Which Famous Character Are You Today?

Elizabeth Bastos

Staff Writer

Elizabeth Bastos has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, and writes at her blog 19th-Century Lady Naturalist. Follow her on Twitter: @elizabethbastos

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.