Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thief of my Heart

Last year, I read a novel that stole my heart quicker than you can say mud.

Aptly so, because it's called The Book Thief. If you haven't read it, this is what it looks like:

And now, go buy it. (Or check it out at the library.)
I write coming-of-age stories, so the young age of the main character attracted me. There are many, many novels out there billed as coming-of-age stories, but not very many great ones. This is a great one.

Here's Markus Zusak, the author of The Book Thief:

(Also young, no?)

With that brief preface, let me share a short story of humanity and kindness with you today.
After reading The Book Thief in one whirlwind weekend (it's 550 pages, folks), I walked around in a stupor, wiping my tears and marveling at the power of the story. I decided to follow my nine-year-old son's great example and wrote a letter of thanks to Zusak.

I whipped off an email to him via Facebook, remembering how miraculous I feel when someone says something nice about my own book. (And also thinking, geez, I'll bet he gets so many thank you letters, he just gets exasperated by them.)

He wrote me back, and told me that he also cried when he wrote the scene that I cried over. I was stunned to get his response. What a kind gesture to personally answer a "fan mail." I noticed afterwards that he attempted to respond to EVERY SINGLE fan post on his page. What the what? This man deserves a medal with the word HUMANITY embossed on it...and an extra hour every day to write fiction.

A few days later, I decided to assign The Book Thief to my college students in the spring.

A few days after that, I found out that Markus Zusak was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Highland Park Literary Festival, the festival at which I teach a fiction workshop every year.

I love it when the world kind of comes together like that.

So, in a few weeks, Markus Zusak will arrive in Dallas, and he'll make his appearance at the opening night of the festival. Then the other workshop presenters and I will have dinner with the creator of Death himself (Zusak), at which I'll act very shy and nervous and clutch my worn out novel and ask him to sign my book (and apologize for all the marginal notes) after the dessert course. I know this will happen, because I behaved the same way at the dinners with Scott Simon and Russell Banks in previous years.

Last week, I met the author of The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker. At SMU, she read from her debut novel, a NYT Bestseller, and she was sweet and gracious and talented.

Sometimes, writing (and trying to live as a writer) is so hard, it seems inhumane. Writers like Zusak and Walker make the world of writing a little kinder. A little gentler. Warmer.

It's good to love what one does. I'm a lucky girl.


  1. Lori,

    I have the book. Was a gift from a friend. Will put it back on my must read list once I get my next novel finished. I loved reading that he wrote you back. I'm overjoyed for you that you get to meet him in person soon. :)


    1. Let me know what you think. I think you'll fall in love with it. His writing is poetic and arresting. It was a great irony that he has fruit-stealing incidents in the book. When I read the novel the second time (for my own class), the scene's similarity to the watermelon-stealing in Song of the Orange Moons was amusing.

  2. I sent him a letter. Do you think he will reply?
    And which part did you cry over?

    1. That's sweet, Ammu! Authors love to get letters from readers. He tries very hard to respond, but I know he's also busy (as you know) with his touring and writing. Still, he might write you back. Have you tweeted to him? I've seen that he responds to tweets, so if you tell him you wrote to him in a tweet, he might respond. I cried over several parts, but the part where Rudy died--that did me in! I was a ball of tears.