Before I quit my job at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to play at being a writer, I was a regular contributor to the Eleventh Stack blog. I was free to write about pretty much any material in the Library’s catalog. It was great! On Thursdays, I’ll revisit some of my old faves. A version of this post first appeared on January 12, 2015. It was later reposted on December 1, 2016.
When I worked at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, one of my jobs was processing new books. Most of the books had holds for patrons, but sometimes a book that interested me would have no holds and I’d snatch it right up. Such was the case with Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters (affiliate) by Mallory Ortberg, who transitioned to Daniel M Lavery in 2018.
Lavery cleverly reimagines whole books as text message conversations between the characters, and sometimes with authors as well. An excerpt can be found here. Each iteration is injected with humor while still managing to convey the gist of the plots. Hamlet’s texts make him come across as a petulant teenager. The Lorax doesn’t only speak for the trees, but also for tampons. Scarlett O’Hara tries unsuccessfully to sext. Hermione Granger tries to explain what science and math are to Ron Weasley while simultaneously warning him that credit cards are not, in fact, magic. Sherlock Holmes ecstatically texts John Watson with his latest discovery – there’s cocaine you can smoke!
From Agatha Christie to Fight Club, from René Descartes to The Outsiders, no book or author is safe from Lavery.
Probably one of my favorite parts is the texts of Edgar Allan Poe. He’s texting that he might not be able to make it out; he can’t leave his house because a bird keeps looking at him. Then he hears bells that won’t stop ringing. Then because there’s a heart under the floor that won’t stop beating. There’s also a one-eyed cat that’s calling him a murderer. Of course these are the plots of some of Poe’s best-known stories, but they’re reinterpreted here like near-incomprehensible texts from your drunken friend.
It’s a quick and funny read that made me want to track down some the original stories she spoofed, like “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Daisy Miller and The Sun Also Rises. I want to see for myself just how bizarre these characters and stories are. I’m sure there’s a comment to be made about the brevity of texting and our ever-shortening attention spans, but I’m not about to make it; I’m too distracted imagining which one of my favorite fictional characters I’d like to text.
What about you? Which fictional character would you like to be your texting BFF? Let me know in the comments below!