8 September 2005
It's sitting by the overcoat, the second shelf, the note she wrote, that I can't bring myself to throw away
(The Cookieness herself, before my post, to mollify you for getting bored of Reader Appreciation Week!)
When I was littler it was a lot easier. I periodically fell in love with characters in books. Remember that fantastic bit in Daddy Long Legs where he goes, "Dear Judy, did you not guess that I was your Daddy Long Legs?" I swooned over that part. I inhaled the essences of Mr. Rochester and Mr. Darcy. I wanted them to love me, ME, not that insipid Jane or that rather stick-up-her-ass Elizabeth. Even younger than that, when I read Little House On The Prarie, I wanted to be friends with Laura. I wanted to call my parents Pa and Ma and have "good" venison and eat sugar straight from maple trees and own a calico dress. Ramona Quimby was my pal, so were the girls in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
And then, oh, I read The Catcher In The Rye and of course, like every other woman before me, fell madly and irrevocably in love with Holden Caulfield. I wanted to be the one exhaling smoke "not wolfing it like other women" and I wanted to be that stupid chick, what was her name, Sally, who he calls when he's drunk.
But I never thought in terms of authors. Salinger was a name you know, before he was a godhead. They all became eventual godheads, especially Louisa May Alcott. I visited her home in Boston and since I was the youngest person there who had read the books (I was 11) the guide took me took the attic where she wrote and I ran my fingers over the table and felt a shiver go down my spine. In London (and I'm totally not just doing this post so I can show off about where I've travelled, but still, pretty cool aren't I? :)) I visited Chaucer's grave and the same shiver. But to be fair, it also came when I saw James Douglas Morisson's in Paris (aha--just sneaked that one by you!).
Anyway, as I was saying, I worshipped writers. Everyone who had a real live book in real live bookstores. Everyone with a cryptic dedication. I almost pissed in my pants with excitement the first time I met Bulbul Sharma. My Sainted Aunts! Dude, and the author right. there. in. front. of. me!
I learnt in college how to take the magic away from writers by decoding their sentences. Still the writers I decoded were mostly dead. And I could still breathe Adrienne Rich's perfume if I bent low enough over my books. I still spoke stormily of Lysistrata and its relevance in today's world. I was a very Serious Young Person.
Then I started working and then I started to cover booklaunches and the business of being a writer and THEN it all changed. Writers were, well, normal people. They didn't come with halos. Some like Sir Vidia, a man known to me only by green library spines, were rather strange. Some were wonderful. But they weren't idols.
I miss being like that--all worshipful. I miss holding the printed word in such reverence. I miss believing everything I read in newspapers. And most of all I miss my godheads. I bet even if I met Louisa May herself, I'd be like, okay, big deal.
I've ruined everything, haven't I, by growing up?