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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Character Post: Carley Wells from How to Buy a Love of Reading

This is, I think, the last post as part of my Blogoversery Bash.

This post is perfect for today seeing as how it is the first day of school AHHH wish me luck!!!

You can click HERE for my review of How to Buy a Love of Reading.

~~~~~~
It always feels wrong, the first day of school. For one thing, the air still thinks it's summer. The breeze coming off the water is soft and tangy and nearly thick enough to rest against. It'll be weeks before fall will sharpen its saltiness into something that stings. For another, nearly everyone will be wearing new clothes too hot for the weather even though nobody is in a hurry for fall. All trying not to look like they're trying to wear something new because what's the rush--they'll still be new in a couple of weeks and there'll always be new new things. All trying not to look like they're trying.

Trying:
1. v. (present participle of try) Attempting to do something.
2. adj. Difficult, getting on one's nerves.
3. adj. Desperate--for example, needing to wear new fall clothing purchased yesterday because one returned from Fat Camp last week unable to button the shorts one wore in June.

"Which two books did you end up using for your summer reading project?" Hunter asks. At the stop sign a block before Montclair Academy he brakes too long. Though he's in linen and seersucker--Hunter never wears the wrong clothing, never feels rushed--his face is moist. He wipes it with a handkerchief and rubs his temples.

Behind us, Jake beeps, as if Hunter getting through the intersection ten seconds sooner would get us to school any faster, as if we aren't all part of a slow-moving parade in which everyone is checking out everyone else's new clothes and new tans and new cars (Amber's Rover, Jake's Jag, Hunter's Mercedes), tops down and windows open, rubberneckers all rubbernecking each other, like a giant accident waiting to happen.

"What time did you leave the Station last night, H?" He has that pale-beneath-his-tan look. Hard to tell if he's solidly into his first-day-of-school hangover or just starting to sober up.

"Did you go with Slaughterhouse-Five or Pride--"

"You drive like a senior citizen!" Jake shouts, and leans on the horn.

"Go already," I say. "Go."


* * *

Understand, this all happened earlier. Understand, I know there's something totally fake about telling a story--or typing one--as if it's happening right now when it clearly isn't happening right now because I'm in front of my computer, in my room, not in Hunter's car or at Montclair (where I'm about to be in the next part of this story). But present tense sounds right in my head. In my head, it is happening right now. Or rehappening.
And understand, I know no one is reading this. If a girl sets up a blog in the middle of cyberspace but nobody knows about it, does it make a sound? I know I'm invisible here. And I want to be. It's safer here than on paper or on a computer file, both of which my mother could find. I just need somewhere to scream where no one will hear.

* * *

"At exactly what point this summer," Mr. Nagel asks, standing over my desk, "did you manage to forget about the assignment?"

This being a rhetorical question, I shrug. Most of the time you can't go wrong with a shrug. Hard to debate a shrug.

"Miss Weiss," Nagel says to my friend Amber, "can you fathom how someone could forget the assignment?"

Caught in the middle of texting, Amber slips her cell phone under the twelve-page "Demonstrate Your Familiarity With Literary Terminology" handout Nagel has just plopped on our desks. The instructions ask us to be honest about what we know. It's supposedly just to help Nagel get a grip on what he needs to teach us, to "assess your collective gaps."

Hunter warned me on the way to school to look up everything on the Internet tonight so I can claim to be on a first-name basis with every literary term in the packet--even synesthesia. Last year, when Hunter took the class, people who answered the handout honestly got called "Gaps" by Nagel for the entire first month of school.

Amber flashes me a look that says, Sorry, but I'm going to need him for a college rec next year, and tells Nagel, "It would be hard to forget. I mean, it was a lot of writing. Not too much, but, um, just enough." She pats her twenty-page typed journal response to how The Crying of Lot 49 "resonates" with Sense and Sensibility, as if to remind herself that it's still there, on her desk, ready to be handed in. Amber gets those nightmares where you show up to a weird class you don't remember signing up for--say, Greek--and it's the day of the big test. Sometimes she needs to double-check that she's not in the middle of one.

Her last text to me, before Nagel had started surveying us about which books we'd each picked for the "Odd Couples" summer reading assignment, had been: "Europe turned Hunter extra-über-hot." He came back different, sure, but it's hard to say how. I mean, he's been gorgeous as long as he's been at Montclair, but now there's this almost unreal look to him. It's hard to describe, so I shouldn't even try. I just know that his being hungover or exhausted or sick just makes everyone think he's even better looking now. Like a poster of a beautiful, pained guy.

"I didn't exactly forget," I tell Nagel. "It was more like I thought I did it, and it turned out I didn't."

"And which books, Miss Wells, did you imagine this hallucinatory assignment for?" People snicker.

"I read the list," I say.

"All one hundred recommendations?"

"No. I mean, I read the list. Just the, um, list. A lot. I read it a lot." The snickers turn into full-out laughter. I let it crash over me, like a wave it's too late to body surf. I submerge into my head, and let it roll by.

* * *

I could recite the whole list if I wanted to. Not in alphabetical-by-last-name-of-the-author order, the way it is on the handout everyone got last June that asked us to choose two books that seem dissimilar and write an essay about how this "Odd Couple" had more in common than they at first appear to.

I could recite them, though, in the order Hunter read them (or in many cases, I suppose, re-read them) this summer. He read all one hundred of them while he was away. I couldn't tell you, exactly, what The Sound and the Fury is about, but I could tell you how he felt about it, what he wrote about it in a blog he doesn't know I know about, a blog no one has ever read but me. Probably he was afraid his cousin Ian would read his journal while they traveled together. Probably, the same way I'm doing now, he figured cyberspace was the only place big and dark enough to hide a piece of his heart.

Bored at Fat Camp, I was Googling combinations of books--hoping, honestly, that someone at some other school had posted an essay that put together two very random books like this. (I wasn't planning, exactly, to plagiarize. More like get inspired. Or, okay, borrow an idea or two.) I was trying three or four books at a time, seeing what came up, and there it was: a blog that mentioned The Grapes of Wrath, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Emma, and The Remains of the Day in the same sentence. One paragraph in, I knew it was Hunter. He wrote the way he talked. Also, he went by the name Scott Fitz.

And so, all summer, though he didn't e-mail very often and only called a couple of times, I felt like I was with him in Europe. I knew when he was sad (often), like when he wrote about a book called The Age of Innocence, saying people were trapped there the way they are in Fox Glen, everyone having to put on an act. I knew when he was trashed (also often), like when he went on for pages about how F. Scott Fitzgerald was predicting his own end in The Beautiful and Damned and how there was something he called "meta-" about an author writing his own life and making it come true.

I knew that even though he wanted to pretend he was only writing this for himself, and even though he didn't go around commenting on other people's book blogs to get them to notice him, he wished, secretly, that someone would stumble upon his blog by accident--some random, book-loving girl. She would be gorgeous but secretly geeky, like him. She would understand him from the way they both thought Mr. Darcy was actually a jerk, and not just at the beginning of the book. She would see what he thought Pride and Prejudice had in common with 1984. He'd have found his soul mate by accident. Instead, the accident was me.

* * *
"Everyone was talking about it, C," Hunter says softly as we drive away from Montclair at the end of the day. "I just don't get you sometimes. Pissing Nagel off on day one. Starting the year with a zero. It was a tricky assignment, I know. And if you were having trouble… if you found it was…"
"Stupid," I say. "Putting together things that don't belong together. I wasn't going to waste my summer shoving together things that don't fit."
~~~~~
Wow! Awesome guest post huh? Remember to check out the site HERE. And my interview with the author, Tanya Egan Gibson HERE.
Remember to join my contest HERE, for a chance to win a copy of How to Buy a Love of Reading and also a 1 of 3 postcards!
Wdebo :)

3 comments:

  1. Thanks Tanya. It's nice to enter their world again!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've been wanting to read this novel for a very long time!

    ReplyDelete
  3. How to Buy a Love of Reading sounds like a fascinating book with an original subject! I'd definitely be interested in reading it!

    ReplyDelete

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