Monday, June 21, 2010

Crocodiles Smile When They Dance

I felt myself vibrating a little, some biological tuning fork struck and left to ring and shiver. A sense of agitation. A sense of standing just outside myself, just a pace or two, just enough to feel the world suddenly skewed, tilted, tipped to a new polarity.

I licked my lips. My fingers were nervous, dancing and flipping and tapping out rhythms, ten little Fred Astaires on ten invisible little chairs. Excessive blinking. Dry throat. Dreams of crocodiles, chasing crocodiles, yes, always chasing, always chasing and smiling.

I read the label on a cereal box and it made me over-excited. Trisodium Phosphate! Yes!

My thoughts tumbled. They were clouds blown apart by the wind and scattered across the sky. Little ships lost in a vast blue sea. An arid sea.

Thirsty. Oh yes, thirsty. That terrible need.

You see, it had been over a day since I last read a book.

It all happened innocently, of course. I finished one book and didn’t have time to pick out another book right then. And the next morning was busy, too, and the next afternoon. And what happened then? Things got a little twitchy.

Fred Astaire fingers. Crocodile dreams.

And yet wasn’t this a little odd? These reactions to booklessness? It wasn’t even that I didn’t have books. I had twenty thousand. But I hadn’t started reading one yet. Worse, I hadn’t even picked one out.

The world, three degrees off kilter and tilting quickly.

But what was this? It seemed almost like these were symptoms of withdrawal. Which was silly. Right?

Let’s see…

Withdrawal Symptoms (via

Mild to moderate psychological symptoms:
• Feeling of jumpiness or nervousness
• Feeling of shakiness
• Anxiety
• Irritability or easily excited
• Emotional volatility, rapid emotional changes
• Depression
• Fatigue
• Difficulty with thinking clearly
• Bad dreams

Okay, yeah. This is moderately spooky. So basically I’m addicted to books. I needed a book. Right away.

Let’s go a little further…

Mild to moderate physical symptoms:
• Headache – Okay, yeah. Headache was there. I mean, there was no book!
• Sweating, especially the palms of the hands or the face – Well, I always sweat. I admit it. How to measure the changing volume capacity of Niagara Falls…? Beyond my ability.
• Nausea – I did read Sartre once.
• Vomiting – Luckily, no. But I did find a book fairly soon. Who knows if I hadn’t?
• Loss of appetite – Hungry for words and words alone.
• Insomnia, sleeping difficulty – Around the crocodile dreams, yes, sleep was tricky.
• Paleness – Well, I’m Irish. It’s hard to tell.
• Rapid heart rate (palpitations) – I was getting there.
• Eyes, pupils different size (enlarged, dilated pupils) – I try not to look in the mirror too much. It never says I’m the fairest one of all.
• Skin, clammy – I’ll check next time.
• Abnormal movements – Sort of a book version of the I-have-to-pee dance.
• Tremor of the hands – Fred Astaire fingers.
• Involuntary, abnormal movements of the eyelids – Blinking. Maybe there will be words there when my eyes open…

There are severe symptoms, too, but it was a short withdrawal period. No hallucinations. Unless the crocodiles count.

So… this is strange and a little troubling. I mean, if I’m addicted to something I’m glad it’s books. But what do you think, Fellow Sophisticates? Book addiction is healthy? Book addiction has some downsides? Check yourself into a hospital immediately, Ink?

And what about YOU? Book addicts, anyone?

Here’s a checklist to help you out (slightly modified from the one by the helpful folks at

Common signs and symptoms of book abuse
• You’re neglecting your responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting your children) because of your book use.
• You’re using books under dangerous conditions or taking risks while reading, such as driving while reading, using dirty bookmarks, or having unprotected Kindles in the bathtub.
• Your book use is getting you into legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence of audiobooks, or stealing to support a book habit.
• Your book use is causing problems in your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of old friends.

