This past week hasn’t been the greatest. I somehow came down with a miserable cold, just when I had Very Important Things to Do. I’ll admit, I am not ordinarily the most patient of patients, and I usually try to power through my regularly-scheduled programming, but this time all efforts were futile. I retreated to bed with my laptop and a nightstand cluttered with emergency items: meds, books to read if my head miraculously cleared, multiple bottles of Evian (I’m convinced it has healing powers) and a ginormous box of tissues.
That last item, though, was not solely intended to help battle my cold. It was time to watch my go-to, tough-times movie, You’ve Got Mail.
You’ve seen it, right? The classic 90s Nora-and-Delia-Ephron rom com with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks? (Set in New York, not Seattle.) Meg’s character owns an indie children’s bookstore and Tom’s character heads up the new megastore chain Fox Books (which looks suspiciously like one we readers know well). They hate each other in real life but unwittingly fall in love via email.
I never intend to cry, of course. Every single time I get out one of the battered DVDs (yes, I’m old school and I also have three copies) I swear I won’t. Not to mention my eyes were already red and puffy and my PJs weren’t adorable like Meg Ryan’s in that scene when she’s sick in her sunny, oversized Upper West Side brownstone apartment. And Tom Hanks wasn’t going to show up with flowers and pick up all the crumpled Kleenex, either.
I’m sure there are plenty of other people out there who love this movie (and maybe some who don’t), but it always brings me strength, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. And it doesn’t have much to do with the romance, really. At the time You’ve Got Mail came out, I was Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelly…or pretty close, anyway (sans that massive, aforementioned apartment). I was a children’s book editor in New York and on occasion I even went to fancy publishing dinners, although I never fought with anyone over the caviar.
Some of us editors got to read the script ahead of time, because Delia Ephron wanted to make the movie as authentic to children’s book publishing as possible. Our publishers were invited to donate books (particularly classics) to be showcased in the bookstore scenes, and we editors got to choose them. At the time I was fighting with our sales department to bring the Shoes books (Ballet Shoes, Dancing Shoes, Theater Shoes, etc.) back into print and Delia wrote them into the script. The author, you may remember from your childhood (or from Meg’s meltdown in the middle of the Fox Books children’s section), is Noel Streatfeild. That’s S-T-R-E-A-T-F-E-I-L-D. Those three books went back into print, and have stayed there ever since. Thank you, Delia!
Anyway, in both that idealized, movie-fairytale 90s New York and the more hectic, gritty real-life Manhattan, bookstores were closing everywhere as oak-paneled megastores with big discounts and built-in cafes claimed city blocks and readers’ hearts. It was a time to take sides and fight for what you believed in—or, as Tom advised Meg with his favorite line from The Godfather (which I have, in fact, never seen), “Go to the mattresses.” Get up and fight.
Now it’s the megastore that is going to the mattresses against huge online retailers, and indie stores returning to neighborhoods and writers taking charge of their own publishing paths. But for me personally, the main takeaway from all those You’ve Got Mail marathons (yes, I can recite most of the script by heart) is that sometimes it’s time to get off the mattress and fight. Hasta la vista, nasty cold.
Have you ever found that a certain movie (or book) seems to have a special message just for you? Let us know in the comments!