I began this post shortly after seeing Amour — a gorgeous film, IMO, with sets that convinced me to return for a second viewing, despite its difficult subject matter. And the depth and breadth of human experience it reveals — well, for the week after enjoying this movie, I toyed with the idea that I should actually throw out my 40+ years of writing stories (yes, I started when I was six) and learn how to craft a screenplay.
And. But. One: I’m an old dog, it’d be a new trick, etcetera; there is truth to adages. Two: I love stories more than I enjoy movies. Three: see my previous post; my short story has me in its howling grip and I can’t/won’t walk away from it.
Then: VQR arrived in the mail, with Richard Nash’s essay, What is the Business of Literature. He writes eloquently about the book as technology — like a chair! or the wheel! — and concludes, “Literature is about blowing sh*t up.” (He uses the entire s word. My kids read these posts so I’m making an effort to be family friendly.)
Then, in early May, we went to Iron Man 3. It is always a pleasure to watch Robert Downey Jr. in action. But the last, oh, 30-40 minutes is naught but explosions, and glistening-with-sweat near-death misses. The opposite of the still, quiet, physical-explosion-free Amour, which was, for me, the more devestating movie.
I have pondered the appeal of each of these films, and the motivation behind those who imagined and created them. They are as different as Marcel Proust and formulaic romance novels, yet, like each of those genres, each holds its pleasures for this reader. They each have a place in the human experience; they each have something to teach us about how to behave with each other.
And they each started with a story in someone’s head. I don’t care if you write comic books or Great Literature, an effective story is both well-told and compelling. Check out Donald Maas’ comment on Julianna Baggott’s post at Writer (un)Boxed for his succinct analysis of the false dichotomy between stories that are sold to us as “literature” versus those promoted as “entertainment.”
In Amour, the sh*t that gets blown up, as in expanded, was my idea of end-of-life care and what it may require of us, as humans, lovers, family. In Iron Man 3, the sh*t that gets blown up is more literal: buildings, oil tankers, human beings. Eye-candy fireworks.
But it’s all about blowing it up.
Put in your ear plugs, strike your match and light your fuse. Let us see your explosion.