01/20/2014 01:36 pm ET Updated Mar 22, 2014

How I Discovered That Authors Never Die


I was driving home after crossing the multitude of items off my to-do list that required vehicular motion when I saw Books-A-Million near the highway. I could not pass up the opportunity to go in. (Honestly, I really had to use the restroom, but I actually spent well over two hours in the bookstore.)

I lusted over the pretty iPhone cases and the surprisingly cool collection of vinyls in the electronics section while reminiscing on the time when Books-A-Million didn't sell vinyls and nobody knew what iPhones were -- why is there an electronic section in a bookstore? -- and then I found myself walking over to the teen section. I always end up in the teen section. Even though some of the literature there is unintentionally satirical (I'm not going to name any names... but Twilight), the teen section has introduced me to novels that have changed my life, such as John Green's Looking for Alaska, Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park and Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story.

When I was combing through the teen section at Books-A-Million, I saw the unique book cover of It's Kind of a Funny Story and an overwhelming sense of "goodness gracious" came over me. I was devastated after hearing of Ned Vizzini's suicide in December; however, seeing his novel still sitting on the shelves of a bookstore caused a feeling within me that was not present when his name was trending on Twitter after his death.

I used to think that actors never die. When I was really young, I remember watching one of my parents' favorite television shows, "The Brady Bunch," and thinking about how fascinating it was that Mike Brady was alive on my television while Robert Reed had died years before I was born. I thought that Cory Monteith would always be around to sing "Don't Stop Believing" with Rachel Berry. Richard Griffiths would always be around to shove Harry in a cupboard under the stairs. Don Knotts would always be around to leave off the last "e" in the word "revenge" when spelling it to Andy Taylor.

I used to think that. Today, however, I realized that Cory Monteith won't be singing with Rachel -- Finn will be singing with Rachel. Richard Griffiths won't shove Harry Potter into a cupboard under the stairs -- Vernon Dursley will. Don Knotts won't be singing a capella or spelling "revenge" wrong -- Barney Fife will. The actors were never their characters. The actors were multi-talented, multi-dimensional people; and the characters they left behind cannot encompass an actor's complexity. An actor's work will live forever, but I realized today that, contrary to my previous beliefs, actors can die.

I realized this when I also realized that authors do not die. In Books-A-Million, I saw several books by Ned Vizzini: It's Kind of a Funny Story, Teen Angst? Naaah... and a few others. I read It's Kind of a Funny Story quite awhile ago, and while I had seen Teen Angst? Naaah... on a bookshelf before, I didn't bother to pick it up until today. The synopsis told me that I would be reading a collection of Vizzini's essays written while he was in high school. What seemed like moments after I began reading the first one, I was finally putting the book down after an hour loitering in the Books-A-Million coffee shop, saying to myself, "I've read ten of these essays. I've got to buy this book."

While reading the collection of essays, I could not help thinking about my childhood belief that actors don't die. I realized when reading Ned Vizzini's essays -- published journal entries might be a better way to describe them -- that actors don't typically say their own words. They read a script. Yes, their characters live forever. I read Ned Vizzini's essays thinking "Wow. This is fascinating. I feel like he's sitting right here talking to me," even though I never met him.

It's a very interesting thing to hold something so tangible as a person's words. I held Vizzini's book like it was the first time I ever truly knew what the power of a book could do. I had a piece of Vizzini with me, his words etched into the pages before me; and I could say with certainty that he was alive as I was reading.

I think that it will be a long time before any of the actors I mentioned above will be forgotten; it's a difficult feat to forget about a person who brought a character to life. However, until today, I had never witnessed firsthand the massive connection between living and dead that simple words can provide. Of course, I know that this realization is not phenomenal -- singer/songwriters, poets, and authors who are no longer living have long been celebrated for their work even after their deaths. But it's definitely a fascinating experience to realize this for yourself.

Today, I realized that Horcruxes are for the illiterate. If you want to live forever, write. If you write, there will always be a close proximity between you and your reader, whether they read what you've written when you're fifty years old or fifty years after you've died. An astronomer, Carl Sagan, once said: "One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time." I think he's right.

(Also, if you're an angsty teenager, definitely pick up a copy of Teen Angst? Naaah... You won't be disappointed.)