Tuesday, August 9

What Would Anne Shirley Do?

My weekday morning strolls from the parking garage to the office are usually not undertaken without an open book in hand. I'm the crazy person walking down a city sidewalk with two novels in my purse and another in front of my face, oblivious to whatever - or whoever - lies in my path.

First, it must be said: I've never understood why it is considered so socially perilous to be a "bookworm." For instance, take Mary Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life (one of the best movies of all time). When George finds out how everyone's life would have turned out if he'd never been born, it seems Mary ends up being one of the most frightening prospects:

Now, granted, Donna Reed looks a bit more polished and fabulous below...

But librarian Mary is still killin' it in those spectacles, and she looks nice and comfy with the sweater and coat (it is December in Bedford Falls, after all). Perhaps she'd have more time to fix her hair beautifully and wouldn't freeze to death in an exquisite lacy dress if she didn't have to hoof it to and from work every day (we career girls have to make some sacrifices, after all).

Maybe that's really the point - that she is an old, working spinster or something, which of course presents it's own opportunities for social critiques - and her love of books isn't what is "wrong" with her life. But still.

Back to my original thoughts...

I started thinking about bookworms this morning as I walked and read not because I felt like one walking and reading, but because I was reading about one (did you follow that?) I was, in fact, reading about one of my favorite characters in literature ever ... Anne of Green Gables.

Anne is one of those characters that I completely identify with. Perhaps it has something to do with her author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, whose own thoughts on re-reading old books speak to one of the many reasons I return to hers all the time.

"An old book has something for me which no new book can ever have -- for at every reading the memories and atmosphere of other readings come back and I am reading old years as well as an old book."

Books are food for the soul - rather like religion or music. They give the reader endless opportunities to feel the thrills and horrors of love, war, exploration, wealth, poverty, magic, and most of all, growth. I know reading about life is different than truly living it, but you generally make the best and most sensible choices for the life you actually lead (and, I would say, rightly so); books give you a glimpse into other lives and experiences.
This quote from a decidedly lighter source, the Nora Ephron movie You've Got Mail, explains it really well...
So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?
My answer to Kathleen Kelly's question would be no.
If you read extensively, you are enriched with ideas and situations you would never experience in your own life. Very few people have a life that full, and I'm not sure I'd want mine to be. That involves tragedies and decisions which are far more comfortable to confront vicariously. You learn things about yourself from the way you react to a character's actions and thoughts.
When you identify a character whose own life and personality bear shades of your own, that feels like real magic. And so I sometimes ask myself, what would Anne Shirley do? And the answers are never far from the path I end up taking. Literature influences life, just as life influences literature. Art imitation, and that sort of thing.
After this long winded post, perhaps Kyle will think twice about making fun of me for using the word mollusk in everyday speech, as he did last night.
But probably not.


  1. I love this post! I used to beg my mom to take me on vacation to Prince Edward Island, and as a kid she would always yell things like "stop reading and set the table!"

    The quotes you used are so perfect, especially about coming back to a favorite novel. My most re-read books are "Tale of Two Cities" and "When the Heart Waits", each marking important times in my life.

    Carrie, I'll happily put on my cardigan and join you in book wormage any day!

  2. Well written and said, Carrie! Jeff is always asking me, "Why are you always reading?" Only those who don't do it can ask such a question! I'm like a junkie if I have to go a couple days without a book to read. I admit it, I'm addicted.

    I've never read Anne of Green Gables, but am inspired to do so now.

    P.S. You're a really good writer, too! :)

  3. Thanks Steph! Kyle has given me a hard time about my book addiction once or twice as well ;)

    You should definitely check out Anne of Green Gables, it's wonderful.

  4. Emily, let's get a bottle of wine and some cardigans and have at it! I've never read "When the Heart Waits," but I loved "A Tale of Two Cities" so I'll have to give it a try :)

    Oh, and maybe next year we can drag Neil and Kyle along for a trip to PEI. Tempting...