Blame it all on John Irving.
Last September, I packed up to head to DC for a weekend of booknerdery at the National Book Festival, the highlights of which were to be seeing John Irving (one of my all-time favorite authors) and having dinner with several other bloggers I’d never met before. As I scurried out the door, Bob kissed me goodbye, told me to have a good time, and then said those fateful words,
“Just try not to throw your panties at John Irving, okay?”
(Ah, he knows me so well.)
The Book Festival was awesome (and gave birth to the phenomenon known as #iheartthespark), and I kept my panties firmly in place, but I happened to mention Bob’s little warning to Trish during dinner, and the idea stuck. Pretty soon, I was sitting around on Twitter talking about throwing my panties at other authors whose books had a certain je ne sais quoi.
Thomas Trofimuk came up. Michael Chabon was mentioned repeatedly. Other bloggers and readers jumped in. The conversation grew, and it became clear that this was not a gender specific concept. Female authors deserved to have panties thrown at them as well. At some point, either Margie or Sue (but I don’t remember which) suggested making #pantyworthy a new, special category in how we talk about books. And a sensation was born.
Now here’s the rationale for it: no matter how individual criteria may vary, passionate readers think of authors as the rock stars of our world. We carry their words in our hearts. We fall in love with their characters and their use of language. We dream about meeting them in person, doing the stereotypical “Oh my god, I LOVE your work” gushing, and discovering that they are even more amazing than we’d always thought.
And when their writing reaches us at the deepest, most intimate level and gives us those moments of feeling “infinite” (to borrow from The Perks of Being a Wallflower), or when we find ourselves savoring every word, clutching a book close to our chests, telling everyone we know about the beautiful work of art that is the amazing book we just read (and think that EVERYONE should read), we just might decide that, if given the opportunity, we’d throw our panties (or boxers) at the author.
What makes a book pantyworthy is different for every reader (and often varies from book to book). It’s difficult to define and cannot really be captured. But I know it’s coming when, after just a few pages, I find myself thinking about how if reading were like dating, I’d be planning a way to sneak away from the table, slip out of my knickers, pass them to my date under the table, and invite him to meet for a quickie.
(Okay, maybe I’ve never actually done this—so Dad, you have nothing to worry about—but you get the idea, right?)
As in life, sometimes the pantyworthy feelings are fleeting (the reader’s version of lust), and sometimes they develop into long-lasting relationships in which the passion might occasionally wane but can be quickly rekindled by the perfect turn of phrase (a soft touch, a gentle laugh…). And, of course, it doesn’t hurt if the author is not only incredibly talented but is also the type of person one can imagine throwing one’s panties at in real life (*cough* Joshua Ferris) or who would seem unfazed by such an occurrence. (I mean, does anyone think John Irving would actually be surprised to find panties being flung at him? Or that it hasn’t happened before?)
But that’s just me.
Tell me: what does pantyworthy mean to you? Who’s on your list?
(and please also tell me if you think I’ve missed any important details about this concept—my brain isn’t used to working on Sundays)