There's something called the rapture of the deep, and it refers to what happens when a deep-sea diver spends too much time at the bottom of the ocean and can't tell which way is up. When he surfaces he's liable to have a condition called the bends, where the body can't adapt to the oxygen levels in the atmosphere. All this happens to me when I resurface from a book. The book I'm currently resurfacing from—the one I mentioned at the beginning of this piece—is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon. It's about two men who create comic book characters—but it's also about how artists create magical things from the events of everyday life. At one point the book's hero sees a roomful of moths, and then a huge luna moth sitting in a maple tree in Union Square Park; a few pages later, he reinvents what he's seen by creating a fabulous comic book heroine named Luna Moth. The moment Luna Moth flew into the novel was so breathtaking that I had to put down the book. I was almost dazed by the playfulness of the author and his ability to do something that has such a high degree of difficulty with such apparent ease. Chabon's novel takes place in New York City in the 1940s, and though I finished reading it more than a week ago, I'm still there. I'm smoking Camels, and Salvador Dali is at a party in the next room. Eventually, I'll have to start breathing the air in New York in 2002 again, but on the other hand, perhaps I won't have to. I'll find another book I love and disappear into it. Wish me luck.
What's on Nora Ephron's Bookshelf? Read more!