Today: The books I wish I had written.

[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.

A Tale of Two Cities

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.

Charlotte’s Web

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.

There Are No Children Here

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.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

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.

Packed and ready to make peace.

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:

Which book(s) do you wish you had written?

7 thoughts on “Today: The books I wish I had written.

  • July 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm
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    I really want to scratch Clark’s belly in that photo so he stops giving me the stink eye!

    Good post! I’m actually looking for book recommendations for an upcoming flight so this is perfectly timed!

    I wish I had written The Time Traveler’s Wife. It seems so modern and so new to say but that book reached into my chest and tore out my heart. I would love to be able to affect people that way. It’s also so polarizing. I’ve not met someone who didn’t have a strong opinion (love or hate) on it. I think it says something about the writing!

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  • July 25, 2011 at 4:03 pm
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    Hahaha. That is Clark’s mean mug, for sure. I completely agree about well written books eliciting a strong reaction. Safe travels!

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  • July 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm
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    I really wish I wrote Charlotte’s Web too! But then again, if I wrote any book I’d be happy! haha.

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  • July 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm
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    My bestie is getting a Frenchie!!! I knew you would be excited. :)

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  • July 26, 2011 at 9:49 am
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    I’ve never read There are No Children Here but after reading the description, its been added to my list. I picture tears in my future.

    I wish I had written The Great Gatsby. Or at least lived in it. I love a good mint julep.

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  • July 27, 2011 at 2:08 pm
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    I also loved Sloane Crosley’s book – so freaking funny….Did you read ‘Where the Red Fern Grows’ in elementary school. That damn book broke me down…My mom read it too because she was concerned about how upset I was….and then she cried at the end too.

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  • July 28, 2011 at 12:12 pm
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    I wish I had written the book I am currently reading. It’s Room by Emma Donaghue. It’s written in the perspective of a five year old who has never seen the outside world…He’s lived in “Room” his whole life. So creative, sad and amazing all together.

    I commend any author who has insane talent…I took a creative writing class last semester and boy…it was a challenge!

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts!