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what you’ve been up to inside your head

May 16, 2009

I’m reading a novel by Nick Hornby. It’s the second one of his books I’ve read. His ability to get inside the heads of so many characters and tell their stories (from the first person) is remarkable. I’m reading both with the heart of a person who loves story and the appetite of a poet who pays attention to how people do what they do.

I recognized a main character in the current read as myself from her first sentence. I don’t want to reveal the title of the novel or the name of the character. It’s beside the point (and may offer confessions I’m not prepared to make), but isn’t it brilliant when a book knows what you’ve been up to inside your head?

In fiction, we can see ourselves as we have always known ourselves to be, in situations that are familiar to us. We wonder, how did we get ourselves into this? and how can we (ahem, the protagonists) possibly recover, triumph, persevere? Life has trajectory and momentum. Conflict and (possible) resolution spend so much time hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, that we press on day after day (I mean page after page). And then in the final moments, we see acts of heroism we may or may not ever be able to achieve or we see cowardice we may or may not ever succumb to.

I don’t know how the book ends. I don’t know for sure if the main character is really me. Well, of course she’s not me. She is herself, and I am myself. She will deal with her dilemmas in her way, and I will deal with mine as only I can. But it’s wonderful to have an ally. Someone who understands* the quest for “a better, blanker life than this one.”

She’s just as real as I am. When it comes down to it, I’m just a bunch of words on the page, too. Really. I find that fascinating.


*These are Hornby’s character’s words.

  1. May 19, 2009 10:40 am

    Well, can I have a recommendation for one of his books to read (I’ve read none of them)… I won’t think it is this book 😉

    It’s fabulous to find an ally like that. I haven’t had a book-ally in a long time and I want one.

  2. May 20, 2009 10:41 pm

    Ah, Nick Hornby. Yes.

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