Love in print
Kayla Mullen | Tuesday, December 2, 2014
By the time Holden Caulfield confided in me, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it,” I was already in love with him. Forget movie stars; my celebrity crush was on an iconic literary character.
I mean, sure, he was a little mentally unstable, and OK, maybe he wasn’t real, but there was definitely a connection. That had to mean something, right? I know, I know, we couldn’t go on dates, and we couldn’t talk that much. Honestly, we couldn’t do anything at all. Being in a one-sided relationship takes a toll, but I soon discovered that by making up stories myself, it evened out a bit.
Unlike a normal boyfriend, I could take Holden anywhere. Movie dates? How basic. We were visiting Paris in the spring … circa 1876. It was a blissful few months together, but — this being a teenage love — the relationship eventually came to an end. Holden was cute and all, but he was just so unhappy all the time. If I hear the word “phony” again in my life, it’ll be too soon. Creating my own character to fill the void seemed like a good idea. At least he’d be a little more emotionally sensitive. Thus, Jack, Chad, Henry and Max were all written into existence, each one more perfect than the next. But then I turned 15, and realized it was a little weird to be dating boys that existed only on paper.
I still fall in love with characters in books, over and over again each time I read a book, even for the second, 30th or 100th time. I still find a little piece of me inside every story I read that makes me ache when I finish the last sentence. But Holden Caulfield taught me that not every story has to end at the last period, that a story isn’t just what’s on the page and that the characters don’t disappear when the final chapter ends. They’re alive in every person who ever asked if Jake and Brett ended up together after all, if Winston lived the rest of his life under Big Brother, if Nick wound up living happily by himself.
I fall in love with books because they change every time you read them. A word triggers a feeling you hadn’t experienced the last time you read the book, and the whole meaning of the entire novel is altered. I love books because they’re new and comforting, familiar and consuming. I love books, chapters, sentences, words and the characters that are created by them. I may have moved on, but Holden Caulfield will always be my second love. After books.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.