhead
, I wanted to be Howard Roark and live life on my own terms. Bo-reavement was intense after that one.
I liked to read so much as a kid, I put writers in a heroic category: They were wise, with special powers, maybe some magic. Certainly they were romantic and smart. So it's probably not an accident I married one—Aaron Latham. He was a journalist when we met, but soon he began a novel about the CIA, Orchids for Mother
, and we often (in my memory, it was every night) discussed how his characters would get from one place to another. He'd ask, "Why would the agent go to the Middle East?" In journalism, there was an answer; in fiction, I learned, it wasn't so easy.
A Texan, Aaron has been fascinated by the cowboy myth as long as I've known him. He wrote Urban Cowboy
, which was made into a movie in 1980, and around that time he began working on a book about the taming of West Texas. Twenty years later, Code of the West
has arrived. It's King Arthur's court transposed into a 19th-century cowboy kingdom, and every time I've read it I've grieved for my lost friends.
What's on Lesley Stahl's Bookshelf? Read more!