Know Me Betterman: Lisa Palin

Welcome back to the Know Me Betterman blog series, which features various fascinating people I know talking about the books they love. (Forgot what Know Me Betterman is? Click here.) This week I'm thrilled to be hosting my dear friend Lisa Palin, a fellow Simmons alum, Disney World aficionado, and all-around badass.

Hello, gentle readers.

My name is Lisa Palin. You want to know more about me? Read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, and pay special attention to Claudia Kincaid. I am Claudia, and Mixed-Up Files tells my story.

As a child, I was a dreamer. Inside my head, I roamed all over the world, caught criminals, found priceless artifacts, and saved whole villages from the ravages of nature. In reality, I was shy, awkward, liked things to be orderly and predictable, and was terrified of dying in some freak accident involving a pencil and a flight of stairs. (Yes, vivid imagination has its downsides.) In other words, I was far too risk-averse to actually have the adventures I imagined.

And then. THEN. Then I encountered a story about a girl who likes things to be orderly (check), who is picky about grammar (check), who gets good grades and does her chores (check, check). A girl who likes to think and plan and have things unfold as intended (check, check, check).

Then the girl runs away from home in the coolest way possible, has a grand adventure, learns how to be flexible and spontaneous, and grows up a little. Suddenly, my dreams? They seemed a little more real.

In Mixed-Up Files, Claudia decides to run away from home, but she does it with style. Chapter One opens with this description:

Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that’s why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Claudia proceeds to enlist the help of her younger brother Jamie, who has money (she doesn’t because she’s a bit of a spendthrift (check)). The pair get themselves from Greenwich, Connecticut to New York City and then hide in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (they sleep in Marie Antoinette’s bed! They steal coins from the fountain! They eat at the luncheonette down the street! They tag along with school tours!). Along the way, Claudia discovers that the museum has acquired a sculpture of an angel that may have been created by Michaelangelo, and her simple “running away” gains purpose. Claudia sets off on a journey to research the sculpture, which ultimately leads her to back to Connecticut to the home of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler herself.

So, aside from the similarities between childhood-me and Claudia Kincaid, why does Claudia’s story tell you who I am?

Here is Claudia’s life philosophy, at the end of her adventure:

  • Planning is fine (and fun!) as long as you recognize that not everything will go as planned and that deviating from the plan, while scary, can lead to great things.
  • Small perceived personal injustices fade, so don’t act rashly, and let them go when you’re given the opportunity. The world is bigger than you.
  • Follow your passion. If something sparks your interest, pursue it, even if that wasn’t the original plan.
  • Younger siblings have their uses and can even become a true friend.
  • Searching for something can have greater value than finding it.
  • Never run away from things without running toward something else.

Fast forward approximately thirty years. In those thirty years, I traveled internationally (with friends and solo), took a solo road trip hiking and camping across the United States, became a lawyer, left the law (temporarily) to study children’s literature, and moved cross country from Boston to Austin, Texas. Oh, and I frequently tack myself onto tour groups to which I don’t belong (usually, no one notices until I ask questions, then I get a lot of confused looks). Claudia’s philosophy is my philosophy.

Then there’s one more thing about Mixed-Up Files that tells you about me.

Page one (prologue-of-sorts): Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler writes a letter to her lawyer, Saxonberg, enclosing a lengthy manuscript (the novel) that she claims will explain her reasons for changing her will.

Why this is me: I am incapable of telling a brief story, and am convinced the world would operate more smoothly if everyone would just listen to the stories leading up to people’s decisions. No, Mrs. Basil E. was not a crazy old loon for changing her will to include two unknown children. She had her reasons. Most people do. Listen for them, and attempt understanding.

There you have it, gentle readers. Now go read (or reread) the book. It was nice to meet you.

Sincerely,

Lisa M. Palin

Lisa Palin is a writer, teacher, and a sometimes attorney who has trouble sitting still. When not spinning tales or captivating juries, she can be found hiking, drinking IPA, planning a trip to Disney World, or marathoning her latest television obsession. As a RI native, she calls a drinking fountain a bubbler and gives directions based on where things used to be. She currently lives in Austin, TX with eleven roommates including a two-year old, two dogs, four cats, and a rat. You can check out her occasional updates at LisaPalin.com and CreativelyUnhinged.com.