It’s Banned Books Week, the time to celebrate the freedom to read and also the freedom reading can bring. There are a lot of bad things happening in this world, and censorship might seem far down on the list of things to worry about, but we should all remember that banned books have the power to shape the world.
As is fitting, a quote from our often-banned friend, Mr. Vonnegut:
“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” -Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
One of my favorite movies (and books) is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You’ve got Audrey, crazy parties, a cranky cat named Cat and one seriously handsome writer (Hello, Paul!). It’s a fun movie, but the undercurrent of sadness is also appealing, in a strange way. Holly really is lost and doesn’t seem to be able to find herself for most of the movie. And even in the end, I’m sure Paul had his work cut out for him once the credits rolled.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Holly tells Paul about having the mean reds. When he confuses them for the blues, she says this great line:
“The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?”
Sometimes after I finish a book, I get a case of the mean reds. I’m not afraid, but I spend so much time invested in characters and plot, and as the pages dwindle, I know it will all be over soon. And while I love rereading a favorite book, there’s nothing quite like that first reading, indulging in all of the details and learning right along with the characters. It’s especially bad when I finish a series that I really love. Yes, Harry Potter is one of those series. I grew up reading those books, and saying goodbye to Harry’s story was like saying goodbye to one of my friends. And while I can read them any time I want, I’ll never be able to recreate sobbing in the back seat of my dad’s car when one of my favorite characters died.
All of this leads me to one of my recent reads, which gave me such a bad case of the mean reds that emergency frozen yogurt was in order. Yes, I’m talking about The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson. I’ve only read a few of her books, but The Shades of London series has become a fast favorite. I won’t spoil the ending of book two, referred to as “The Thing” by Maureen on Twitter (If you don’t follow her…just do. Seriously.), but it totally took me by surprise, and I’m still not over it. There are two books left, so not all hope is lost, but it will be a very, very long wait for the next book.
The only solution to a book-induced case of the mean reds? Buy copies for all of your friends and insist they read them so they can share in your misery. You can even create a tiny book nerd support group. You’re welcome, friends.
As I continue writing my manuscript, I’m thinking more and more about sentence structure and length, about making an impact with more than just the words on the page. Gary Provost provides us a great example of the power of a well-crafted sentence:
“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”
I’ve tried to keep the wedding posts to a minimum, because there are lots of other blogs out there that do it better, and frankly, wedding planning is not my favorite thing. However, it was a challenge to find non-traditional wedding readings from literature, and if this post helps someone else keep their sanity during the wedding planning process, I’d feel good about that.
Obviously, the Bible is one of the most-read books in the world (I’m sure there are statistics about that somewhere), but I wanted to go with something a little less traditional to fit with our book-themed wedding.
We looked at everything from children’s books like The Velveteen Rabbit and The Little Prince to Shakespeare. We wanted something that resonated with us and also with the audience. Although I’m a big fan of Shakespeare, it didn’t have a universal appeal and can be difficult to read aloud. Some readings, particularly The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, really conveyed the struggle and deep commitment that a marriage entails, but were perhaps a bit serious.
In the end, we chose two readings, each from one of our respective favorite books. Mine, naturally, was from Jane Eyre. I can’t get enough of Jane and Mr. Rochester, and this reading conveyed a depth of feeling that seemed fitting of the occasion.
“I have for the first time found what I can truly love – I have found you. You are my sympathy – my better self—my good angel—I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my center and spring of life, wraps my existence about you—and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.” – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
And Jonathan chose a lovely reading from The Alchemist. One of these days I’ll get around to reading the book.
“When he looked into her eyes, he learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke – the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert. What the boy felt at that moment was that he was in the presence of the only woman in his life, and that, with no need for words, she recognized the same thing. Because when you know the language, it’s easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it’s in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one’s dreams would have no meaning.” -The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Every wedding decision is an invitation to feedback and input from all involved parties, at least in my experience. Thankfully, everyone was supportive of our non-traditional choices, including my southern grandmother.
Jane Austen says that poetry drives away love, but it’s hard to argue with the likes of Walt Whitman.
” We were together. I forget the rest.” -Walt Whitman
The loss of a great writer is like a swift punch to the stomach. It comes out of nowhere and completely takes my breath away, leaving me not only mourning the death, but also the loss of the incredible works of art I won’t get to consume.
We’ve lost so many great writers this year, and I hope to write about each one that touched me in time, but the recent death of Nora Ephron weighs heavily on my mind. Originally a journalist, she transitioned into writing plays and novels and writing, directing and producing films. I grew up watching movies like Sleepless and Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, and her words have long since become everyday phrases in my family.
Ephron was gifted at exposing the humor of everyday life and love, including topics like relationships, divorce, death and friendship – all in a relatable, eerily accurate way. I remember laughing repeatedly at the seemingly ridiculous scene in When Harry Met Sally when Jess and Marie move in together and have a huge fight about that “stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers garage sale coffee table!”
Several years later, I’m now in the process of moving in with my fiancé and unintentionally recreating the embarrassing wagon wheel coffee table argument, only this time it’s about a bright blue, 17-foot-long kayak.
So Nora, if you’re up there reading blogs in your spare time, know that you touched my life and inspired me to be a better writer. To try to capture even a hint of the humanity you put into your work. And I will work each day to be the heroine of my life, and not the victim, as you advised in your ’96 Wellesley commencement address.
You should also know that I’m now 50 percent owner of one very blue, very large kayak that resides on my patio.