GUEST POST – teachergirl73
“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ”
Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.
Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.
When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.
By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.
What would he say . . . ?
Rowell’s debut novel is set in the final months of 1999, and centers around the lives of three characters: Beth, her best friend Jennifer, and Lincoln, who all work for a small newspaper The Courier somewhere in the American Midwest. Lincoln happens to be the IT guy responsible for “spying” on his fellow employees’ by reading any emails that get flagged for inappropriate content. This is a job that Lincoln falls into for the lack of any better options.
I was in need of a book that I could get lost in quickly and Rowell’s Attachments did just the trick. Once I had opened to the first page and realized that the book started with an email conversation, I knew that it was the one. A number of years ago, I read Meggin Cabot’s The Boy Next Door, which told the story entirely through email exchanges. I thoroughly enjoyed it, which is why I hoped that Attachments would hit the spot for my current book need. The story unfolds through a combination of emails and narrative from the point of view of the main character, Lincoln O’Neill. The book jacket description clinched the deal, as it was clearly a little bit quirky, a little bit romantic, and probably with a whole lot of confusion mixed in.
At the beginning of the novel, the reader is introduced to Lincoln who is an ordinary guy floating through his life, living at home with his eccentric mother and who is constantly being badgered by his older sister to find his passion in life, whatever that might be. Lincoln spends his nights working as the Internet Security Officer at The Courier, and his weekends playing Dungeons and Dragons with high school buddies. His one significant relationship left him with a broken heart that although years have passed, he still can’t quite seem to move on from. That is until he starts to read the email exchanges between Beth and Jennifer.
Each day, Lincoln finds himself drawn more into Beth and Jennifer’s world, even though he knows that he is invading their privacy and that his job is to send warnings to both of them. Lincoln just can’t bring himself to do it, he enjoys their correspondence far too much. Soon Lincoln finds himself developing feelings and forming opinions about these two women, as if they were all friends. There’s only one problem, he’s never met either and yet he knows far more about both of them than he should. This is where things get very complicated.
“Lincoln?” she asked.
“Do you believe in love at first sight?”
He made himself look at her face, at her wide-open eyes and earnest forehead. At her unbearably sweet mouth.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Do you believe in love before that?”
Her breath caught in her throat like a sore hiccup.
And then it was too much to keep trying not to kiss her.”
― Rainbow Rowell, Attachments
The character of Lincoln, is the main protagonist of the story, and he truly seems to be a lost soul. Lincoln’s email eavesdropping eventually becomes more than just a way to pass the time in the wee hours of the night. It becomes the catalyst for him to take charge of his life. Through all the hi-jinks that Lincoln finds himself dragged into, he learns to become more of a risk-taker and he actually starts to live his life rather than just let it pass him by. As the story moves along, you see Lincoln falling for Beth, and as much as you want him to get the girl in the end, it becomes increasingly more complicated and very difficult to see how he can ever make it happen.
“Oh, I love period dramas, especially period dramas starring Colin Firth. I’m like Bridget Jones if she were actually fat.”
“Oh… Colin Firth. He should only do period dramas. And period dramas should only star Colin Firth. (One-star upgrade for Colin Firth. Two stars for Colin Firth in a waistcoat.)
“Keep typing his name, even his name is handsome.”
― Rainbow Rowell, Attachments
If you are looking for a funny story, that is light with a touch of poignancy, then Attachments might just be the book for you. After reading it, I will definitely be adding her other books to my to-be-read list. Rowell’s other adult novel is Landline, which is a story about second chances. She also writes YA fiction and is the author of Fangirl, Eleanor & Park, and the upcoming novel Carry On which is due out this fall on October 6, 2015.
A CONVERSATION WITH RAINBOW ROWELL
Q. Attachments includes many references to pop culture, specifically circa the mid to late 1990’s. What is your relationship with pop culture? How does it inform your writing? From which corners of pop culture do you draw the most inspiration?
I’ve always been fascinated by pop culture . . . When I was a kid I would read books about the Beatles and the Monkees and pore over old Life magazines. Now I write a pop culture column for our city’s newspaper, The Omaha World–Herald.
