When I am near the end of a book, I have to sleep in the same room with it." Joan Didion.
Yep. Me too.
Books are the bridges that pass me over. I dip in whenever I feel unsure or wary, happy or sad. I just want a book near me. And when I am at the end, I carry them around with me like security blankets. I hate letting go of characters that I love.
Right now, I am unsettled and uneasy. And it's over something so silly. We have this beautiful picture window that looks out over our back yard. I have adored this window since the day I walked through the house. It is old fashioned and beautiful, with thick beveled glass and adorned on each side with tiny squares of glass all lined up. The window was put in with the house in 1918. A few weeks ago, Bing brought my attention to the fact that it was slipping. The glass. The sill on the bottom was rotting out and the window was beginning to slide down. She informed me that we needed to put in a new window sooner rather than later.
"Do you really want to hear a big crash during a February blizzard and have that window in our back yard?"she asked.
Well, no. Of course not. But, I don't want one of those new ugly picture windows either. So we went on a quest to find not only the perfect window, but someone to put it in. We finally found one that pleased both of us. Well, her more than me. She wanted this modern monstrosity that was just plain ugly but energy efficient. I wanted something pretty.
She hired the friend of a friend and he will begin tomorrow to measure the window and get everything ordered. Depending on when the window gets in, we will have it up by Thanksgiving.
So, I am unsettled. And glad for my books. I like to be able to drift away. With Mr. Darcy, preferably.
But thinking about books makes me think of characters in books that have become my friends, my book friends. And they are almost as real to me as my actual ones.
There is Holden Caulfield. He was one of the first characters that I hated to let go of. I read The Catcher In The Rye as a freshman in high school and have read it at least ten more times since then. Every reading, I like him more. I love his vulgar wit and his tired adolescent musing. I love almost everything about him. His honest ambiguity, his fear masked by boldness. I want to make him some soup for dinner and listen to him talk.
Atticus Finch of To Kill A Mockingbird. The first man in literature who made me ache for my Da.
Holly Golightly from Breakfast At Tiffany's. I wanted to go to her parties and go for a walk and have a long talk after, sharing our thoughts on how it all went. I want to link arms with her and sing about us being huckleberry friends, Moon River and me.
Scarlett O'Hara. Some people find her to be exasperating. She is the person I want to be with if there is a zombie apocalypse. Scarlett has moxie and she's not afraid to use her beauty to get what she wants and then she absolutely refuses to feel guilty about it. I think she and I would have at least tolerated each other well. Scarlett wasn't one for women friends, but give me her over that mealy mouthed, long suffering Melanie any day!
Winnie The Pooh. How can I not love him? He was always getting into trouble, always seeking out friends to help him and couldn't resist honey.
Toad from The Wind in the Willows.
I loved his attachment to routine and grounded self. When I first read this book to my daughter when she was in kindergarten, we both agreed that Toad was a good friend. The older I get, the more I identify with him.
The Cat in the Hat. A total anarchist. A rapscallion. And I LOVE it that he makes that sanctimonious fish's life miserable.
Jean Brodie. The first time that I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, I wanted to be one of her girls SO bad. I loved her refusal to settle for anything less than romantic.
Antonia Shimerda from My Antonia. Being a prairie girl myself, I am drawn to her stoicism and determination. She doesn't have Scarlett O'Hara's flash, but she's another one that I want on my team during the zombie invasion.
Charlotte from Charlotte's Web. Reading this book to my daughter was a much different experience than when I read it as a child. When I read this to my daughter, I was older and wiser and realized just what it costs sometimes to be a good friend.
Frankie Addams from The Member of the Wedding. God, I love her. So spirited. So hungry to live.
Harry Potter. And Hermione Granger. And Ron. And Dumbledore. And Snape. Such a gift of good characters in those novels. Honor and friendship and bravery and humanity.
Celie from The Color Purple. She may at first seem to be a strange pick as a heroine, but I loved the way she loved Shug, the way that loving her gave her the strength to stand up to Pa.
Elizabeth Bennett. Two words: Mr. Darcy. Enough said.
Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings series. Droll and majestic and loving and stern and a dichotomy of turns and twists.
Anne of Green Gables. When I read those books, I pined for red hair.
Fagin from Oliver Twist. Admit it. Didn't it kill you when he goes to prison at the end?
Anne Elliot of Persuasion. Not Austen's most intriguing heroine, but someone to be admired. Patient. Gentle. Wise. All the things I would like to be more of.
Jane Eyre. I loved the way she just got down to business, tore that wallpaper right off the day and got to work with an eye for justice and simply doing what was right.
Katniss Everdeen and Rue from The Hunger Games. Another set that would be part of my zombie fighting team. I loved Katniss' devotion to her family and refusal to be someone she wasn't. I loved Rue for all the same reasons, even though she wasn't as lucky.
Hester Prynne. She survives with dignity everything that is thrown at her. She's an interesting mix of bad and beautiful, holy and sinful. She is everywoman.
And last but not least, Eowyn of The Lord of the Rings. My favorite line of hers: "No living man can kill me." You go, sista.
So, tell me...who are the characters that stick to your ribs?