Hi guys! Bookish Thoughts is a new weekly series that I hope to keep going every Wednesday. You can also submit your own Bookish Thoughts. Email us, we look forward to your ideas.
For the first post I am talking about the times I read a book because it was mentioned in another book. Like bookception except you are not left wondering if the spinning top fell over or not. For complete authenticity I have tried to find the exact editions of the books I had then. Not that it matters, but indulge me.
There have been three instances in my life when I have read books mentioned in other books. I believe I am being honest to the joy of reading when I read books the way they were intended. When authors mention other books in their books, it is a whispering, “Hey, you might want to check this out.” It is like assigned reading, except reading that you actually want to do.
I have Meg Cabot to thank for making me read Jane Eyre. Back when I was a pretentious teenager who prized her Sweet Valley Twins collection, I was also obsessed with The Princess Diaries series. In book three, Third Time Lucky, Mia Thermopolis is introduced to the greatness that is Jane Eyre. To paraphrase from the book:
Mia’s Diary- “And then from her bag, Grandmere drew out a book. ‘Read this,’ she said, ‘It will teach you a lot about how men and women think.’
‘Jane Eyre? Grandmere, I hardly think a book about a 19th century governess will help my relationship with Michael.”
‘Read it!’ she screamed.”
A few pages on…
“Mr. Rochester, very hot. Kind of like Wolverine but very bossy.”
The deal was sealed. I had to read Jane Eyre. The summer I turned 16, I embarked on the very long task that is reading Jane Eyre. I took a break in between with Cabot’s All American Girl (hey, I had to remain true to the original master). But, eventually, I finished it. Reader, I changed. Mia’s mother calls it the “first female manifesto,” and I believe that. Jane is a heroine to many generations of women with her unwavering faith in her abilities and status as a woman.
The second instance I read this book was because the referred book was in the title. I wanted to read Reading Lolita in Tehran: A memoir in books by Azar Nafisi. But first, I had to read Lolita. Many reviews said you didn’t have to read Lolita in order to understand this book but I could not accept that. I read Lolita partly at the goading of 1001 Books to Read Before you Die and partly because I was eager to read Reading Lolita. Once I read both, in order, I was never the same. While Lolita both disgusted and fascinated, Reading Lolita in Tehran broke my heart. The dedication with which six Irani women manage to have a book club during Ayotallah Khomeni’s regime was moving to imagine. But also a testament to how literature is a balm in troubling times and reverberates through humanity and the world outside of us.
My third brush with literary fiction inspired by a famous work was The Hours by Michael Cunningham. The Hours is a retelling of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I got the novel and then my thought process iss as follows:
“Only 120 pages? I can do this in a day!” (I had a lot of time then
Twenty pages later…
“WHAT IS GOING ON? I AM SO CONFUSED!”
“Wait, we are in the mind of Mrs. Dalloway watching this woman watching this man in the park! Now I get it!”
“Did he just do what I think he just did? What just happened?!”
Thankfully, The Hours was not as arduous but a beautiful reading experience in sparse language and imagery, all the same. Even now I make note of literary references in novels and make a list of ones that I feel like I should seek out and read.
Do you like seeking out books mentioned in other books? What would you suggest?