Books to read. Coffee to drink. Stories to write.

🍸Friday Happy Hour: May 22, 2020

Two books

Nora Ephron and Wilkie Collins Collide

Happy Friday Happy Hour, my dears!

In a little while I am going to participate in a virtual happy hour on Zoom with some of my Maine neighbors. It’s so weird and ironic. Most of them will be within literal shouting distance of each other because their houses/camps are next door. I mean, they could open up their doors/windows and yell at each other, they are that close. 

Meanwhile, Hubby and I will be 3219 or so miles away here in California. If we open up our windows and doors and yell, someone might call security on us. At the very least, the dog in the apartment below us will bark. 

Here’s the thing–near or far, we will all be staring into the little round eyehole camera on our machines while we sip our drinks and catch up. Covid + technology creates a weird space where distance is meaningless. As long as you have decent bandwidth.

I can’t decide if this is amazing or just sad. 

Guess it doesn’t matter what I feel about it because this is the reality of today. And tomorrow. And for who knows how long, along with masks and six-feet apart markings on the floors of retail stores and home delivery services and ebooks. 

I am grateful, don’t get me wrong, for the ebook. That I can have books dropped within seconds into my Kindle while never stepping foot outside my apartment has kept me partly sane (emphasis on partly) over the past 10 weeks. 12 weeks? What week are we on now, anyway?

As much as I’ve relied on the ebook, I’ve also dipped into the few print books I either brought with me from Maine or purchased pre-Covid. Today, one of those weird synchronous events happened during my reading. Two books of which I assumed had no connection in any way smooshed up against each other–not on my bookshelf but in the pages of one of those books. 

See, a few months ago I purchased THE WOMAN IN WHITE by Wilkie Collins. Serialized beginning in 1869, it is a compelling mystery novel told from the point of view of consecutive narrators–not unlike some current serialized books published on online site like Wattpad and Radish. Like some of those online reads, this Barnes & Noble Classics edition is also loooong at 635 pages. If I didn’t know better, I would have suspected it was an historical novel written in modern times rather than a modern novel written in the 1860s. I enjoyed living in that world for the several weeks it took me to complete it. 

Yesterday, I decided to reread Nora Ephron’s I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK, a collection of essays on topics mostly related to aging. It included, however, a lovely little essay called “On Rapture” on the joys of falling into a really good book. In the piece, Ephron recounts her favorite reads from childhood and forward. The Mary Poppins books, Nancy Drew, Eloise, Anne of Green Gables; Doris Lessing, Mario Puzo, and John LeCarre. I read along, fascinated, until Ephron came to the book which prompted the essay. Guess the name of the book? THE WOMAN IN WHITE. “And finally, one day, I read the novel that is probably the most rapture-inducing book of my adult life. On a chaise longue at the beach on a beautiful summer day, I open Wilkie Collins’s masterpiece, The Woman in White, probably the first great work of mystery fiction ever written…and I am instantly lost to the world,” she writes. 

I am enraptured reading these paragraphs. I run to my room and pick up my own copy. I remember my own enthrallment with the book and wonder: did I remember that essay in some corner of my mind while I was standing in Barnes & Noble looking at the selection of classics and deciding to pick up this particular book? I remember looking and thinking to myself, “Why have I never heard of this book?” Which, of course, I had. I just didn’t remember that I had. Or was this just a coincidence? I will never know. It doesn’t matter. 

What matters to me is that bookish people love books, and sometimes we love the same books. This makes me feel less alone in the world.

Nora Ephron wrote the script of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, the movie I reference more than any other in my stories and books. I watch it almost every year. I read a memoir about her when I was preparing to ghostwrite a memoir in order to see how one writes a memoir, not about oneself, but about another person. I don’t know her–any more than I know Wilkie Collins–but I feel connected to each of them through their work. 

To write is to give oneself, or parts of oneself. It is scary and exhilarating and embarrassing all at the same time. When we can’t shout to each other across the way, when the lines of communication are inadequate, we don’t always need a fancy technological computerish solution–because long ago humans invented narrative. Story. Whether told around the campfire or via Zoom or an ebook downloaded to a small, handheld device, story allows us to communicate. 

So, here’s to happy hours in real life and happy hours via computer. Enjoy your weekend, peeps! 



Have you been video happy houring? Do you absolutely love it? Or is it more of a passable substitute for the real thing?  What synchronicity have you noticed in your reading/writing life? Leave a comment. I comment back:)

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. I feel the same way about books and their authors. I think there is a connection to the author when you read something they have written.
    I have yet to ZOOM someone, I don’t really facetime anyone often. Sometimes Maddie will connect with me that way.

    1. Hi Sandra!

      Is it the same with art, do you think? If you buy someone’s piece of art, do you feel as if you have a connection with that person? Or if you paint someone, do you feel that connection, as an artist?

      I was never big into facetiming, but in this era it’s kind of nice to see friendly faces.

  2. Thank you! Such a beautiful point, one that gave me a warm feeling this morning. Lines of connection can be long, or short, deep or light through phone lines or virtually……connection is what matters and it has been happening forever and will continue I suspect long after we’re gone.

  3. Shelley, thanks for such a wonderful, happy little essay. XO

  4. It’s weird, for sure, but comforting to see familiar friends faces, and to have those from afar join in. You’re right about distance really being an illusory kind of thing … 500 yards is as distinctly apart as 3219 miles right now.

    Virtual meetings are passable as a substitute for me, but don’t have the same, festive and spontaneous vibe as in person gatherings. But I’ll take it for now and use technology to ease it feelings of isolation.

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