Ξ November 11th, 2008 | → 14 Comments | ∇ guest posts |
Every aspiring writer has to have a favorite book. You can’t call yourself a literary anything if you don’t have a favorite author and title that you can drop at a moment’s notice.
I was 16 when I discovered mine.
Charles Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities
As I’ve gotten older and befriended smart, pompous assholes, I’ve become painfully aware of how cliche my choice is. And yet, no matter how many books I read, I always come back to the same tired old love story when someone asks me to pin down my favorite.
For those of you not familiar with the book, allow me to ruin the ending.
The guy dies.
But more than that, the guy dies on purpose so that the woman he loves can be with the man she loves. The man who is not, despite a shocking physical resemblance, him.
Boy meets girl. Boy loves girl. Boy sacrifices himself to the guillotine so that girl can spend the rest of her life with other boy. Ah, the romance!
Ironically, I hated this book for the first several chapters. The language is heavy and the imagery threatens to suffocate the storyline. I never have been able to fully wrap my head around the significance of the house of footprints. Or was it corner or whispers? Perhaps if I’d been forced to read it in an English class with a study guide and omnipotent teacher I’d be able to tell you what the author meant.
Instead, I sobbed into a library copy, alone in my bedroom with the injustice and selflessness. I was in awe of the idea that someone would literally die for you with no expectation of reward. I was certain there could be no purer display of love.
I wonder how many relationships I’ve fucked up because of that book.
Not, of course, that I’d ever ask a man to die for me. I’d just like to think that he would if the opportunity presented itself.
People tell each other all the time how much they love one another. They profess to care about one another’s happiness and vow to do whatever is necessary to ensure said happiness. But ultimately what they mean is “I want your happiness to the point that it doesn’t interfere with my own”.
And maybe that’s healthy. And normal. And the absolute best we can hope for.
In the real world, that has to be enough. In the real world we don’t sacrifice ourselves to guillotines or unhappiness. We strive for a compromise of mutual content. In the real world we talk about boundaries and realistic expectations.
But in Dickens’ world, we can ask for more.