Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Book therapy

No, this book is not therapeutic. Interesting, yes, but uplifting ... no.

This absolutely charmed me in the bookstore. Then I read it.

It's categorized as a graphic novel, though it has pages of straight-out text. Makes it look like a kids' book which it absolutely, emphatically IS NOT. Graphic novels is the best category for it.

It has a totally cool concept. A discontented young woman roams the streets at night and, one night, encounters a mysterious bookmobile that runs only at night.

It's her own personal magic bookmobile, run by her own personal otherworldly librarian. It contains every book she's ever read. Actually, it has everything she's ever read, including letters, cereal boxes, etc. Only what she's already read, nothing she should, or wants to, or would want to read. Just her past.

Is this an awesome idea? What a great way to get in touch with her lost self.

So I think it's going to be a charming story about...what? the healing power of books? revisiting your past and reconnecting with your old dreams and fantasies, and how that can help you get your life unstuck?

No. It's about how avoiding Real Life relationships and achievements by book obsession, like any retreat from reality, can be sick and destructive.

And though charming, it's not, it is food for thought, which is what a book should be. But, while getting the message, one of my thoughts was, Boy would I write a different story if I came up with this idea.

If it were up to me, the heroine, when told she really cannot just leave the regular world and live in the bookmobile, would buy an old RV and start her own, everyday-life Bookmobile.

And if she didn't go that route, still, I'd have the otherworldly librarian suggest it when she expressed her discontent with her life and asked to stay.

She couldn't supernaturally amass the books of someone's life, but she could stock her 'mobile with all the books that she loved, books that helped her and fed her soul through hard times, and she could set out to help unhappy night-wanderers by finding just the right book for them.

This, of course, is my concept, not the author's. Freedom of speech, right to say what she wants to say, yadda yadda, but I like my concept vastly better.

What I would put in such a bookmobile could be a whole post, but here's where I'd start:

The Oxford Book of Eighteenth Century Verse.

I often say that writing a novel doesn't mean I know diddly about literature. It's not modesty, it's the truth, and when I have an impression of some genre or period in literature, I'm likely to be simpleminded in the extreme and to embarrass myself by voicing it, but I'll go out on a limb and say this :

18th century poetry is, like, the Intermission in literary history, where you can take a break between the religious poets and their Journey to Death, and the Romantics and their "My Love is in The Grave" and Life's Fragility, and just go have a Coke and candy bar in the warm light of the lobby.

Sure, some poets of other eras get happy and some get serious here too, but so much of the book is loaded with humor --often deliciously biting humor-- joy, and hope. There's a whole, admittedly "the Titanic is unsinkable," kind of feeling that the amazing discoveries we're making about the cosmos are the beginning of our mastery over pain, wear and decay, injustice and conflict, everything. Life still hurts but there's light ahead; Reason will banish it all.

So far, all that optimism is quite unfulfilled, but mostly, reading this poetry is a joyful interlude.

So I'd certainly have a bunch of copies of this in stock. "Feeling low? Dip into this."

1 comment:

Catherine said...

I prefer your concept of what the book should have been. What a great idea!

I wonder if that is why I re-read so many books in my life. Not only for the joy of the story but perhaps to ground me or to take stock of where I am at the time of this re-reading? Interesting ....