And welcome to my stop on the Chloe Snow Diary tour.
Today Emma Chastain shares the books that inspired her writing journey.
“Write the book you want to read yourself.” Every writing teacher gives you this advice, and after starting and abandoning several novels even I didn’t particularly want to read, I finally realized that the books I’m most drawn to, the ones I read and reread, are comic English novels, most of them epistolary. Confessions of a High School Disaster was inspired by these five gems…
- Bridget Jones’s Diary: Self-pitying, booze-soaked, and fixated on her own weight, Bridget Jones isn’t more flawed than anyone else; she’s just more honest about her failings. I couldn’t be less interested in seeking out likable fictional characters; all I care about is whether they’re funny, real, and interesting, and Bridget is all three.
- Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging: The unofficial motto of Seinfeld was “no hugging, no learning.” The characters wouldn’t conclude fights with weepy reconciliations. They wouldn’t learn life lessons at the end of each episode. Nothing would change and no one would grow. That’s how it goes in Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson series. Joke after joke after hilarious joke? Yes. Life lessons? Noooooo.
- I Capture the Castle. Dodie Smith’s novel features a crumbling castle, a cash-poor family, and a romance with two rich American brothers—but all of that, while delightful, is beside the point. The point is the narrator, Cassandra, whose charm and wit and careful way of observing the world make her one of the most lovable and most important characters in fiction.
- The Pursuit of Love. Nancy Mitford’s masterpiece isn’t technically told in diary format, but it might as well be. The narrator, Fanny, tells the story of her cousin Linda, a beautiful and slightly daffy member of an aristocratic English family. Mitford’s tone is so amused, and her facility for capturing chatty conversations is so great, that it’s easy to miss her world-class craft, or assume it doesn’t exist at all. Hard writing makes easy reading, as the saying goes.
- The Diary of a Nobody. First published in 1892—wait! Where are you going? Come back and let me assure you that this nearly ancient book reads like it was written yesterday. Its protagonist is a class-conscious, house-proud striver coping with the daily humiliations and misunderstandings of life. He’s specific to a time and place that have vanished forever, but his delusions, his anxieties, his small pleasures—I can’t imagine a reader who wouldn’t identify with them and find them equally heartbreaking and funny.