[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]After returning from Boothbay Harbor, one of the first things I did was rave to my mother about J. Courtney Sullivan‘s second novel, Maine. Already a New York Times best seller, “It’s the kind of book you read and think… I wish I wrote this book,” I told my mom. It was evocative, and equally as heartbreaking as uplifting– I only wished it was waterproof, so I could take it out on the float with me.
I started thinking about other books I wish I had written. Unfortunately people like Charles Dickens are always beating me to the punch. Pests. Since I just gave away the first author (I was distracted, trying to invent some reason to type What the Dickens?!), I suppose that’s a reasonable place to start.
Charles Dickens, clearly, I am not. The last piece of fiction I wrote was my resume. Totally kidding. It was an adaptation of Robin Hood, inspired by an illuminated manuscript from the medieval period. And if you have not already died of boredom, I will elaborate. It was written in French and (shock!) entirely awful. And it is now either taking up space in a landfill (sorry, Al Gore) or hanging in my professor’s office, a testament to all that is wrong with American co-eds.
A Tale of Two Cities showed me that a book could be so much more than a book, even if it was assigned reading. A carefully drawn plot could become a treasure map of sorts. When Mme. Defarge started knitting in deathly code, I was hooked.
Each year, a certain teacher at our grammar school would be reduce to tears, all because of an itsy, bitsy spider. She would barely finish reading the first chapter aloud before dissolving into a crying fit, but– because she loved Charlotte’s Web so– she would pick it up again, day after day, until finally her students would know the ending. In second grade, I was in the classroom next door. We listened to a lot of music that year, likely to drown out all the sobbing.
Someone gave me a hard cover copy of the book (I remember it being a First Communion present… that can’t be right, can it?), and I read it on my own that summer. It was the first book to break my heart. Had I actually understood The Velveteen Rabbit at such a tender age, surely it would have taken the prize. That story is brutal. Regardless, Charlotte’s Web taught me about sacrifice and love and friendship in terms I could understand. Plus, it made me wonder about farms.
I discovered Alex Kotlowitz after re-reading four of Jonathan Kozol’s books in as many days. It was the summer after I graduated from Boston College. I was awaiting acceptance into several volunteer programs, and feeling rather adrift in the world. If Charlotte’s Web broke my eight-year-old heart, There Are No Children Here ripped my twenty-two-year-old heart to shreds. I coveted Kotlowitz’s ability to engage, with a seemingly endless reservoir of compassion, while still respecting the professional tenets of journalism. I couldn’t imagine how I was laughing at the little anecdotes he shared, given the devastation surrounding these stories. And no sooner had I finished laughing, I was crying like that second grade teacher. It was all just so human.
A few month later, I would go on to start a career in youth development. I don’t think this is a coincidence.
If I was funny enough, rich enough, and patient enough to be a comedian, I would want to be Sloane Crosley. And if I couldn’t be her, I’d at least want to steal all of her material. I thought people who laughed out loud while reading on planes were manner-less goobers, until I became one of those people (we all know my manners are impeccable). Crosley’s essays are all at once poignant and hilarious.
I’ve started writing a few books in my head, including one called Frenchie Kisses for Everyone (a working title, mind you). The story follows me and Clark, as we circumnavigate the globe and (as the title indicates), he kisses everyone we meet. In the face of such overwhelming cuteness, rebel forces lay down their arms, corporate standoffs grind to a halt, and you know… other stuff.
Maybe I could start by writing one of those “choose your own adventure” books. That way, I wouldn’t really have to commit to an ending, and my overactive imagination could be of benefit. For once.
Also On Tap for Today:
- Soccer game
- This is why we need a second French bulldog
- Reading more about Lovin Spoonfuls Food Rescue
Which book(s) do you wish you had written?