There’s the Judy Blume whose books take up a foot and a half of space on a shelf in my parent’s house. Books that gave me answers to questions I wasn’t entirely sure how to ask as a late elementary schooler and middle grade reader. This Judy Blume exists as a name on book covers. That name, always in the same sturdy and straightforward font, seemed like a cipher. That name was crucial to decoding encrypted Adolescent Secrets. That name would enable the Child Code-breaker in question to Grow Up and Become Kind of an Okay Human Being.
Then there’s the Judy Blume on Twitter, who is lovely and delightful, and friends with everyone from Margaret Atwood to Mindy Kaling. Just like the Judy Blume on the Front Covers of Books, Twitter Judy Blume has her name, her handle, and her short Twitter bio (“Are you there Twitter? It’s me, Judy.”). But Twitter Judy is also human. Book Judy Blume always seemed more like a Pagan Goddess of Young Adult Literature. It’s hard for me to imagine Book Judy Blume as mortal.
Intellectually, I know I am talking about one Judy Blume, with one set of fingerprints and one social security number. Emotionally, though, I can’t get Book Cover Judy Blume and Twitter Handle Judy Blume to stick together in my mind. The two entities are magnetized, one north, the other south. The more I try to push them together, the more they repel one another.
I think we get a little bit stuck at various points in our timeline. I am twenty-five years old and kids who were seniors in high school when I was a freshman, those eighteen-year-old versions of those kids, still seem older than I am right now. I think they always will. My brother just graduated college last year and my sister will be graduating high school this coming year. But my brother will always be fourteen to me, my sister always eight. Intellectually, I am able to keep track of time. Emotionally, it gets more complicated.
I grew up in a time where my favorite authors were names on covers. Now I live in a world where I can, and more-than-occasionally do, talk to authors on Twitter after reading their books. When I can’t, I Google print interviews, I listen to them talk on NPR, I watch what comes up on YouTube. The information is there now. I can see these people are people. No one is ever going to be just a name ever again.
I keep thinking of the scene in the film version of “The Wizard of Oz,” when Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal that the Great and Powerful Oz is no giant, green floating head, but a man in a booth pulling levers, pressing buttons, speaking into a microphone. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” he says. We live in a time where we will always be paying attention to the man behind the curtain. Like all progress, it’s good, it’s bad, and it’s what it is.
I will miss authors being floating heads, but I’m making peace with the curtain being gone. The world moves fast. My heart is just a little slower than my brain when it comes to catching up.