Note: The Ink to Film Podcast is conversational and intended to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, if able, for tone and inflection. Our transcripts are generated using a transcriptionist, but may contain errors. Please refer to the corresponding audio before quoting anything written here.

Ink to Film podcast: Ep-74 The Silver Linings Playbook (2008 novel)

This episode aired on January 31, 2019 and was made possible by our generous Patreons.  

Luke:Welcome to the Ink to Film podcast, where we read the book…

James: …and then see theå movie.

Luke:I’m Luke.

James: And I’m James.

Luke:And this week, we discuss Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel, Silver Linings Playbook.

<music plays>

Luke:All right, man. Silver Linings Playbook. This is my first time reading this, and I have not seen the movie, so it was my first time experiencing this story, and I had a great time with it. But you’ve seen the movie already, so your experience is definitely different than mine.

James: Yeah, it was interesting. Very similar, which is kind of to be expected with a story like this, but a little darker, I think. A little more…

Luke:Really?

James: I think we were able to get a little more into Pat’s mind. For sure. 

Luke:Okay. Well, before we get into…I think we’re going to do this episode a little different. First thing we’re going to do is do a little bit of housekeeping. Talk about some stuff that’s been going on with the podcast. Then, after that, we’re going to do a spoiler-free general discussion about Silver Linings Playbook, so if you haven’t seen it or read it, or you’re just curious about the story, you can stick around, listen to all that. You’ll be totally safe from spoilers. And then we’ll get into a brief bio about the author, which will also be safe. And then we’ll get into a spoiler discussion, which we’ll definitely shout out when we get there. 

James: So, I mean the first thing to mention with this whole project is, this episode and the following episode, the book and the movie coverage, was funded and paid for by one of our Jukebox Heroes on Patreon. 

Luke:That’s right. Steven E. chose this project. I think he said it was one of his favorites, and he wanted us to cover it. So, we’re doing two episodes for him. It’s taken him a few months to earn up the tokens, but hopefully he enjoys this. This is our premier tier reward, right? Like, we literally are doing this podcast because he paid for it. I would not have…I mean it was on our list, but like it was way down. I don’t think we would have covered it this year. So, this has definitely changed what we were going to do, and I’m having a lot of fun with it. 

James: It was definitely one I would have wanted to do at some point, but the fact that somebody decided this is what we would want us to cover, I think it’s cool.

Luke:Yeah, and hopefully this might inspire a few more people to think about it. Clearly, it’s…it’s $25 a month, which is a considerable amount, and you gotta save up some tokens to equal the amount of the project, which we have listed on our Jukebox Directory on our website. You can see the cost of all the different projects. But this is like the coolest reward we thought we could give. Like a a devoted podcast to somebody’s project. Clearly, it’s a good bit of money, but it’s also extremely generous because you’re helping this show. And if you’re a fan of this show and you listen to this show, and you like it, it’s the strongest way to keep it going. Now, it’s certainly not for everyone. It’s clearly only for people who can spare $25 a month, which is not everybody. But if you can, think about it if you like this show, because it’s a really cool way to affect what we do. You can introduce us to something that isn’t necessarily on our radar. Because that often happens with me. If I know nothing about our project, it won’t really be on my radar, and that’s kind of how this one was for me.

James: So, yeah, just once again, huge shout-out to Steve E. for being a Jukebox Hero and, seriously, all props to you. We appreciate it. 

Luke:Yeah. And if you want to find out how to become one or just look into it and see what we’re offering, go to www.Patreon.com/InkToFilm, and you can view our different tiers. We also have lower tiers, where you can just spend two bucks and get access to all our bonus content, which we just put out Fahrenheit 451, the 1966 version. I got to learn all about…what is it, the French new wave?

James: French new wave.

Luke:Yeah, so I knew nothing about it, and then we got to talk about that movie, and that was fun. And our bonus content. So, yeah, if you want to find out how you can get access to that, check it out as well.

James: Another Patreon-related thing that we…Luke and I decided that a goal that we wanted to try to strive for was making our podcast more inclusive and allowing people who were hearing-impaired to participate and listen as well. So, a huge shout-out to Jennifer Della’Zanna. I mean, I just can’t even believe the generosity. It’s just like…I mean I was blown away when she said she was willing to help us out. You know, because it was a long-term goal. So, to have it happen so quickly was awesome. 

