When I was a little girl, I’d fall asleep staring at the wallpaper. The tiny pink and blue flowers and the dots would blur together and when I crossed my eyes, it would jump out like a Magic Eye page. During the day, I never noticed the wallpaper. But as I lay in bed staring at it, the ordinary became, somehow, extraordinary. It was magic wallpaper to me some nights.
(Maybe I was already turning into a madwoman in the attic?)
I recently received a new comment on one of my old posts about a certain popular modern book. I know I am in the minority for not liking the book, but I still have a right to give my opinion on my blog in contrast to all those praising it. At any rate, this commenter criticized my not liking the violence in it and said,
If you’re not into it, go read a book about wallpaper or something.
My initial reaction was “Huh? Wallpaper?” Then I tweeted it, and Emily said she’d join me for the wallpaper readalong. She mentioned two choice short stories on the subject of wallpaper, including the first that probably comes to mind for all of you “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
That got me thinking about other short stories that are about the minutiae of everyday life, and I decided Emily was right: we need to celebrate the wonderful literature about ridiculous and seemingly insignificant things. Just like my childhood walls became “magical” to me when I gave them attention, stories about the normally unnoticed minutiae of the world reveal complexities that we take for granted the rest of the time.
Therefore, I hereby introduce The Reading About Wallpaper Mini-Challenge.
This is a mini-challenge to read a classic or literary work about something insignificant that becomes important (define that as you will). These are the quiet works that may not be full of action. These works shows that the little things of life may still have an impact on a reader in a powerfully written work. You could read a short story, a poem, a novel, an essay, a nonfiction book, a newspaper article, a picture book: anything.
If it’s not clear, I want to emphasize: you do not need to read about wallpaper specifically. Just read something about the normally unnoticed things of life.
This is a mini-challenge with very few rules. There’s no deadline. You can read one or one hundred works. You can post thoughts on them, or not. If you post about it and you feel so inclined, leave a link in the comments to this post. If you don’t want to post about what you read, you can also leave your thoughts about what you read in the comments.
Here are some short works that come to mind. I have not read all of them, and I know there are obvious ones I’m missing. Feel free to add your own.
- “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman. The first wallpaper story to come to mind. A woman begins to see things in her wallpaper.
- “The Mark on the Wall” by Virginia Woolf.
- “The Fly” by Katherine Mansfield. A fly gets caught in the inkwell.
- “Small Fry” by Anton Chekhov. A clerk finds a cockroach.
- “A Pair of Silk Stockings” by Kate Chopin. A woman goes to town to buy stockings.
- “A Piece of String” by Guy de Maupassant. A man finds a piece of string.
- “A Fly in the Ointment” by D.H. Lawrence.
- “The Last Leaf” by O. Henry. Johnsy watches the leaves fall from the vine out her window.
- “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville. The phrase “I prefer not to” has power behind it.
My choice for this mini-project is the Virginia Woolf piece that Emily mentioned to me: “The Mark on the Wall.” I skimmed the first page and I can’t wait to give it my full attention when I get a chance!
Will you read about the wallpaper of life with me?