A Night Out!
I love attending live concerts. As the crowd sings along, getting every word right, I am struck by an intense, warm-hearted affection towards my fellow fans. All of us share an unspoken union. I feel like anyone in the stands could turn to the stranger next to them and say something like, “These words and tones, arranged just so, move me. They seem to hold meaning for you as well, so we are now friends!”
Near the end of the evening, wanting an encore, thousands hold their phones aloft, the lights sparkling like stars. The stands transform into constellations that beg for more songs, more jubilation. They retake the stage to grant our wish. We reward our benefactors with a standing ovation and then pour out into the frigid night air. People are smiling, and laughing, and some still singing.
What About Us?
Do we, as readers, ever get a shared experience as phenomenal as that? Book fandoms certainly exist. But every bookish event that I can think of falls short of the scale and excitement of attending a music concert.
At readings held at bookstores, we get to hear the exact inflection that the author intended for our favorite lines. I guess that’s not too unlike hearing a guitarist or violinist shred an amazing solo. But that’s just a small excerpt of the larger work, not the whole shebang. Concerts are full, curated experiences. The headliners pick new releases, fan favorites, and deep cuts from their back catalog to fill a two-hour set. A live reading doesn’t bring that same energy.
There are discussions at literary festivals, during which we learn of the inspiration for this aspect of world-building, or that character’s quirks. That makes me think of an interview with a musician on a late-night talk show or published in a music industry magazine. It’s fun and informative, but much more low-key than the concert high we are chasing.
At big conventions, if we get a turn at the mic during Q&A, we get to ask questions about this detail or that plot choice. Buy a ticket for the meet and greet at the con, you can walk away with an autograph on the title page of your paperback, or even a selfie together. This is similar to getting your concert t-shirt signed backstage after the show, but it’s not the main event.
If the book is extremely popular, there may be midnight release parties to attend with fellow fans, all dressed as favorite characters. Even though a few partygoers may plop right down on the floor of the bookshop and start reading, most will bring their new treasures home to enjoy.
A Concert, But Make it Bookish…
I suppose the equivalent of a concert would be a massive group read-in. Picture it with me: Everyone settles in with cozy blankets and lots of pillows, opens their books, and reads. We all bring snacks to share, warm beverages, or perhaps bottles of wine. Only the occasional simultaneous sigh or gasp breaks the companionable silence. We turn to one another, exchange a smile of understanding, or a giggle. Leaning shoulder to shoulder, we let the tears flow when a beloved character breathes their last. Somehow, we each magically reach “The End” at the same moment. One by one, the reading lights are turned off. We hold up our phones and leave starred reviews for the author. Those glowing screens are also pleas sent out into the ether of the internet, begging for more words. Please, another ride on the emotional roller coaster! A Sequel! A Prequel! Please!