Luke:Yeah, we decided we wanted to make our podcast accessible to anyone who wanted to access it. And one of the ways to do that is to start doing transcripts. So, we started looking into what that would cost. What that would be like. Everything we were seeing was pretty cost-prohibitive, but we thought, “Okay, we can just make it a Patreon goal, and we can get there, and hopefully we can do it.” But yeah, somebody I went to school with at Seton Hill…I believe she graduated a little bit before me…but, yeah, we’ve met at cons. She’s great, and she offered to help out. So, we decided we’re going to kick her what we can right now, which is not much, but we didn’t want her working for free. And, then, eventually if we can hit some Patreon goals we added to the list, what we’ll do is we’re going to up her pay, and we’re going to have her start going through our back catalogue. Right now, it’s just going to be new episodes going forward. So, that will be cool, and people can check it out. Also, you can follow along. You can pull up the transcript and be able to read while listening. Some people enjoy doing that, and it helps them. So, hopefully it will be useful for all sorts of people, not just the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

James: Yeah, again, I just want to say again, extremely generous of you, Jennifer. So, thank you so much. 

Luke:Yep, thank you. All right, so I think we’re ready to get into our general thoughts. Once again, this will be spoiler-free. I will try to my best not to spoil anything. This book…I really enjoyed reading it. I had a good time. I think there is a certain…I mean, it’s called Silver Linings, right, and that’s kind of Pat Peoples’ motto, and his philosophy is to look for the silver linings in things and to hope for the silver linings, or expect them, even. And, I found that outlook on life to be refreshing, even in the midst of a lot of darkness lying on his life.

James: Uh-huh. Like I said before, I’ve seen the film so, coming in, I was expecting something, and I got something different. And I gotta say it wasn’t quite as heavy as I thought it was going to be. It was definitely…I just…coming from the movie, I was expecting it to be, I don’t know, a little more. But I did enjoy it, and I think the thing that really stands out for me is the characterization…

Luke:Wait, wait wait. A little more what?

James: I think I was expecting it to have more of like a heart-string pull to it, where it was like way more suffering, much more heartache and, although it’s very clear that numerous characters in the story have mental illnesses, I was just feeling…maybe something from the movie made it feel like it was going to be…I think I was expecting it to be a little more forced. But, at the same time, I think the thing that really stands out for me is the characters, and the characterization. Because I wasn’t…I felt like, in the movie, especially, the love story was a little more loose and kind of…it was like a mental illness film with a story of…with a love story blossoming in between. And kind of like how messy that can be and how, like, true-life it can feel. I was expecting the book to be like, this is a mental illness book, and I think it was more subtle than that.

Luke:Okay.

James: If that makes any sense.

Luke:Now, well, I mean I haven’t seen the movie, so it’s hard for me to make any comparisons to that. But speaking of just the book, there was a comparison that leaped to  mind for me that actually made me laugh, although, because I thought this is going to be a ridiculous thing to say, but I’m going to say it. <laughs> When I was reading this book, I thought, especially in the early pages when I was first reading it, this reminds me of Patrick Bateman <laughs>

James: Oh, wow.

Luke:American Psycho. And not really. But, like, in form. Because it was a first-person book, and we were inside the mind of someone who was unreliable and who was telling us things that clearly didn’t jive with reality, and I started doubting everything he was saying, and then it was clear that he had some sort of anger problem. Yeah, it was funny, because I started thinking of Patrick Bateman. But clearly this guy was way more likeable. And so there was like…it was a distinct difference. Like it was like two sides of the same coin, and I don’t this guy’s a psychopath, whereas Patrick Bateman is. But it was showing that…a mind that you can’t trust to accurately report its own reality, and in that sense it reminded me of that. We also got some…early on, we got some long descriptions of, like football stuff. And they weren’t nearly as long as Patrick Bateman’s beauty regimens and stuff, but it reminded me of that, too. It was like this thing that…it was almost like Pat was trying to show how much he knew about it because he thought that’s what people expected of him. 

James: Mmhmm

Luke:But I wasn’t sure how much he actually enjoyed it. Anyway, so it was funny because my start with the book was…I was thinking very much of American Psycho, which is a very different novel than this. I won’t linger on it too long, but I just thought it was funny that those comparisons would jump into mind for me.

