Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: Name one scene from a book that has stuck with you long after you first read it. Bonus points if you have any idea why it’s been thumbtacked to the inside of your brain all this time.
Jamie Wallace: Chapter 11 in Douglas Adams’ novel, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Gordon Way has just been shot to death. Someone popped out of the trunk (or, “boot,” as Adams says) of Way’s rather expensive motorcar and fired his own shotgun at him. It’s nighttime and the road is covered in mist as Way, in his new and unwelcome non corporeal form, begins to make his way slowly up the highway.
He trudged despondently from lamppost to lamppost, stopping at each one to look at bits of himself.
He was definitely getting a bit wraithlike.
At times he would fade to almost nothing, and would seem to be little more than a shadow playing in the mist, a dream of himself that could just evaporate and be gone. At other times he seemed to be almost solid and real again. Once or twice he would try leaning on a lamppost, and would fall straight through it if he wasn’t careful.
I have no claim on any bonus points, because I have NO idea why this little snippet of a scene has been lodged in my gray matter since I first read this book as a teenager. But, to this day, I think of it whenever I am driving down a misty road. I look for Gordon Way, slouching along the shoulder of the road, examining the fading opacity of his one solid being. Maybe someday I’ll actually see him.
Diane MacKinnon: I hucked The Once and Future King across the room when I got to the part, three-quarters through, about the unicorn. If you’ve read it, you’ll know the scene I mean. It’s stayed with me and I read it when I was 12. I can think of a lot of other books I think of often, but no particular scene comes to mind (other than that awful, well-written, vivid one I just mentioned.)
Lisa J. Jackson: Interesting question…one scene that leaps to mind is in Stephen King’s It, the first description of what ‘it’ looks like and how totally creeped out I was (because the imagination is a powerful tool). Then when the novel was turned into a TV miniseries, the scary factor dropped significantly.
There was a scene at the end of a manuscript I edited a few years back (do not recall name of author or book title). I was totally enthralled by the novel, loved the entire story, the suspense, the characters, everything. I was so curious about how the book would end – if it would be open for a follow-up, become a series, or remain a standalone. And, holy moly, I practically threw my laptop out the window when the novel wrapped up — the last paragraph or two — saying the entire thing had been A DREAM! It was worse than that whole Dallas (TV show) and “who shot J.R.” mystery. I have never had such a physical negative reaction to a novel before or since then. So, so disappointing. The author was “going for a strong reader reaction.” He succeeded at that! It still gets my blood boiling how manipulated and cheated I felt as a reader.
Deborah Lee Luskin: So many! And for so many mysterious reasons! Here’s a random compilation:
- The paragraph that describes “It” in Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time. I read this so long ago, all I can remember is loving this paragraph and rereading aloud to anyone who would listen when I was in fifth or sixth grade.
- The garden scene in Jane Eyre, when Mr. Rochester’s cigar is smoking a cigar. Or the first time he and Jane meet, while she’s walking into town and Mr. Rochester’s horse spooks and throws him.
- When Elizabeth Bennett is visiting Pemberly and thinks to herself, “Of all this, I might have been mistress.” (Pride and Prejudice)
- The conversation at the White Hart between Anne Elliot and Captain Harville about who suffers longer when all hope is lost, men or women, in Persuasion.
- Time Passes, the middle section of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse.
- Dicken’s description of the Veneerings near the beginning of Our Mutual Friend.
- The rape scene in J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, when the daughter is locked in the bathroom and the father is locked out.
And my “throw the book across the room” moment: The end of Jodi Picoult’s novel, My Sister’s Keeper, which I used for a Literature and Medicine course. After animating the difficult moral and ethical issues of medical emancipation the entire story is hijacked by a fatal auto accident – essentially giving a too-easy ending to the problems so carefully laid out. I felt cheated – and have never read another Picoult novel as a result.