As a writer, I use pop culture references almost as shorthand. Pop culture is shared culture, so if I say that someone is more of a Star Wars geek than a Star Trek geek, you probably know what I mean. If I say that someone prefers John Lennon to Paul McCartney, or Jacob to Edward, or Batman to Superman . . . You get it.
The trick in Attachments was finding nineties references that would still have meaning today. If I mentioned a song (“Who Let the Dogs Out?”) or an actor (Julia Roberts, John Wayne) or a movie (The Matrix), it had to be something that readers would probably still recognize and understand.
Some writers don’t like to use pop culture references in books or movies because they date a story. But I’ve never minded that. I like to experience a story in context.
A few of my favorite artists are really good at this – using pop culture references to help tell a story. I think of Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) and Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men.
Q. So much of the book consists of the email repartee between Beth and Jennifer. How did you go about crafting these exchanges? What was most important to you in creating the specific voices of these characters?
Well, it started as a cheat for me. This is my first novel, and I was really anxious about writing the third–person narrative. The descriptive parts. But I was much more confident about writing dialogue, and email is really just dialogue . . .
So I wrote all of the Beth/Jennifer scenes in first. I wanted their friendship to be a major part of the book – and I wanted to write about how female friendships have moved from the telephone to the computer. In a way, email feels even more intimate than the telephone because you don’t even have to say anything out loud.
I knew that it could get confusing, the switching back and forth between their two voices, so I tried to make them pretty distinct. Jennifer writes more formally than Beth does; she’s a copy editor, so she’s less likely to use sentence fragments or end a sentence with a preposition. She makes fewer pop culture references, and the ones she does make are less hip or current than Beth’s.
Beth is more self confident, and – in part because of her job – more laid–back. If I thought of a silly joke, I’d give it to Beth. If the joke was sharp or bitter, I’d give it to Jennifer.
Also, Beth is really amused by Jennifer, so I tried to make her sound fond and smiling.
I would actually smile when I was typing Beth’s stuff, then furrow my brow a bit when I was typing Jennifer.
Q. What role does this novel’s setting play in your writing of it? How much of Nebraska and the Midwest do you see in this book and how would a different setting have changed the story and characters?
Well, I wanted to set the book in Omaha because people in Omaha almost never get to see our hometown in books or TV or movies – and we get so excited when it happens.
But I didn’t want the location to be a distraction for other readers. (Almost all of the places I mention inAttachments are real Omaha places, but I never actually say “Omaha” anywhere in the book.)
I do think of the characters as very Midwestern . . . The way that Doris talks to everybody who comes into the break room and learns their names. The way that everyone is always offering each other food. The car culture. The gorgeous cheap apartments. The Lutherans.
Q. The characters in this book deal with significant loss and loneliness, but find powerful moments of love as well. What themes or topics do you want your readers to walk away with? For you, which character best speaks to the message of the novel and why?
Attachments is about three people who are all at that age – late 20s, early 30s – where you realize you’re not a kid anymore. You’re an adult. And you can’t just let your life keep happening to you. You have to take the reins, now, or risk never having any of the things you really want in life, whether it’s love or a family or the right job .
But you also realize at that age how little control you really have.
Life isn’t like the movies. Things don’t just fall into place because your favorite song is on the soundtrack or because it’s New Year’s Eve.
Lincoln is the heart of the book for me. He’s the character most in danger of sleeping through life. He has a lot to offer, but he’s been so passive for so long that you really think he might not ever stand up for himself.
Secondarily . I knew when I started the book that I wanted Lincoln to be a truly good guy. I didn’t want him to be the guy in the romantic comedy who starts out rude and sexist and is then transformed by true love into a good guy. I reject that entire idea. Bad guys don’t turn into good guys. If you want a good guy, you need to find one who’s already good.
I wanted Lincoln to be like the guys in my life – sensitive, kind, idealistic, feminist, smart. I wanted to show that a guy like that can be a dreamy romantic hero.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rainbow Rowell writes books. Sometimes she writes about adults (ATTACHMENTS and LANDLINE). Sometimes she writes about teenagers (ELEANOR & PARK and FANGIRL). But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they’re screwing up. And people who fall in love.
When she’s not writing, Rainbow is reading comic books, planning Disney World trips and arguing about things that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things.
She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.
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