I first read The Perks of Being a Wallflower at the end of college. It is written as a series of letters to an unknown recipient from a Charlie, a sophomore in high school. He is the “wallflower” mentioned in the title, whose new friend claims “You see things. You keeps quiet about them. And you understand.” Charlie’s earnest voice gives names and narrative to the essence of late adolescence.
I loved it, but didn’t connect with the characters the way high school readers did because I felt like I was a life-stage ahead of them…the characters were in the act of figuring out who they were and I felt like I was already there. Of course, those are the kinds of cringe-inducing, arrogant things that 22 year olds think. Reading it now, ten years later, I found myself relating to Charlie’s desire to be connected to the world around him and belong to something greater.
He collects songs and makes mixed tapes. He collects books. He collects moments with his writing. And he curates them in an attempt to make sense of existence.
“I hope it’s the kind of second side that he can listen to whenever he drives alone and feel like he belongs to something whenever he’s sad. I hope it can be that for him.”
“I had an amazing feeling when I finally held up the tape in my hand. I just thought to myself that in the palm of my hand, there was this one tape that had all of these memories and feelings and great joy and sadness. Right there in my hand. And I thought about how many people have loved these songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how much those songs really mean.”
“And all the books you’ve read have been read by other people. And all the songs you’ve loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that’s pretty to you is pretty to other people. and that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing ‘unity.”
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.“
I’ve been thinking about what my current mixed tape would be (and what would I call it, and how would I design the cover) and which books I would pull off my shelf and hand to the world in an attempt to explain who I am? What stories do I need to write down?