Thursday, September 15, 2022

Boys and Girls Together

I’m rereading Boys and Girls Together, which might be the best book I’ve ever read. I came across it in the stacks on a halfhearted winter afternoon, the only book by William Goldman in Fishburn Library (more about Fishburn in a minute).

I picked up the worn book, and was immediately suspicious—I’m reflexively suspicious of very long books (really? It took more than a thousand pages to tell a story? A single story? Are you sure?) and, if I’m being honest, I’m also snide ( ok, Big Shot, sure, what you have to say is SoVeryImportant(tm) that I must dedicate myself to a lengthy investigation, sit and listen to you uninterrupted for more than a thousand pages, sure, no, of course, I wasn’t doing anything important with my life, go ahead, take up the whole week bucko) but this was William Goldman we’re talking about here, the man who gave us great films ( some of which you’ve probably even heard of) and also who wrote the book that put my heart back together the winter after moving out from my parents’ terrible situation some how managed to break my heart in a million confused pieces. He wrote a story within a story in a book about a book, and I absolutely fell in love with him and fell back in love with reading and with being alive, and so of course I was craving William Goldman on the rainy winter day when the sky looked like tired cement and the air couldn’t be bothered to be actually cold, and the rain showed the air up by being halfhearted and the whole thing came together to be thoroughly damp and chilly and low key miserable. I was falling out of love with my life.  So of course I was craving William Goldman, craving a book that would capture me as a book, not just as a story or an entertainment of the moment, but make no mistake, it had to have story it had to be entertaining ( a girl has standards, you know) but more than that I needed a book that understood it was a book, a private journey under the author’s secret constellations, a dedicated and delicious intimacy, and no one has ever understood that as well as William Goldman (though Stephen King and Neil Gaiman are close enough to make a holy Trinity). 

Really, if I’m honest, I just wanted to reread The Princess Bride that afternoon. 

But the only thing by William Goldman on the fiction shelf in the basement outside my office in the little library that served the students and faculty at a small liberal arts women's college in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains was Boys and Girls Together. And it was suspiciously large. My knee-jerk snideness tried to get the upper hand, but I was falling out of love with my life on a half heartedly winter day, so I noncomittally took the book  into my office and set it down on a far corner of the desk; it meant nothing. The next day at lunch I opened to page one, figuring that if William Goldman had something for me, I’d know soon enough and could return it to the shelf, never having committed so much as even to checking it out at the circulation desk upstairs, and no one need ever know about my failed attempt to do something as mundane as read a book. By page five I was hooked. A couple days later I liked a passage in the middle so much I photocopied it—all ten pages— and sent it to the man I had been distracting myself with as I tried to stop falling out of love with my life. By the end of the week, the relationship was ancient history, its ashes scattered to the four corners as I turned the last page of the massive book and closed the cover, thinking my god that was the best book I’ve ever read, if only it could have gone on just a bit longer.

I’m falling out of love with my life, so of course I’m rereading William Goldman, hoping that he holds the magic, still. Wish me luck.