Our theme for the month of October was selected by readers and is a format challenge: write a post completely in dialogue.
ACHEBE: Hey guys? Do you think a few of you could move off this stack and go sit next to Ms. Chang? I don’t really want to open this can of worms, but I’m feeling a little crushed by the weight of whiteness right now.
CHABON: Ah, pipe down, Chinua. My characters have problems too. They’re gay and Jewish and unhappily single, you know? You don’t have a monopoly on sob stories.
BRADLEY: I don’t even see why you guys are fighting, honestly. The world is going to end soon because we’ve burned so many fossil fuels that it’s too late to save anything. We might as well get along now in the time we have left.
BAUER: Dear stack A-Ch of Abby’s literary and classic fiction shelf,
I write in a tone most kind, requesting that you cast off these foolish quarrels and consider a more esoteric topic of conversation. Sincerely, Frances and Bernard
BARBERY: Louisa, you’re very quiet down there. What do you think of all this?
ALCOTT: Oh gosh, well I’m just awfully glad that that we’re all here together. I do so wish we could all get along.
DICKENS 1 (from afar): It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…
COOPER: Who’s that talking? IT IS AN OMEN.
DICKENS 2 (louder, trying to drown out DICKENS 1): It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…
CUNNINGHAM: Charles—Charleses?—just shut up. No one needs to hear your overly masculine droning. It’s giving me a nervous breakdown.
DEFOE: Hey! Men have written more than half the books on this shelf. We deserve more than half the talking time!
CHANG: Daniel, you’re so ancient that I’m going to let that slide. But seriously, man. Educate yourself.
EGAN: Katherine, we’ve been next to each other on this shelf for so long, I feel like I really know you. Well, one side of you, at least.
DUNN: Aw thanks, Jennifer. At least we have each other. Abby has seen us side-by-side for so long that she can’t keep us straight anymore. All she knows is one of us is about circus freaks and one is about rock band freaks.
ELIOT: At least she’s read you. Middlemarch has been sitting on this shelf for years, and it doesn’t even have a crack down the big fat spine yet. She made it about fifty pages in. Twice. Silas Marner was back in high school and she barely skimmed it, and no one even thinks about Adam Bede because if you’re going to read me, you might as well do Middlemarch, you know? Foer and Frazier down there have been read probably dozens of times if you add it up, and here I am sitting “aspirationally” for ages.
FRAIZER: It’s not our fault that she likes both long, intricate family sagas full of romance and history and post-modern, nonlinear stories about quirky youngsters!
ELIOT: How am I not a long, intricate family saga?!
FOER: Do you enjoy the music of tambourines?
ELIOT: I… what?
GOLDING: Wow, things are getting weird up there on the top shelf.
GROSSMAN: And a book about prep school boys trying to kill each other isn’t a bit out of the ordinary?
GUTTERSON: Uh, you’re one to talk, Lev. A school where people learn magic?! That’s a) been done before and b) super weird and unrealistic.
GROSSMAN: It’s called genre fiction, David. And J.K. Rowling is a goddess. Of course she has influenced me. You know Abby has a great fondness for her work. I’m simply here to continue the illusion.
HAWTHORN: What are they babbling on about, Ernest?
HEMINGWAY: I do not know. I do not care. Would you like to share a drink with me? I enjoy beer. It is good.
HAWTHORN: Surely, my good friend! I shall take to you a bar in Concord! It’s quaint and lovely.
HEMINGWAY: That will not do. Paris is the only place for me.
HOSSEINI: Achebe up on the top shelf is always saying this a super white place, but I hadn’t really thought about it until now. I’m glad you’re here, Zora.
HURSTON: Abby really does need to branch out. Too many classics (cough dead white guys cough) and pretentious Jonathan Safran Foers.
ISHIGURO: You two are right. And also, where’s all the genre fiction? I don’t really count—organ harvesting could totally happen.
KARR: She prefers real life stories, you dolts. Sex drugs and rock-’n-roll if you know what I mean.
LAMOTT: Boy do I! Mary, want to share our life stories with everyone again? It’s just crazy how much we have in common.
LEBOVITZ: Ohpleaseno. Here! Eat this fabulous chocolate cake I just made in my tiny French kitchen instead! S’il vous plaît!
MCCARTHY: All of this is futile. Why do we search for commonality among beings so disparate and alone? A text can serve only to illuminate the nature of life and death. Let us venture boldly into the desert to explore the true character of this all-knowing reader, she whose predilections set us against each other like dueling lions on the savannah.
MARTEL: Anne and Mary, I just want to know whose story is better. Go ahead and tell us again!
OATES: Well, isn’t this a motley crew on shelf three? War and baseball, murder and scrambled eggs, grad school and farm life. Let’s not even get into this—we’ll never have much to say to each other. Besides, I’ve written more books than all of you combined, so I call being queen of this bottom shelf.
STEVENSON: Queen?! I don’t think so! Scientists should rule the shelf! My Nimona would be perfect.
THOMPSON: As the biggest book and probably most famous author on the shelf—
SMITH: UM RUDE. I’m a way bigger deal than you. Listen to my British accent. If anyone should be queen, it’s me.
THOMPSON: This book is signed and illustrated with a personal sketch for Abby on the title page, so I’m pretty sure it’s the favorite. I should be in charge.
TARTT: So, uh, Swift… you’re kinda into cannibalism, right? Eating babies and such?
SWIFT: Well… yes. You could say that. #nospoilers
TARTT: Got any tips? I feel like I could get into that.
Abby Zwart (’13) teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.