This morning, I woke early, put on the superhero costume that Gilbert Blythe gave me (super lightweight, warm running clothes), drove a few miles to the bike path to find the bike path not shoveled, a white and empty stretch. I got out of the car, took a deep and frozen breath, began to run.
It felt like swimming, diving in, leaping. I was alone. I heard my breath and my breath, the crunch of my shoes on snow. The snow was white. The muzzles of the deer were black. The branches were black. My life has never felt more like a movie, that scene where the heroine runs to think, her cheeks turning red, her long brown hair streaming beneath her black cap, thinking about the poem she wrote last night on the solstice. The audience doesn't know what she's thinking. The audience is thinking: will she ever publish her novel? Will she find home? Will she keep the love of a good man?
Coming back to the car, an old man pulled up.
Young lady, he said. Is the wind in your face?
Yes, I said.
You could change direction, you know, run the other way.
That's all right, I said. I don't mind.
Students and teachers, welcome to vacation! I like to escape during mine, a feat I have not yet been able to accomplish this year, but in the interest of your getaway, I present…
an awfully serious girl's all-time favorite escape novels:
Claire Marvel by Jonathan Burnham Schwartz. An overlooked poem of a novel. It's breathy, lyrical, and interesting, the love story of two Harvard graduate students over the years. I loved it so much, I didn't read the last few pages so the story hasn't ended for me.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Sweet and dark at the center, like good chocolate. An enchanting classic, it's about a young girl who dreams of becoming a writer, and her sister who dreams of saving the family through marriage. I read it on my trip across the country this fall, intending to leave books in gas station bathrooms and park benches and diners as I finished them, but this book was too good to give up.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This book is responsible for me nearly being hit by a bus because I couldn't stop reading when I was walking around-one of my absolute favorite books. It took the author ten years to write; she began as a college freshman. A group of wealthy, genius Classics students lets an outsider into their midst. Sex, drugs, murder, and Latin: welcome to my college experience.
Wicked So much better than the musical. Gregory Maguire's first novel (and easily his best) is an imagining of the life of the Wicked Witch of the West, born deformed to a rural preacher, sister of a beautiful prophet, activist, scholar, and lover before Dorothy and her downfall. Sex, animal rights, and munchkins. I always preferred the villains.
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow. So much better than the musical.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. I don't consider Rowling a very good writer, but she is a fine storyteller, engrossing. As long as you don't stop and count the adjectives, nothing will make you forget your credit card bills, grade disputes, and the impending spring semester like these books, at least for a few hours.
Read with Jerusalem hot chocolate, which is a small chocolate bar dissolved in the bottom of a cup of hot milk. Enjoy your holidays.