James: Something you said was, he’s more like…a little like a Patrick Bateman. And I think to circle back to the point that I was trying to make before, I think that he’s more…even more likeable in the film. So, to me, it’s like this story is showing someone who…what I was expecting was a story that was about mental illness, and it was going to feel like maybe a little preachy and saying, like, people with mental illness are people as well, but really when I read the novel, that’s not what it was. I think it did a good job of kind of showing, especially with like his father, Pat’s father in this, kind of showing how people try to stroll through mental illness sometimes and cope with it without seeking treatment and it becomes like normalized in their lives. And I think that’s something that Pat has had to deal with but, because he was in a more extreme situation, it was like amplified, and he had to seek help and take medication. Earlier I said it was kind of darker than the film. I think also we get the perspective of somebody who is, like you said, unreliable and seemingly…although I don’t think he’s a bad person in any way, he clearly has a track history of being potentially dangerous. 

Luke:So, should we maybe set up a little bit of what, like, the premise is without spoiling what happens? Because, I feel like right now we’re talking in a way about a character that…if someone hasn’t read this, they’re not going to have any idea of what we’re talking about. So, do you want to explain who Pat Peoples is, just like from the premise, from the get-go?

[Ed. note: The name of the main character, Pat Peoples, was changed to Pat Solitano in the movie]

James: He was a teacher who had something go on, and when we first meet him, he is being released from a psychological ward. We’re getting it from his viewpoint, so we’re kind of seeing him manipulating the system, and the doctors, and his mother into, like, letting him out even though he is…we can tell as the reader that he is not 100% ready to be on his own in this kind of way. 

Luke:The narrator is being released from a mental institution, and we’re told he has psychosis, and he can hallucinate and all this stuff. I’m told that in the novel. I immediately go, “Okay, anything he’s telling me may or may not actually be happening.” Now, we’re getting his reality because his reality is what he experiences, right? So, in that sense, it’s true. Like, I didn’t think he was lying to us, but I was thinking that what he is experiencing might not be what is actually happening. So, I am going to be interested to see how that’s…how the movie handles that because that’s, by definition, different in the movie because I feel like…we’ve talked about this before…but I feel like the camera has a sort of an indifferent gaze, where it’s like “this is real” when you’re watching it. You know, obviously there are tactics to play with that, but I just wonder how that might be changed, because this story felt right to be told from his perspective. And, like you were talking about, the themes of whether he should be out or what his life…what kind of quality he can have, and all that, I think that’s all baked into the story in a way that’s really natural.

James: So, I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to just kind of mention the football aspect of this story. And also kind of his obsession with fitness and working out. And this again, maybe this is part of the reason why it kind of made you think of Patrick Bateman, is his like regimen.

Luke:Oh yeah, yeah. You’re right. The workout regimen.

James: And how it’s like the most important thing to him. Like he wakes up and, everytime there’s something going on his life, he’s planning his fitness circuit, whatever he’s going to do, before he goes to watch the game or visit his family and see people. What do you think that is…what is that signaling to us, the reader, when we get that early on? 

Luke:What is that signaling?

James: Like, so, the football and like…like is there some toxic masculinity in here? Is there some sort of obsessive-compulsive thing?

Luke:Yeah, I didn’t get the toxic thing as much. I think Bateman is definitely demonstrating that, but here I think it’s more about obsession. I think this book is about obsession, and a lot of it is about coping mechanisms. And I think  his working out is an obsession for him and also a coping mechanism. Because, as we learn, he’s convinced that if he’s in, like, the best shape ever, that’s going to convince his wife…which we don’t know the history of what happened with him and her, but that…he has something called a part-time, which he’s currently in right now, for whatever reason. And he thinks that will end the part-time. If he can get into, like, supreme shape. It is also kind of like working toward his ultimate goal, which he is also obsessed with. So, he seems very obsessive to me in a lot of ways, and especially in this particular fashion. And I think it shows how extreme behavior can come out of that. And he doesn’t just work out, he works out to an extreme amount. Like you said, like he’s wearing trash bags. He’s running 15 miles a day before he does his weight benches and stuff. Like, he works out so much, and I’m hoping that when I see Bradley Cooper in this movie he’s going to be jacked. Because, when I was picturing this character, I was like, holy shit, this guy is going to have to be in insane shape. So, we’ll see.

James: Yeah.

Luke:Did you get something else out of that? The workout aspect?

James: I just think that the way he’s obsessed with fitness and being in great shape and being strong and, maybe also the way that his dad is obsessed with the Eagles, maybe that stems from his father, as well as his wife. The reason why he is wanting to be in great shape is for his wife.

