Friday, September 2, 2011

30 More Days Book Challenge: Day 24

Day 24: The Books We Wish We'd Written


Our pal Emily Bruce suggested a few questions for our challenge and this one is my favorite.

I guess if you wanted to be a gazillionaire you would have wanted to write Harry Potter or Twilight. [Wait, Gianna didn't write Twilight? But she's all about the teen angst and bloodsucking.  And unrequited love.  For the record, Gianna's love for me is quite unrequited.] If you wanted critical attention and to be on the cover of Time Magazine you may say Franzen’s Freedom and if you wanted to write a book that people would be reading for generations you may say War and Peace or The Cat in the Hat.

My answer came very quickly, though it offers none of the above (but who knows, maybe people will be reading it for generations…). [Are you suggesting that this blog doesn't generate bestsellers out of thin air?] The book I wish I could have written is Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body. It is everything I love in a novel. It is intense, passionate, lyrical, fresh, and doesn’t have a sliver of cliché. It is the book I go to when I have a broken heart. [I send her there often.  Almost nightly.] It is the book I go to when I just need a quick fix of something less ordinary.

Written on the Body is the story of an affair between a married woman and an unnamed narrator. We don’t know if the narrator is male or female, but in the end it does not really matter. The book is a gorgeous and original meditation on love.

As far as first lines go, this has a pretty good one:

Why is the measure of love loss?
Winterson has a passage in here about death that I think about often these days:

Even death after long illness is without warning. The moment you had prepared for so carefully took you by storm. The troops broke through the window and snatched the body and the body is gone. The day before the Wednesday last, this time a year ago, you were here and now you’re not. Why not? Death reduces us to the baffled logic of a small child. If yesterday why not today? And where are you?

If you are like me and the thought of reading a love story has always made you cringe a bit, give this a read. This one sneaks up on you. You don’t realize it until you’ve finished, but you’ve just read a very sexy, beautiful, simple, love story. [I too love this book.  LOVE IT.]

One more taste:

You said ‘I love you.’ Why is it that the most unoriginal thing we can say to one another is still the thing we long to hear? ‘I love you’ is always a quotation. You did not say it first and neither did I, yet when you say it and when I say it we speak like savages who have found three words and worship them.


Gianna and I were talking earlier today and I mentioned how much I loved Written on the Body too.  Great book.  I very well might have picked it, but for the sake of variety I'm going to pick A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.  Never has someone so eloquently articulated the struggles of women trying to forge lives as writers (and as professionals in general).  Every single time that someone argues that women don't write great literature, I want to point them to this book as explanation and contradiction.  It is beautifully written, it is inspirational, and it is passionate.  Why aren't there more women in the canon?  They're cooking your fucking grits and squirting out kids, you assholes.  Give her money and a room of her own and she'll rule the world.  Why isn't there a woman Shakespeare?  Woolf imagines Shakespeare's equally talented sister, Judith, and makes the argument for her life. 

Woolf, unlike me, is professional and succinct, and she changed the world.  If I were going to write a book, I'd write a semi-fictional story about my Hideous Aunt Tub of Lard who lives in a shack in the woods and has dogs that commit suicide in order to escape her company.  And if I were going to write a second book, I'd write a photo essay about Zorro's greatest poses.  But my third book would be A Room of One's Own.

1 comment:

  1. "March." I am a major fan of Geraldine Brooks. I'd love to have written "The Namesake," too.