You’ve Got Kleenex

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!






23 thoughts on “You’ve Got Kleenex

  1. Lisa, had no idea of your special connection to this movie! How cool. I’m always jealous of any character who has a fantastic NYC apartment on a salary of pennies. Mine was a 4th floor walk-up. I don’t know if there’s a scene that particularly resonates with me, but I feel a special connection to the movie, AMARCORD. It makes me think of the small town in Italy where my mother came from, and what life there must have been like. It’s lyrical, but there’s such a sense of foreboding as Mussolini starts to come to power.

    There is a scene I connect to in GLORY, another favorite movie. It’s when the incredibly brave battalion makes a stand against the enemy knowing they’re doomed. When I’m pursuing some task that’s bound to have an unhappy ending but I have to do it anyway, I always think of that scene. Because of course, my first-world problems are the equal of black soldiers giving their lives for freedom during the Civil War.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I can see you as Meg Ryan in that classic! For me, Harvey is one of my all time favorites, the one with Josephine Hull and Jimmy Stewart. I love the humor and the thread about the fundamental choices we make about how we live our lives. But I’ve got to say three of us binge-watched Shetland seasons 1 & 2 last week and WOW! I’ve got to do that again soon. The motivation came last June when two of us were on the Shetland Islands and one of our local guides told us she’s an extra in the series. The show does a spectacular job showing the scenery and the history of the issues, and of course Ann Cleeves’ books are diabolically complex. Thanks for another great post, Lisa! –kate, writing at c. t. collier

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Confession time – I’ve never seen that movie. I should some time, but I never have.

    I can remember about that time that Barnes and Noble moved into my home town, and everyone was up in arms about how it would drive local bookstores out of business. Now everyone is concerned about them against Amazon. I still find that circle of the last 20 years ironic. Of course, I’m concerned as well, so I’m right there with everyone.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I so agree! The more things change, the more they stay the same…(learned that in French class but won’t attempt a translation here). Definitely check out the movie, Mark. Think it has something for everyone who loves the book world and wonders about the future direction of publishing.


  4. I have daisies growing in my yard and every time I walk past them, I stop and say, “I think daisies are the happiest flower.” Got that from the movie. And, funnily enough, it looks like I’m allergic to flowers. I’ll worry about it when the snow melts.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Love this post and love this film. I also adore When Harry Met Sally. I don’t think it had a special message for me, but it makes me happy. And teary. And is a go-to.

    Also in this category: The Princess Bride and Mean Girls.

    Plus Emma (the one with Gwen Paltrow), Sense and Sensibility (the one with Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson), and Clueless. Nothing like a little Austen adaptation!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post, Lisa! Your connection to the movie is so cool. YOU are my Meg Ryan from now on! Sorry about the miserable cold.<3 When I'm under the weather my go-to movies are Fred & Ginger musicals and Andy Hardy movies. There's something comforting about dancing your troubles away (not that I can dance). And about a world (that never existed) with an ever-wise dad, where your biggest problem is raising enough money to rent a tux — and having Judy Garland as your sometimes neighbor!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love that movie and I love that it helped getting books back into print – yay! – I saw it in the cinema on Sunday morning with a very good friend, we won some sort of Valentine’s competition but neither of us had boyfriends to go with so we went together, it was enormous fun, thank you for reminding me of that day and I must watch it again! X

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What a wonderful memory! So glad this little post reminded you of it. Love the idea of a Valentine contest. Definitely watch it again–I pick up something new (well, almost) every time. 🙂


  8. It was indeed. Seems unreal now that email was so new when this came out. That “you’ve got mail” AOL voice was always so exciting.


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