If you’re someone who reads a lot—and I’m guessing you are since you’re reading this blog—the first book of the year you read can really set the tone for the rest of the year. At least that’s what I came to learn in the early days of 2015; the first book I read this year was Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg.
Ortberg reimagines books as text message conversations between the characters and sometimes with authors as well. An excerpt can be found here. She injects every iteration with humor while still managing to convey the gist of the plots. Her texts from Hamlet make him come across as a petulant teenager instead of a man in his thirties. The Lorax doesn’t only speak for the trees, but also for tampons. Scarlett O’Hara tries unsuccessfully to sext. Hermione Granger tries to explain what science and math are to Ron Weasley while simultaneously warning him that credit cards are not, in fact, magic. Sherlock Holmes ecstatically texts John Watson with his latest discovery—there’s cocaine you can smoke!
From Agatha Christie to Fight Club, from René Descartes to The Outsiders, no book or author is safe from Ortberg, cocreator of The Toast. Some of her recent posts to the site include The Comments Section For Every Video Where Someone Does A Pushup, Any Rand’s Sweet Valley High and Haters Of The Sea: A Taxonomy.
Probably one of my favorite parts is the texts of Edgar Allan Poe. He’s texting that he might not be able to make it out; he can’t leave his house because a bird keeps looking at him. Then he hears bells that won’t stop ringing. Then because there’s a heart under the floor that won’t stop beating. There’s also a one-eyed cat that’s calling him a murderer. Of course these are the plots of some of Poe’s best-known stories, but the way Ortberg reinterprets it is something akin to near-incomprehensible texts from your drunken friend.
It’s a quick and funny read that made me want to track down some the original stories she spoofed, like “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Daisy Miller and The Sun Also Rises. I want to see for myself just how bizarre these characters and stories are. I’m sure there’s a comment to be made about the brevity of texting and our ever-shortening attention spans, but I’m not about to make it; I’m too distracted looking up videos of people doing pushups.
Have you read Ortberg’s book? If you could text any author or fictional character, who would it be and why? Sound off in the comments below!