My son, 8, is in to action figures. He pretends he is Spider Man. I can relate. In my own bookish nerdish did you read the latest New Yorker? way. What I am into is pretending to be famous characters from literature. They are my version of action heroes. I adopt what like best about them and pose.
One day I might be Dorothea Brooke, from Middlemarch, midwife to my husband’s various projects, the most recent being photography. Another, what I really deep to embody is the devil-may-care f*&k the preacher attitude of Hester Prynne, of The Scarlet Letter while I am shopping at Trader Joe’s for something to bring to my daughter’s soccer game.
This is what I love about fiction, I can be Junior, a lust-filled, smack-talking Dominican, reading Junot Diaz. I can be Juliette, 14 again, fueled by the giddiness of what passion language can ignite, reading Shakespeare, or I can imagine my tonsure as Friar Lawrence, and appreciate his wisdom, as I putter about in my own herb garden, hoping against hope everything turns out alright.
Reading is like being a kid again in the costume box, pulling out top hats and chiffon, or maces and armor. After I read fairy tales to my kids, they want to play Billy Goat’s Gruff and they tell me to be the ogre and I can totally understand. After I read A River Runs Through It, I wanted to buy up all the stuff necessary to outfitting myself as a fly fly fisherman, and during the time I was reading A Room With A View, I was living with cornflowers in my hair and thinking the kind of Italian thoughts only the English can.
Try it. Power pose as Gatsby. Go all Romeo. Put a flower in your buttonhole as Algernon Moncrieff. The best models for living are characters we can pretend to be.