When I was a kid, I had a fascination with Tyco Toys/Mattel’s Magic 8-Ball. The anticipation as I waited for the answer to reveal itself in that murky blue fluid left me breathless – it was just so cool and mysterious. When my son was given one as a gift a few years back, I’m pretty sure I ended up playing with it more than he did.
“Oh, c’mon!” I’d plead with him, hugging the ball to my chest and holding it tight. “I just want to ask it a few more questions.”
“Like what, Mom? About your book again?”
“Yes! I mean, no, no… Hey, kid, you’re not supposed to pressure people into telling you their questions. It’s against the rules. Like forcing your friends to share what they wished when they blew out their birthday candles. It’s just not done,” I’d say, trying to cleverly divert his attention and sneak out of the room with his toy.
“You’re so weird, Mom.” (Insert eye roll.) ”And give me back my ball.”
I know, I know. I should just get one of my own. But that’s kind of like admitting aloud to my fellow shoppers that I still read my horoscope, believe in the wisdom of fortune cookies, consider pennies found on the sidewalk to be ”lucky” and make wishes on fallen eyelashes. I don’t need everyone in line at Toys R Us looking at me like I’m stranger than they think I am already.
But it doesn’t stop me from wanting the answers to my questions, even if no one will vouch for the veracity of the responses. Even the Magic 8-Ball makers can’t, although I know what the percentiles are for their answers. Yes, I researched this: According to some experimenters, who were quite possibly even more obsessed with the little black orb than I was, the answer device inside the ball is a plastic “icosahedron” (20 identical equilateral triangular faces), and the distribution of answer types equals 50% Positive (e.g. “Yes – Definitely”); 25% Negative (e.g. “My Sources Say No”); and 25% Vague (e.g. “Better Not Tell You Now”).
So…when I asked it if my upcoming novel, A Summer in Europe would someday hit the New York Times Bestseller List, and it said, unequivocally, “YES!” I knew I’d had a delightful 50% chance of it telling me so. (As opposed to the non-icosahedron reality, which, ummm, doesn’t usually give odds that are quite that high, LOL. )
However, I also have my grown-up version of the Magic 8-Ball in the form of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Sometime in college, I got the idea that for any interpersonal/relationship question I had, I needed only to ask it aloud and, then, open my copy of the novel to a random page and JA’s wisdom would prevail. For example, when I asked it, “Should I keep pining after that guy in my Geography 110 class, who doesn’t seem to know I exist, or just try to move on?”
The scene I opened to in response was the one where Elizabeth, visiting Netherfield while her sister Jane was ill, was forced to spend altogether too much time in the company of Caroline Bingley, Louisa Hurst and Mr. Darcy. Caroline and Darcy have been strolling outside. The former, showing off her jealousy by saying negative things about Elizabeth, was then interrupted when Louisa and Elizabeth happened upon them on the walking path. Louisa quickly left Elizabeth’s side to stand next to Darcy and Caroline, and Darcy, who realized the rudeness of this action at once (since the path only has enough room for three), commented that they’d better leave the narrow path and “go into the avenue.”
But Elizabeth just laughed and said, “No, no; stay where you are. You are charmingly group’d and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoiled by admitting a fourth. Goodbye.”
See? In my opinion, JA’s answer to me via P&P was as immediate and clear as any 8-Ball: “Move on, Marilyn!” I craftily interpreted. “Say goodbye…”
Well, who knows if this method actually works any better than playing with my son’s special black ball, but you all have copies of the novel somewhere, right? Why not ask it a question and see what you get in response?! Or, if you’re so inclined, you can play with an electronic version of the Magic 8-Ball, too, and no shopping in toy stores is required. There’s an online site here.
If you try either method — or have a fondness for asking questions of unusual oracles, LOL – I’d love to hear about it!!