In Karen Joy Fowler's novel The Jane Austen Book Club, five women and one man form a club to read and discuss Jane Austen's six novels. As they do, their lives and conflicts echo those so masterfully created by Jane herself. I really enjoyed the book - each character's story facsinates all on its own, and each story delightfully entangles with the others a la Austen.
When the movie version came out, I scornfully dismissed it. I had not seen it - I find scoffing easier the less information I have - but it was clear that the film could never do the poignant backstories justice and so many of the characters were cast too young.
Then I saw it.
The film, written and directed by Robin Swicord, brought the Austen-esque parallels into sharper, funnier, more critical focus. Each discussion of a book plays out brilliantly as the members work out their issues with one another and with themselves by ostensibly discussing Austen. For instance, two women who do not hit it off from the word go take jabs at one another as they vehemently argue about Emma and the nature of love. One woman mourns her mother while railing against Mr. Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. And the in the second to last book discussion, Grigg and Jocelyn really go at it as they discuss Sense and Sensibilty and its opinions of sexuality and abandon. Not to be missed!
It is a captivating fantasy for an Austen fan - a story in which the characters lives morph into echoes of what they're reading, happy endings and all.
But is it a fantasy? The melding of life and literature? Or do we gravitate toward certain stories because we are subconsciously trying to work things out for ourselves? As Eli Manning said earlier this season when asked if his arm was tired, "Who knows?"
Here is what I do know, though. My life is beginning to echo my main character Lisa Flyte's in She Likes It Rough, and that is no accident. It wasn't a sure thing either, and my personal journey is going to be a lot longer than 320 pages, but my life is becoming more like that of the fictional life I created. And my life is changing thus specifically because I created the fictional character in the first place!
When I first decided to write She Likes It Rough, I started from the very simple idea Write What You Know. I am afraid of almost everything, except dogs and public speaking, so I wrote about a scaredy-cat. I want a backbone, so I made my character decide to get a backbone. I had to collapse a restaurant on top of her then completely humiliate her both personally and publicly in order to to get her to make that decision, but she makes it. Once she makes the decision, acting on it becomes pretty daunting. But the very fact that she has something to work for gives her life a different slant. Sometimes she slips right down that slant and lands on her head, but she's a trooper.
Ever since I published this book, my life has been bopping along to Lisa's beat, as I work to promote this book, write more books, and construct my world instead of just inhabiting the one that came with the frame. I'm not going on daring adventures in the wild to find my backbone, but I am bushwhacking my way into uncharted territory. I'm sweaty, dirty, bug-bitten, and living on rations. It is just so cool!
Queen of the Universe coming this Fall