11 August, 2009

Reading Chills, That Lovin Feeling

The expression is a fairly common one, but it is also often overused to note a scary or creepy moment. "That gave me the chills" is however, not necessarily a negative. The kind of chill I am talking about in this post is the rare and illusive one, the white whale of chills. It strikes like lightning when the reading is so good your brain has no other way to express its pleasure; when the intensity of the scene demands a physical reaction that you refuse to produce because you don't even want to blink for fear of missing the next word.

Chills, to me, are the ultimate stamp on great writing. I can count the major Chills I have had on one hand, and still remember the scenes I was reading when they occurred. I have googled high and low, and have been unable to find any medical explanation for the phenomenon. My first Chill that I can remember came from reading the story of Manetheren (starts at p. 111) in The Eye of The World, the first book of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. Even rereading it now brings on secondary chills, like the aftershock of some great earthquake.

Now, I can't even be sure that Chills are a generalized occurrence, they could in all honesty just be some rare chemical reaction that is unique to my physiognomy. They feel like someone strummed a cord in my brain--it starts out sharp and intense, and spreads throughout the body, diminishing in pitch until your are tingling everywhere. That, as best as I can describe it, is the Chill with a capital "C". I obviously know what other physical occurrence this sounds similar to, and it is indeed similar in some respects, but they are worlds apart.

Now, if I am totally off my mark here, I apologize for sharing the peculiar workings of my brain. I am, however, incredibly curious to see if any of you have experienced a Chill before, and if you remember what scene brought it to life. Obviously, a Chill is context specific and, in a lot of cases, highly personal, so don't feel pressured to share if you don't want to. If you are interested though, leave a comment briefly describing the feeling and the scene, or go ahead and share it with your readers on your own blog (but let me know so I can link to it).

4 comments:

Sam said...

I totally know what you mean. I think of it as my body's physical reaction to something more awesome than words.

The earliest I can remember is Master of Whitestorm by Janny Wurts, but the book with the highest chill count for me is Legend by David Gemmell.

ediFanoB said...

I know what you mean and I would name it as the HIGHLIGHTS of reading.

The latest I can remember is when Daniel enters the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time in The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

And I still remember the saddest most heartbreaking scene - I always get tears in my eyes and my chest contracts.
It is in Lord of the Rings, when Frodo says goodbye to Sam. Merry and Pippin and enters the last ship to the Undying Lands. Even now when I write these words I feel so sad....

Dave said...

Easy. The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks. It's when the long-dead druid appears before the latest Shannara kid, who recognizes his face. The sentence "The face was Allanon's." brings on the Chill every time I read it.

I read the original Shannara series many times when I was young, and finally being able to read something brand new that hearkened back to those early reading experiences so strongly just flipped my "Chill" switch!

OnlyTheBestSciFi/Fantasy said...

Hey Sam, just picked up some Wurtz myself, so I'll let you know how it goes. I have yet to read Legend, but it is in the pile somewhere...

I remember that scene quite clearly Michael, although at that point I felt the movie had gotten a bit to long, but with the book I definitely got misty.

I know exactly what you mean by a trigger sentence Dave. It can be totally innocuous too, which is weird. Strangely, I get the same thing after a first sip of whiskey... hmmm, I'll have to think on that for a bit.