September Book

I don't remember why I was wandering the university library stacks that weekend. I'm not sure which day it was, or what year. Or, come to think of it, why I was in the library at all, except that I was in graduate school, and the library was not my apartment. It was somewhere else to go, with different chairs to sit in while I did the required readings and kept up a response journal. (Do writing programs still require those?)

On a break, I wandered through shelf after shelf of novels. I took one down and flipped through it. As I recall, on the very first page a seventeen-year-old girl wakes up to a fresh autumn morning full of golden leaves and sunshine and declares herself to be the future famous and beloved actress, Marjorie Morningstar. She even writes her name in an affected script. She's adorable.

Also at a crossroads in my life (though different in important ways), I recognized that feeling of expansiveness. Anything seems possible! I can go anywhere! The whole world lies ahead! I was as hooked on Marjorie as she was on Noel. I checked the book out of the library and finished it in one or two more gulps.

In a used bookstore, I found my own copy of Marjorie Morningstar. Every September for fifteen or more years, I read it again.

I'd heard of the author, Herman Wouk, but as the writer of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, which had been made into a couple of miniseries. (I didn't have a TV at the time, but I wouldn't have watched a World War II story.) I didn't realize Wouk had written other books, or that I'd find them approachable. His novel The Caine Mutiny received much acclaim. I also enjoyed another of his non-war novels, Youngblood Hawke, but at 800 pages, it's not so easy to add to a re-read pile when the to-be-read pile grows so tall.

In September, fourteen years ago, I began the process of moving to Canada. Since then, I've fallen out of the habit of my September date with the growing-to-adulthood Marjorie. Last week, as we reached the part of September that properly belongs to Autumn, I pulled the book off the shelf again.

Imagine my surprise to see that it takes Wouk four pages to get to the script-written Marjorie Morningstar. And that the book opens in May. Not September at all! May!

But those are mere distractions. It continues to surprise me, pleasantly, how central Marjorie is to the book. The choices she makes drive the story. I might wish she chose differently and felt she had different options open to her. But the questions she asks herself are important and real.

And yes, that September feeling remains.