Star Gazer or Guttersnipe?

Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS doesn’t believe in coincidence. I’m not quite as adamant as he is, but the timing couldn’t have been better for me to read Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.

The previous week had left me feeling like I was in the bottom of a pit as life swung a pendulum with a bowling ball for its anchor. It struck me on one side of my head with its “to” and before I could recover, got the other side with its “fro.” The final blow was a rejection letter from an agent who included the words, “You’re a very talented writer,” and “Your work is very good.” Somehow these words were not an adequate cushion for the rejection that felt like one more pass with the bowling ball.

The “coincidence” came in my reading Wonderstruck that week with its recurring theme, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”    Comparing my own position to that of the two profoundly deaf protagonists, I could see that a shallow gully was a more apt description for my location than a deep pit. It also suggested that I had a choice whether to wallow in its muck or turn my face up to the sky.

Lying down in the gutter for keeps is an option, but so is getting up and reaching for the stars. Since I prefer stars to muck, I picked myself up and began researching other agents for children’s books and what kind of work they represented. Surely, there was one out there looking to represent “a very talented writer” whose “work is very good.”

As for Wonderstruck, whether you’re feeling the grasp of the gutter or the wonder of gazing at the stars this week, I recommend reading the book for sheer enjoyment of its two parallel stories told alternately in words and art that wind together to the end.