Dear literature I refused to learn from,
You were written with the intent of teaching me valuable lessons, and I haven’t learned anything. It isn’t because I haven’t ruminated on your messages. In fact, I think it’s all I do day in and day out. It must be simply because I’m stubborn. In short, your themes were acknowledged, then quickly ignored.
Here are some of the stories I should have taken a page or two from…
Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire
What I should have learned: Imagination does not conquer reality.
What I did instead: What’s that? Sorry… I was too busy buying myself gold dresses and daydreaming a happier otherworld.
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment
What I should have learned: Do not let your pride separate you from society; you will become isolated.
What I did instead: Made a cocoon out of books! Someday I will turn into an intellectual butterfly and need no one!
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
What I should have learned: Once again, do not let pride separate you from society. The love of your life may make a poor first impression!
What I did instead: Put a whole lot of stock into first impressions. Go out with the cute militia officer. What’s the worst that could happen? He’s really quite charming…
Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles
What I should have learned: Don’t let Scoop use you, no matter how much you like him. Come to terms with the fact that your ideals may fade out of fashion.
What I did instead: Scoop, if you’re reading this, please unfollow my blog immediately. You’re not welcome in these parts. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of feminist writing to get to.
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita
What I should have learned: Don’t let obsessions rule your life.
What I did instead: Found the loophole. Became obsessed WITH Lolita. I’ve been writing essays about it for years now!
Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac
What I should have learned: Stop hiding behind clever or beautiful words from afar and simply TELL someone if you like them.
What I did instead: Basically the opposite of that. Every damn time.
Steven Dietz’ Becky’s New Car
What I should have learned: You can’t have it all.
What I did instead: Insisted I could, ruining everything.
Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov
What I should have learned: Never indulge in your own slothfulness.
What I did instead: Got sad. Slept in until 12:30 PM every Saturday.
Gabriel García Márquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera
What I should have learned: Let it go already. Don’t wait 55 years, five months, four days, three hours and two minutes… and definitely don’t have 622 love affairs while thinking about someone else.
What I did instead: Texted my crush and googled “flights to Colombia” in the time it took for him to respond.
So yes, I formally apologize. I am sorry.
I am sorry that I haven’t learned anything.
I am sorry that I didn’t realize it sooner.
Most of all, I am sorry that, despite knowing it would make me a better writer and person, I seem to consistently be incapable of internalizing the wisdom granted to me by these great works of fiction.
I will try to do better… even if it means coming to terms with the fact that I am the villain of all of my favorite books.
Humbled freelance writer extraordinaire