Luke:So…I see what you’re saying. So, it’s like maybe he grows up in this family where his father is obsessed with all of these athletes, so to him there’s a lot of worth associated with being athletic. And we see that reflected in a lot of his thoughts about other characters, right? Like, he’s constantly thinking about someone else’s build or their athletic prowess, or whatever it is. That circles me back around to a couple other observations I want to make about Pat Peoples as a narrator. One, he’s deeply flawed. Now, he’s not Patrick Bateman flawed, but he’s got a lot of questionable beliefs. I think there’s some sexism baked into there. There’s definitely some privilege, but I think he also is sort of aware of it, and I love his little mantra where he’s like…this isn’t a spoiler to say, but…I’m trying to be…what does he say? I’m trying to be kind and not right. And he says that repeatedly throughout the book. And I think that mantra is a really powerful one, and I think it reflects how he’s fighting against sort of these other things that are going on in his head.

James: Another thing that pops up in this book is kind of his…he has another obsession, and I think that’s with like educating himself with specific literature and kind of like trying to educate himself and be well informed about specifically high school literature. He keeps finding himself not agreeing with these stories being told to young people. I found that fascinating, too.

Luke:Right, because he doesn’t like that the books have sad endings often, or are depressing. But yeah, that reminds me of another part that made me think of Patrick Bateman. These descriptions of classical literature, where he gets into the plot and he reacts to all of that, and it’s very like…it feels kind of beside the point. And that is the kind of thing Patrick Bateman would do with his music reviews, right? Where he would talk about ‘80s pop music. So, like I said, it’s interesting that these parallels kept coming up to me, but clearly very different characters once again. Also, the name Pat Peoples, to me, sounds like, uh, what is it? Like, Joe Everyman. Like this might have been this guy’s name. So, I’m actually not a big fan of that name because I feel like it’s too on-the-nose. To me, it feels like the author is trying to say like, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, this is all of us, isn’t it?

James: That’s another thing I wanted to say is that I think that nearly every named character in the story, whether it’s been diagnosed, or no matter what it is, I think every character has some level of mental illness to them. We can get into it more in the spoilers, but I thought that was interesting because, like, clearly, he’s supposed to be this everyman, and we’re supposed to…not all of us have as severe of a…like, I think everybody deals with something. I think it’s interesting that the author was trying to basically make us sympathetic with almost every aspect of mental illness through the story. 

Luke:And I like that. I just think the name might be a bit…to me, to my sensibilities, it might be a touch too far, too on-the-nose. But I love the idea of it, right? I think that’s very clever. Before we really get into it, actually, let’s do author bio. Let me talk a little bit about Matthew Quick. I only know a little bit about him, and then we’ll get into our full spoilers. So, one of the reasons I do want to talk about him a little bit is, the story that I read sounds to me like this sort of modern authorial daydream that a lot of people have. And it’s like the thing they wish they could do. And what’s crazy about it is that it worked for him. So, from what I’ve read, basically he grew up and lived in New Jersey, went to college, studied English/creative writing. Got an MFA, I believe, and then he started teaching high school English. And I’ve heard him say in interviews that he was depressed and unhappy with his life and started thinking of how he really wanted to write a book. He decided that he was going to quit his job and move into his, I think stepparents’ basement, and work on his book for three years and just totally devote himself to it. This is the book he wrote. And I think he also traveled some, from what I read. Like, maybe he traveled a bit before he moved into the basement. He came out with this book, and it was literally a dream come true. But what’s crazy, also, I read 70 (70!) different literary agents turned it down. Which is insane. So, it also shows perseverance. And I don’t know how many revisions it might have gone through during that course of time, but the idea that he stuck with it, believed in this book, and finally made the deal, and then this book was optioned and made into a major motion picture with Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, you know? And it became a New York Times bestseller when the movie came out. This literally is a dream come true for people. The idea that, like, he chased his dream, he just kind of gave it all up and committed himself to it, and then it hit the bestseller list. And now he’s gone on. He’s written several more novels—I think several young adult novels and adult novels, and has really just crafted this career out of nowhere, and it’s incredible. And, you know, props for him for being able to do it. I think it’s a dream for a lot of writers. 

