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And finally, one day I read the book that is probably the most rapturous book of my adult life. On a chaise lounge at the beach on a beautiful summer day, I open Wilkie Collins's masterpiece, The Woman in White, probably the first great work of mystery fiction ever written (although that description hardly does it justice), and I am instantly lost to the world. Days pass as I savor every word. Each minute I spend away from the book pretending to be interested in everyday life is a misery. How could I have waited so long to read this book? When can I get back to it? Halfway through I return to New York to work, to mix a movie, and I sit in the mix studio unable to focus on anything but whether my favorite character in the book will survive. I will not be able to bear it if anything bad happens to my beloved Marian Halcombe. Every so often I look up from the book and see a roomful of people waiting for me to make a decision about whether the music is too soft or the thunder is too loud, and I can't believe they don't understand that what I'm doing is much more important—I'm reading the most wonderful book.

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! 

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