An Ode To Suzanne Collins

I just finished reading The Hunger Games at the request and graciousness of a coworker of mine.

We were talking about books we’ve read, both of us avid readers, and I mentioned that I was kind of in a rut. I had just finished the Millennium Trilogy (which, by the way, I didn’t understand why it was called that until the end of the last book…I can be pretty slow for a fairly smart girl…) and I hadn’t yet decided what to delve into next. I read “Inferno” by Eileen Myles based on a review on AfterEllen.com. It was okay – interesting stories, for the most part. However, it was very obviously written by a poet. Someone who has no regard for standard grammar or storytelling structure.

Which is fine. And sometimes? Even beautiful.  In fact, I wrote down a few quotes from it that I want to explore someday. They touched me.

It just wasn’t my style, overall.  I like novels, stories. I like adventure and connecting to characters.

While trying to choose my next literary endeavor, I decided to start reading Pride and Prejudice.  I had been perusing the books that were free on my e-reader and I came across that one.  It was a classic that I had never had to read in high school.  It was something I always meant to read, but hadn’t gotten around to yet. So I started it.

And practically fell asleep every time I did.

See, my problem is that about 85% of my reading-for-pleasure time is during my commute to and from Manhattan and my Brooklyn apartment.  My dear Jane Austen was an extremely talented writer, but said writing was also dense and requires full cognitive function to comprehend.  Between the geographical and generational differences, it just wasn’t something I was able to consume at eight in the morning, at seven after an exhausting day at work or at midnight (or later) slightly tipsy after a night out with friends.

I am diligently plugging away at it, understanding every bit of it – which is more than I can say for myself if I had been reading it in high school with the other English classes – but only able to attack it when at peak energy times or feeling particularly feisty, persistent or fidgety.  Therefore, it’s taking me considerably longer than most books would to finish.

Aforementioned coworker, however, told me that she had been reading Suzanne Collins’s series that started with The Hunger Games. I had heard of this book (though, honestly, I can’t remember where, why or when…perhaps during my brief stint as a Barnes & Noble cashier?) and had heard it was worth checking out.  However, she was so insistent that I pause my laborious attempt at a classic English novel, that the next day at work – despite me having only vaguely remembered our conversation – she had brought the book in for me to read.  This was Thursday, two days ago.

In case you have forgotten since the beginning of this post, I have just finished The Hunger Games.

Today is Saturday.

Mind you, she gave it to me at work on Thursday and a bunch of us went out Thursday night. I had started to read it Thursday night but it was mostly just to keep myself awake on the train ride home and I had to re-read the same pages the following morning.

To give you a clear picture, I shall outline the time spent reading this book:

Friday morning commute: 40 minutes
Friday afternoon commute: 40 minutes
Friday night commute (yes I traveled a lot Friday): 40 minutes
Saturday morning commute: 40 minutes
Saturday afternoon time-killer:  90 minutes
Saturday afternoon commute: 40 minutes

And then I had like 10 pages left to finish when I got back to my apartment. Now that I see the times typed out like that, it is actually a decent amount of time dedicated to this book, it’s just in a more condensed period of time than I’m used to.  At least, lately.

I honestly didn’t expect to love this book so much.

But, oh my goodness, I did. I was drawn to the character, enthralled in the story.

Most of all (and ultimately the point of this post, as I refuse to ruin the plot of this book for those of you who haven’t read it yet) I was amazed, stunned, excited and inspired by this author’s imagination.

She created a whole new world.  Though I try not to over-think novels I find entertaining and enjoyable, I can see how this is easily a projection of an extreme that the world could come to many, many years from now.  That our successes would be reserved for the elite and suffering would be cause for entertainment.

Anyway, as I said, the epic storyline and underlying satire are not the point of my rave about the wonders of Miss Collins.

What I couldn’t help but thinking, more than once while poring over these pages, was how amazing her imagination was.

She had created this entire reality – this culture, this way of life – in her head.  Complete with traditions, stereotypes and even accents, she had created this universe, right out of her own mind.

Like I said, I’m sure it’s based off something that’s far more political and serious than I care to think about, but either way I was awestruck by her ability to describe these characters in their natural habitat as if it were something she witnessed with her own eyes.

If I’m being totally honest, I suppose it’s not her imagination I envy. I have a very active and wild imagination.  It’s her ability to articulate the bizarre creations of this imagination.  In my life, I have had so many imaginary worlds and characters and storylines swirling around in my head. I’ve envisioned detailed scenes and physical appearances of characters.  I’ve even constructed entire histories and dialogues.

For some reason, I’m never able to turn these visions and thoughts into words that accurately depict what’s in my mind.  Perhaps I’m too critical of my words.  Maybe I’ve just never taken the time to try hard enough.

Either way, one of the most prominent emotions I felt was a sense of envy.  This book made me chuckle to myself, well up with tears and smile triumphantly.  All from this one woman’s personal thoughts and ideas about a fictitious sixteen year old girl and her ability to transcribe them.

So, Suzanne Collins, I tip my hat to you. For accomplishing something I can only dream to achieve.

I thoroughly look forward to partaking in the next two books in this series.

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~ by Valerie Anne on 02/19/2011.

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