James: Now, I think we try to stay away from this usually because, I think we talked about this before, it’s a little short-sighted, but I think we have to mention the fact that he…how much of himself was he putting into this novel, because he was clearly an English teacher who was dealing with a mental illness—depression. So, how much of himself is he putting into these characters and how much do you think that…I think it clearly informed the novel, but…

Luke:So much of it. I think the culture, I think a lot of the people. And it’s not just Pat Peoples. I think that would be the mistake. To assume that he is Pat Peoples. He’s not. He’s kind of everybody. We see…I guess we’re not into spoiler territory yet, but we see certain characteristics from his life apply to certain other characters throughout the book and, yeah, I think he’s all over this book. It’s very autobiographical, in my opinion. It seems to me like somebody who’s struggling with depression and is trying to find a way through and focusing on silver linings and, perhaps his way to do that. And it’s crazy because his life had that silver lining, at least of actually achieving his dream. So, yeah, pretty incredible. And, yeah, I think he is all over this book. 

James: Yeah, I agree. I don’t know if he necessarily went through the relationship struggles, you know…

Luke:Yeah, I don’t think so, from what I read. I think he was happily married, but I don’t know.

James:  But that just goes to that he was at least, you know, well-informed enough to write on these subjects, and I think he did a good job of kind of portraying multiple different…because do we get a specific diagnosis for Pat?

Luke:I don’t think we ever do, not specifically.

James: I don’t know enough about psychology to really know, but do you have any idea, like is it just anger.

Luke:Oh, well, it’s a spoiler to talk about, so let’s save it.  

James:Okay, let’s do it. 

Luke:We can talk about it as soon as we get into the spoiler section, so, um, is there anything else you want to talk about with this novel before we get into that section? Otherwise, we can get right into it.

James:I think I’m really ready to move into spoilers, man, I got so much to say.

Luke:Yeah, we’ve been avoiding talking about Nikki as much as possible, because I think she’s a major plot point, and I wanted to just kind of reveal my journey through this book with her character, in particular. 

James:Okay.

Luke:I was convinced that she was a figment of his…psychosis or his delusion, and she doesn’t exist. I had that thought. I wrote it down on page 25. I was like, “Ooh, there’s going to be a reveal that she’s not even a real person.” Right? Because everybody in his life was lying to him, and it started to become obvious, and it was also like…it seemed like he had false memories. I was told he was hallucinatory. I didn’t really know the level of his mental illness, so it was like…um, I think there was a lot there for me to kind of go down and get in the weeds on that one.  

James:I gotta say real quick, I don’t know how healthy it would be to lie to somebody in this kind of situation. It seems really irresponsible that everyone around him was lying to him.

Luke:And I think he did that on purpose because, to me, it felt like people are all lying to him in the sense of like a white lie. Like, they all think that their lies are helping him. And I think that’s very true to life to people who have mental illness. Is that they feel like people around them are walking on eggshells and are lying to them in ways because they’re afraid of upsetting them, and it shows how, sort of…what a bizarre life that can create for somebody when nobody is telling you the truth. Now, granted, he can’t handle the truth, you know, to quote Jack Nicholson. But… 

James:“I want the truth.”

Luke:But he can’t, really. Like, he wants to know, but then we see, when he hears something, he loses it. He flies into a rage and, you know, he’s dangerous. I don’t know. So, yeah, I think it’s interesting.

James:You were talking about your journey with Nikki through the novel.

Luke:Thank you. Yes. So, Nikki…about halfway through, I was like, wait a minute, I think she is real, but I think she’s dead. So, my next thought was he was in some sort of accident, and she was killed in this accident. So, now everyone is lying because she’s not actually separated from him, but she died. But then I was like…I don’t know. The more I thought about that, it didn’t really make sense because I was like…unless maybe he caused the accident, I guess was my reasoning as to why they would lie and try and make him thing that she was just separated. Maybe they thought he couldn’t handle the guilt. So, this is the kind of mind games I was playing with myself, trying to figure out what the truth was. And it was interesting. I think, maybe because I hadn’t seen the movie, so I didn’t know. And then, when we started getting the letters through Tiffany, at first I was like, “Oh, so she is real.” And then, after about the second letter, I was like, “Mmmm…no, maybe this is just Tiffany making something up and playing into this.” And, so then I was kind of onto that, because that is revealed to be the case. But it was weird because, like, everything had been a lie up to that point, to where it was like, I don’t even know how Pat could believe that, at that point. It was like everyone had been lying to him about everything.

