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Read Your Own Story

I started re-reading the Magicians trilogy as a mind cleanser while I plow through a family-building-themed book (that, yes, I will need to discuss afterward because I have big feelings from it).  I keep thinking about a moment that occurs towards the end of the third book.  This is NOT a spoiler.

In The Magician’s Land, Quentin enters a library that contains a strange collection of books.  Each person has a book about their life.  On page 360  – 361, he learns:

These are the books of our lives.  Everyone has one.  See, here we are.  All together, as it happens, one book for each of us … Only people who are alive have them.  They come and go as people are born and die; this shelf goes on for miles in all directions.

They can take them down from the shelves, open them, read about the events of their lives.  If they want.

When Quentin hesitates, the librarian says to him,

Not as tempting as you’d think, is it?  I never opened mine.  There are those in the order who have looked, and I’ve seen their faces … You spend your whole life trying to understand yourself, what your story is about.  And then suddenly it’s all there.  All the answers, spelled out in black and white.

It’s a small moment of understanding, where Quentin responds that he is supposed to be writing his story, not reading it.  And then the scene is over; a choice made.

I’ve thought about this a lot; if I would read my book if I entered that library.  It’s different from a journal because it’s an objective, unemotional retelling of every moment from your life.  You can hover above the words, hover above your own existence, and see all the decisions you made, even the ones you no longer remember.  How strange would it be to read about events that have been erased from your own mind?  You’d have to believe it because it’s in the book, but it would feel like you were reading about a stranger during your early years.

Sometimes I think that I would re-shelve the book and let it go, and other times I think about how unlikely it would be to get the opportunity to read it twice, and the novelty of the experience would draw me to open the cover.  Would I have regrets?  Maybe.  But I think I’d still read the story of my life.

Would you?

8 comments

1 a { 10.11.17 at 7:48 am }

Absolutely.

2 Suzanna Catherine { 10.11.17 at 8:39 am }

Yes. I’d want to know about all those occasions where I made the wrong choice. Maybe that would help me to make “better” choices in the future.

3 Cristy { 10.11.17 at 8:49 am }

This is an interesting thought experiment of reading the story of your life and seeing how it all lays out. The thing is, if you read it, does this mean then that you are unable to make other choices? Or would you be able to and then would the story shift, at which point you wouldn’t know the ending anymore and would be in the same situation as before?

It also brings up another point I encounter a lot: people have this natural tendency to want to know the “right” answer to a problem. I see this with my students all the time. But we know that true Learning only comes when there is a struggle and even failure. The experts know the process because they’ve had to grapple with it, coming out either having figured it out or finding a way around or through. If we map out the road ahead, is the Learning lost? And with it the joy and satisfaction of finding a way to overcome?

4 Nicoleandmaggie { 10.11.17 at 9:39 am }

Who exactly is writing these stories? There are many narrators I wouldn’t appreciate getting a take from. And how do they decide what to leave in or take out? I don’t have time to read about every restroom trip.

5 Mali { 10.12.17 at 6:22 am }

I’m loving the previous three comments! My sentiments exactly, yet not so well articulated. And I think I’m pretty aware of my faults. I don’t need to read about them as well!

6 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.12.17 at 1:15 pm }

Mixing the first person and omniscient points of view? Sounds fascinating, and I’d totally be in. I’d love to be able to see things from a zoomed out point of view. Maybe it would make more sense from there.

7 sharah { 10.12.17 at 10:44 pm }

I have the Magician’s Land sitting beside waiting on me 🙂 And just FYI, I know I haven’t responded to your email question about the series, but I haven’t forgotten it. I’ve been mulling it over (maybe too much?) and trying to pinpoint the words that accurately explain my answer.

8 Caryn { 10.15.17 at 3:20 pm }

I would read without hesitation. I know exactly where I would look first too.

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