Common signs and symptoms of drug addiction
• You’ve built up a book tolerance. You need to use more books to experience the same effects you used to get with smaller amounts.
• You read books to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without books, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
• You’ve lost control over your book use. You often read books or read more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop reading, but you feel powerless.
• Your life revolves around book use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about books, figuring out how to get them, and recovering from the book’s effects.
• You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, because of your book use.
• You continue to read books, despite knowing it’s hurting you (or your pocketbook). It’s causing major problems in your life—blackouts, viruses, mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you read anyway.

Support group, anyone?


Mira said...

Ha! Funny stuff, addiction to books.

Although, I bet not so far off the mark sometimes. I've been known to have cravings!

Like the list of withdrawal symptoms. Funny.

Mayowa said...


I think work broke my book dependence. Boss man caught me reading in my car once or twice hehe.

I do have another theory about your symptoms. Methinks you finally recognize that the Lakers are the best basketball team on the planet and Kobe the best player...ever.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I broke my book addiction long ago, before it broke me. The nights of reading until I finished, dawn be damned, just had to end once the babies came around.


Every once in a while ...

A friend gives me Brokeback Mountain and I read it on the way home, while stopped at traffic lights. I convince myself I have to stop for tea, but really ... I have to stop to read. I have to finish it, and that tea takes a really long time to drink.

But, addictive type that I am, I realize I've just switched one addiction for another. Now, if I don't write (prose, blogs, notes scribbled on the back of hangman sheets) I get twitchy. The shifty eyes start, searching for a piece of paper. Words play in my head, while the kids play in the backseat.

Madness, I tell you. :)

Unknown said...

My name is Elaine and I'm a book addict: no matter how late it is in the night, or how early it is in the morning,I can't sleep unless I've read something. Sometimes I can get away with just reading a few pages but the cravings start the moment the alarm goes off, if I haven't had a decent fix.
It is good to know I have finally found the right kind of support group.

JE said...

I'm happy to say I'm clean. Been that way for awhile. BBB (Book Bossom Buddies) is a wonderful thing...they can help you too! ;-)


RosieC said...

This is beautiful. I would really love to see how the book version of the pee-pee dance plays out.

Bryan Russell said...


Yes! Funny! Sadly, um, also sort of true.

Bryan Russell said...


I'll give you the Lakers. But Jordan Lite? Nah. I mean, he's not even the best player now. :) And Mr. Jordan never went no 6-24 in a Finals closing game. Kobe better go give Artest a big hug for saving his bacon. (and who ever thought we'd be hearing those words? Artest!)

Bryan Russell said...


I will not get into the writing addiction. But the book addiction came first and spawned others.

Bryan Russell said...


We totally need a group. Except we might just end up trading book recommendations.


Bryan Russell said...


Clean? How did you do it?

Bryan Russell said...


I believe the dance has scarred a few people for life. My wife still has nightmares.

Bryan Russell said...

Oh, and I wanted to see if the new blog design was going down okay. Does it seem readable? No suicidal tendencies?

Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

I like the new blog design. Easy to read, and the graphic fits the tone.

I have a mixed addiction. I must either read something, or write something. If I had to do both, I'd *really* be crazy! ;-)

Mayowa said...

Oh Jordan had a terrible game or two in the finals (6-19 against in Game 4 of the 96 finals)

HA! I thank Ron and his therapist :)

Great post today btw.

Mira said...

I have mixed feelings about the new blog design. It seems more professional, but it is very dark, and abit forbiding.

If that's the tone you're going for, though, no problem. :)

I know how fun it is to play with stuff like that.

I say you change your blog design weekly. I change my picture weekly, and it's lots of fun.

Bryan Russell said...


Yeah, that would be bad.

Bryan Russell said...


I'll have to use a lot of smiley faces to combat the grimness. :)

Bryan Russell said...