James:Everyone is constantly lying to him, and like I said before, I just think that’s highly irresponsible with someone like this because, although they may get angry, at least you’ll know instead of it being a situation where, like, he finds out that Tiffany was lying about the letters and what kind of anger and what kind of lashing out that’s going to create.

Luke:Well, we saw early on that he, like, hated certain people. Maybe not hated, but he seemed like he had a strong, intense dislike for certain people, like Veronica and his former doctor and certain people. And it seemed to me that the reason he didn’t like them was because they were the people who were unwilling to lie to him.

James:Yeah.

Luke:And they wouldtell him the truth, and that truth would anger him so much, and he’d say, like, “I can’t believe they said that about…about Nikki.” And, you know, clearly, to me it’s just them saying, “She’s not coming back to you.” But what I thought was, like, they said “Nikki’s dead, and you’re”…or “Nikki doesn’t exist.” And either of those two things were just incompatible with his world view, so then he just decided he didn’t like that person. Because they, like, made up lies. So, I don’t know. It’s twisty because you say it’s irresponsible. I don’t really know. I think it’s like…I feel like there is…some of this makes sense, and it’s, like, you know, lie by omission, not mentioning certain things. Some of it makes sense, but then like…it’s just so messy because when everybody starts doing it, and maybe does it too much, I think it does create a problem, too, where somebody doesn’t know what to believe.

James:And think about the “oh, shit” moment of the reveal that four years have passed when he was in there, and he thought it had only been a year. Like, that doesn’t feel like a white lie to me. You’re messing with somebody’s life, and like…his mom taking the pictures down to kind of make it seem like certain things hadn’t happened or there weren’t…you know what I mean, to push things from the foreground and kind of make him think that his brother wasn’t married and all of these things that he missed out on and, I don’t know…it just seems like a lot…a big length to go to in order to keep somebody in the dark. And it’s kind of just like treating him like a child.

Luke:Definitely, he’s infantilized in this, which is totally something that, if you’ve ever been hospitalized or injured for a long period of time, if you’ve ever been disabled in any way, this is definitely something that you can feel. And you can feel like you’re treated as a child. I think it does happen accidentally sometimes, like people don’t think about it. But I definitely see that here. So, you asked me earlier what I thought his diagnosis was. And I’m not a doctor, and I don’t know. But what I do know is what was revealed in the book, which was that he slipped…or was pushed, perhaps? And hit his head on a faucet. It’s what it seems like. And that caused enough trauma to his brain that he forgot a lot of stuff. Which, that definitely happens. Amnesia can be caused by this. But then it also seems like he created some sort of…almost like a psychosis or an imbalance in his brain, as well, and it changed his emotions. That absolutely can happen, too. There’s a famous case in psychology with a guy who had a piece of rebar go through his brain, and he survived. And 

James:Yeah.

Luke:You know about this, right?

James:I’ve heard it, yeah.

Luke:Yeah, yeah. And, so, he survived and was fine, other than it completely changed his personality, and everyone who knew him talked about how nice he was, and afterwards he was a huge asshole. And, so it’s interesting because, to me, he doesn’t seem like a huge asshole. He seems like maybe he has impulse control [issues], but in a lot of ways he seems like a better person. So, that was the other thing that made me think he was just lying to us, the reader, is when he kept talking about himself, from when he was in his marriage, and how he acted, and how he treated Nikki, to me it didn’t sound like him. It sounded like a different person. So, I kept thinking, like, “This is all invented.” But I guess it was him? I guess he was just a huge dick to her. Because, like when he describes how he used to be, it sounded pretty awful, honestly. 

James:Uh huh. I’m trying to think of what, psychologically, he could be suffering from because, it’s like he…the hallucination stuff was from the medication, right? It wasn’t…

Luke:Yeah, it could be from the medication.

James:So, there’s that. And then he clearly had anger issues. He clearly had some sort…maybe he was, like, bipolar in some way? Although I didn’t really see the shifts.

Luke:But I don’t think you can get bipolar…I don’t think you can get…I don’t know, I may be wrong about this, but I don’t believe bipolar is one you can get from head trauma. That’s the thing, too. As far as we know, this was caused by head trauma. As far as we know, he didn’t have any mental illness before this.

James:Mmhmm. 

Luke:Now, maybe he did. But, um, maybe this exacerbated it. I don’t know. I feel like I’m a little bit out of my depth trying to really get into this, because I’m not a doctor, you know, so I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist. It might just be kind of a fictional stew of psychosis and amnesia that served the plot. That’s probably what it really is.

