Bored Fictional Characters Are Acting Out in Closed Libraries

LibraryWith libraries shuttered during the pandemic, fictional characters in those book-filled buildings are bored enough to be doing some interesting things the public is not seeing. I’m going to give you some examples, based on reports I received from private investigators Kinsey Millhone (of Sue Grafton’s “alphabet mysteries”) and Easy Rawlins (of the Walter Mosley novels that often have a color in their titles). In return for the inside info from those sleuths, I purchased their co-authored thriller D Is For Devil in a Blue Dress.

Anyway, in my town’s closed-since-mid-March library (pictured above), Jane Eyre steps out from between the covers of Charlotte Bronte’s novel and discovers a “madwoman” roaming the building’s top floor. Turns out to be the Harry Potter witch Bellatrix Lestrange, who zaps gentle Beth March of Little Women with her wand. Middlemarch‘s Dr. Lydgate treats Beth via a Zoom “telehealth” appointment so they can maintain social distancing. Ove from Fredrik Backman’s novel likes the social-distancing thing.

Meanwhile, Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter receives remote instruction from a local university on a library computer, and changes to an outfit embroidered with a “B” after not quite acing a test. Anna Karenina also has some difficulties when she throws herself under a toy train in the children’s-book section. But the characters in One Hundred Years of Solitude are pleased, figuring a few months of pandemic aloneness in the fiction section is better than a century of it.

Then Alice returns to the library’s shelves from her adventures in Wonderland and is asked if she’s “Still Alice” by the Howland family of Lisa Genova’s Alzheimer’s-themed novel. Kate Quinn’s young-woman protagonist Charlie St. Clair films it all for The Alice Network.

Don Quixote tilts at a rotating fan in the library director’s office. Huck Finn and Jim put their raft in the water, but can’t get far atop the drinking fountain next to the men’s room. Captain Ahab searches every floor for Moby-Dick, aka “The Great White Whale,” but only finds a large bottle of “Wite-Out” behind the checkout desk. (Queequeg harpoons it.)

Speaking of the checkout desk, miserly fictional dad Felix Grandet refuses to pay a fine after returning Eugenie Grandet several weeks late. “Old Goriot is a better Balzac book,” he huffs.

Sully from Nobody’s Fool decides to put his handyman skills to work by tightening a loose display case, but Flora and Miles of The Turn of the Screw push him away. “Henry James trained us to do that,” they say.

Former stockbroker Charles Strickland leaves the pages of The Moon and Sixpence to show off his Gauguin-like artistic prowess, but ends up only painting the bannisters between library floors. The Poisonwood Bible missionary Nathan Price tries to convert those drying bannisters to Christianity. Death Comes for the Archbishop when he inhales paint fumes.

On a happier note, Proust’s characters from In Search of Lost Time successfully find that newsweekly in the library’s magazine racks.

Dorothy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz returns to the farm, only it’s a LEGO pasture in the aforementioned children’s section. Fortunately, she doesn’t join the cast of War and Peace — avoiding the need to repeatedly say “There’s no place like tome.”

As noted, fictional characters are feeling rather bored and unhappy with no people visiting the library. So when Lily Bart dubs the book-filled building The House of Mirth, she is shushed. Seems the ill-fated Lily can’t catch a break.

Would you like to add any scenarios of fictional characters acting out in empty libraries?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for The latest piece — about an educational war of words connected with my town’s upcoming election — is here.

56 thoughts on “Bored Fictional Characters Are Acting Out in Closed Libraries

  1. Pingback: Bored Fictional Characters Are Acting Out in Closed Libraries — Dave Astor on Literature | Los Angeles feedback film festival

  2. Somehow this reminds me of Yogi Berra’s great observation: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

    Cervantes and Murasaki had a baby and they called it Novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, jhNY! 🙂 Libraries are indeed empty yet still filled (with characters).

      “Cervantes and Murasaki had a baby and they called it Novel” — great line! And perhaps a better name than Windmill…


  3. Very enjoyable! Certainly an eye-opener for an ex-librarian like me 🙂

    I would like to recommend Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series set inside books, and for some dark humour Dead Writers in Rehab by Paul Bassett Davies — Gretchen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Gretchen! Great that you were a librarian!

      I’ve read Jasper Fforde’s novel “The Eyre Affair” — in which, as you know, Thursday Next enters the fiction realm and interacts with characters. Ford’s fun/skillful approach is definitely relevant to what I did in this blog post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Tom Sawyer (of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”) finds some crayons, paint, and a book on how to draw graffiti. He then attempts to paint graffiti on the walls. He also (unsuccessfully) flirts with either Alice or Hermonie (From “Harry Potter”).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very funny riff on the famous fence-painting scene! 🙂 Thank you, Public display name!

      Tom Sawyer was always a bit of a rogue, including in “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”


  5. Catherine Morland (of Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey”) is thrilled that there are so many gothic and other thrillers by modern-day authors, such as Barbara Michaels and Karin Slaughter. Though she still thinks that they are nowhere near as good as Mrs. Radcliffe’s “Udolpho”!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha, Kat Lit! Love it! 🙂 Catherine Morland would indeed be thrilled that gothic novels, thrillers, etc., are (like Jane Austen) perennials in the world of literature!