Career Playoff Averages:

Kobe Bryant
5.2 rebounds
4.8 assists
25.5 points
44.8% shooting
.7 blocks
1.4 steals

Michael Jordan
6.4 rebounds
5.7 assists
33.4 points
48.7% shooting
.9 blocks
2.1 steals


Bryan Russell said...

Heck, even LeBron...

8.4 rebounds (better than Kobe)
7.3 assists (better than Kobe)
29.3 points (better than Kobe)
45.9% shooting (better than Kobe)
1.0 blocks (better than Kobe)
1.6 steals (better than Kobe)


Matthew MacNish said...

Bryan I think you might be a little sick ... sick being a streetwise/slang term for really cool.

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh, and the Lakers suck.

Matthew MacNish said...

And I like the new layout - very neat and clean - and I also like commenting repeatedly - as you know from NB's forums.

Bryan Russell said...

Thanks, Matt!

I really liked the new layout, but wondered if it was too dark. I thought it fit the photos and whatnot, though. I made sure to keep the post boxes white, both to relieve the blackness of it all and to make it a little easier on the eye.

Mira said...

Bryan -

I like the white - it makes the writing stand out.

And since you asked - yes it's too dark. Not enough smiley faces in the world. ;)

And you asked!!!!!

but if you like it, that's all that counts.

Like Matthew, I like multiple posts.

Since I was born in L.A., I think I might also have to like the Lakers. Even though, from all apparent evidence, they are the personification of evil.

Mira said...

Well, it's too dark for me, anyway.

You might try a nice grey. That will still have the same 'darkness' but it won't be so intense.

QuiteLight said...

I like the new design... but I have a weakness for black... B&W like books, starker than the vintage look from before.

I am a recovering book addict, I know the shakes & twitches, roaming eyes... I'm still allowed to read for pleasure, but when the DT's kick in, and & I can't stop, I'm cut off. Then I catch myself reading labels... "Made in Taiwan"... fascinating... Breeeeeeathe...

Bryan Russell said...

What about this design? Keeps some of the old colour scheme, but with a much more interesting form. Got the alchemy, got the writing, got a bit of dark colour to pull out the banner photo...

I love the black cause I think it's kind of beautiful. But it's not as inviting.

Any thoughts?

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I like this one much better - beautiful script writing to echo your beautiful prose. :)

I know you like the dark, but this isn't quite so foreboding. You have such a warm, welcoming blog - your background should reflect that. :)

Bryan Russell said...

Thanks, Susan!

The all black was pretty. This one, though, feels different... but familiar.

Of course tinkering with design is probably addictive, too. The amateur photographer and long-submerged artist peeking out...

I'll probably have a new design every 3.4 hours. :)

Mira said...

Oh, you're going to kill me. I really like the lighter colors, and I like this better than all black, but the background writing (which is a wonderful and apt background) makes it hard to read the main posts.

Maybe I should take this off-line, since I have all these OPINIONS. :)

And playing around is part of the fun.

Mira said...

Oh, you know what you might do? Instead of the white around the posts, darken that part. Go back to black or grey - or try different colors. Then you can keep the cool antique writing in the background, because it won't show through.

Tell me if you want me to stop. I'm incapable of making that decision on my own.

Maybe I'll e-mail you.

Matthew MacNish said...

I like this one even better. The black before was good but that in focus/out of focus book's pages are awesome! That font is really beautiful. Is that text auf Deutsch?

Bryan Russell said...


Yep. Though my German is, um, sub-par. So I have no idea what it actually says. I'm hoping it's not Mein Kampf.

Lynn Mitchell said...

This post was brilliant! It made my day.

Just to clarify, I am not a book addict. I have them lying around my house and office but everyone does, right? And maybe a few in the closet. And the car. And on my ipod. And computer.

I'm only a social reader--you know, trying to keep up with current events, good stories, and pop culture. And sometimes I read when I'm bored or alone. Or sad. Or happy. But I can stop reading anytime I choose. Really. Probably. Maybe.

:) :) :) :) :)

Bryan Russell said...

Ha! Thanks, Lynn.