      • Yes, she’s also amazed that there are so many books starring her creator, as well as being somewhat jealous that that there are quite a few books about Elizabeth and Darcy. 🙂 Funny column, Dave, though I almost shed a tear about poor Lily Bart…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, Kat Lit! Yes, Jane Austen and her work and characters are bigger now than when the author was alive 200-plus years ago. And I agree that my mention of Lily Bart was kind of sad. 😦


  6. What a fun post 🙂 I might add the two delightfully charming characters of the book I’m reading now, Alex and Henry from Red, White, and Royal Blue. Since they start the book hating each other, they’ll tumble out of the pages brawling and knock over a shelf of books. 🙂 Then another character from a recent read of mine, Blue from “the Book Woman of Troublesome Creek,” will set those two boys straight on how you should be treating books! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Every library should have at least one moor for their characters to brood in or maybe even a dark, rain-soaked alley where one can be sapped across the back of the head and dumped into a tramp steamer hold, headed for Shanghai.

    Speak to your library board about this and see if they have the funds.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This was such a fun post, Dave! Very clever and imaginative. It made my day. I think I see the speaker from Charles Bukowski’s poetry stalking the stacks in search of Pollyanna. He knows just the poems to recite to wipe the smile off that simpering ninny’s face.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Liz!

      GREAT comment. Ooh — that would be quite a meeting of opposites! I’ve read very little of Charles Bukowski’s poetry, but did read his “Hollywood” novel. What a dissolute, creative, artifice-puncturing person he apparently was. Maybe a bit of a heart of gold under the tough, gruff exterior. But he, or his characters or narrative voice, would definitely scare Pollyanna and many other people — including me.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I can imagine, Liz! Some words that come to mind for Bukowski are “slobby,” “sexist,” and “alcoholic.” But he was a genius in his way, and seemed to have a genuine sympathy for the downtrodden. (He was often pretty downtrodden himself.) I’m surprised he lived as long as he did.

          Liked by 1 person

              • Bukowski lived to be 74– not a spectacularly long life, though longish, given his proclivities. A publisher Mandy knew recounted a tale told by a biographer of Robert Mitchum, whom he interviewed a few years before he died. it was a Sunday afternoon on Hollywood, and Mitchum mixed and consumed 6 double martinis in about 3 hours. Notably, the biographer claimed he could tell no difference in Mitchum’s speech or dexterity from inception to meeting’s end. He lived to be 80.

                Contrary to all appearances, Keith Richards is neither dead nor 100.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Ha! 🙂 (Your Keith Richards line.) It’s amazing that he has reached 76. And he looks about 96.

                  I guess one can say that hard-living people (like Bukowski and Mitchum) who lived a fairly long time could have lived a VERY long time if they hadn’t “burned the candle at both ends.”


          • Also an employee of the USPS, for a short time as a letter carrier, then after a long spell away, he returned to sort letters. Don’t know how many other writers have worked therein, but it would seem that either job Bukowski held would have left one’s mind relatively free to wander along creative lines.

            Reading him, in poetic form or prose,I was always reminded of what Baudelaire wrote in a preface to Flowers of Evil: “I had thought to include some filth for the delectation of the gentlemen of the press. They have proved ungrateful.”

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thank you, jhNY! True about Bukowski and the post office. I think Anthony Trollope also worked for the 19th-century British version of the post office. And that Baudelaire line is very relevant to Bukowski.

              I finally listened to your CD and sent you an email about it this afternoon. Excellent music!)


              • Thanks for listening, and thanks for saying so!

                I shall creep over to the series of tubes that conduct the passage of emails and read yours, though I will wait to reply till tomorrow, as I must after repair to the park and soak up a bit of vitamin D so as to become distinguishable,not only by appetite, but by comparative complexion, to Count Dracula. It’s been a long winter this Spring!

                Liked by 1 person

                • You’re welcome! It IS finally a very nice, warm, sunny day in the NY/NJ area.

                  Speaking of CDs and Count Dracula (also a CD), I think it’s time for him to listen to the band Vampire Weekend.


  9. How very clever and amusing, Dave! I’d have Count Rostov (Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow) leave the quarantine of his hotel/pages, ramble through the stacks to find all the great Russian authors, enter through each of their portals/pages, and tell them conditions will generally improve for fellow writers in the future. Your highly creative and entertaining exercise here reminds me also of Liz Gauffreau’s My Life in Books, 2019 blog post. I loved that one too! So many books to add to my stacks, virtual or otherwise 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I LOVE your library – a living, breathing adventure that reads like “Night at the Museum”. I had to find out for myself what was happening so went on the Montclair Library website. YIKES! The party continues and I’ve been asked to join in. I’m reading “The House on the Strand” which reminds me that there are many ways to travel. By the way, the history of your library is amazing. And in all started with “1869 Israel Crane and his wife invited friends and neighbors to organize a subscription library collection of about one hundred books. There were 30 participating families. The collection was housed under the counter at Betzler’s Drug Store on Bloomfield Avenue (then called Main), near the Presbyterian Church (now the site of the Hinck Building). The books were moved to the Pillsbury Building, also located on Bloomfield Avenue, and the library obtained a charter as the Montclair Library Association.”

    Goes along with that Margaret Mead quotes about never doubting a small group of people….

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Clanmother! Yes, sort of a “Night at the Museum” scenario! I saw the original 2006 film, and enjoyed it — with the added bonus of having visited New York City’s American Museum of Natural History (where the movie was set) many times.

      “I’m reading ‘The House on the Strand’ which reminds me that there are many ways to travel” — great line! Hope you’re enjoying that time-travel novel; I found much of it mesmerizing.

      I hadn’t looked at that history timeline in a while. Some libraries have very interesting pasts. 🙂 And, yes, a small number of forward-thinking people can do a LOT!

      Liked by 4 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s