James:Right. 

Luke:Oh yeah, so you were saying how you think everybody had a mental illness in this story, and I agree, and I can see it, and several…obviously, Tiffany has got…it’s revealed that a lot of her problems are what’s going on with her. Which, I think a lot of her is, like, depression and trying to deal with loss, and sort of the trauma of a traumatic event, a traumatic loss in her life. And it was very tragic. And then, the father, who I suspect is going to be played by Robert DeNiro in the movie, is…got his own problems. Like, this is a guy who is abusive and lets the wins or losses of the Eagles affect his entire week. What’s interesting is that both of us are NFL football fans and, so it’s like I kind of identify with it somewhat, but then you see this is taken to an extreme. And like, yeah, I’ll be in a bad mood for like an hour sometimes after my team loses, maybe even a couple, but I realize that it’s because of the team, and I’m able to like shake it off and be like, I just gotta get over it and have the rest of my day.

James:Well, when you’re a Bucs fan, it’s just that constant burning, so you just bury it deep down, and you never…I don’t let it affect my day because…

Luke:Oh, you don’t have to talk to me about that. As a Jaguars fan, I know loss well. <laughs> 

James:Um, I mean we’ve been bad for so long, I don’t really let it affect my days anymore. But it is one of those things where it’s like the rituals that, like, the chants they were doing, and how seriously he took it. He would come into his son’s bedroom, and he wouldn’t talk to him other than to do the chant in the morning to make sure that everybody’s got the mojo running.

Luke:So, I love that part. Like, that was the most…it was like a heart-warming part for me. It’s interesting because, written all over this book is like, “Heartwarming tale” and stuff. And I didn’t find it to be necessarily that. Like, I don’t know if I would describe this necessarily as a heart-warming tale, other than the fact that those moments were. It showed how something like that can bring you together, and how it can help give a common interest to unite people, and how it can strengthen family bonds. I don’t know, there were just certain things about that that were really cool, that I thought worked well with the NFL side of it. Which we didn’t really talk about it, how the NFL really affects the story, but I think that is one way in which it does. 

James:I think some of what I was talking about before, with the toxic masculinity, is like the way they talk about a Giants fan coming into an Eagles city and wearing the jersey. Or something like that, where it’s like…and I understand, like, the tribal nature of it, but at the same time…and we’ve all heard stories like that, and we’ve seen videos of unruly fans…

Luke:Especially with Philadelphia. <laughs>

James:Got ‘em.

Luke:I know, but seriously, man, that’s like…I think they’re the most infamous fans for this sort of thing. I could be wrong. Maybe the Raiders are right there, too, but I think Philadelphia fans are…I mean, they’re famous for, like, booing Santa Claus and all that stuff.

James:Yeah. Again, all those characters…that’s a mental illness. They clearly have…like, if you’re willing to have that mob mentality to attack someone or surround someone and…people take it really seriously. So, that’s another thing…

Luke:Well, I mean I think you can differentiate between an actual mental illness and, like a momentary group insanity. Like mob mentality stuff. Because I think some of that comes into play, which is different than, like, pure mental illness? But I see what you’re saying.

James:Another one I wanted to talk about was unfortunate. It was his mother. And the way that like…

Luke:Yeah, so… 

James:Go ahead.

Luke:No, I’m asking what would you say…how would you… 

James:Oh, I don’t know exactly what I would say it is, but I would say just, like, her forgiving nature and the way that she enables the son, she enables the father into being the people that they are being. And it’s like an unfortunate, true situation that happens. But her willingness to forgive after the…she was standing her ground, and she saying things like, “I’m not going to clean anything, I’m not going to doanything.” And then they…I think the Eagles won, and all was forgiven, and they were like having sex or something, right? 

Luke:Yeah. Which was interesting, because I kept thinking that the father was going to be kind of like…not the villainof this story…but if there was one person you could point to as a villain, it was going to be him. Because, especially early on, like everything he did was despicable to me. And almost unforgivable. But it’s also, I think, trying to show the strain of this family, and I get that. But, I mean, he’s beating his son…his mentally, you know, his mentally impaired son, for having an episode essentially, right? And like I know that, yeah, like…

James:He was getting violent with the mother, though, right? 

Luke:Yeah. So, there’s a trade-off there. But, I mean he punched him. Like, the father was literally punching him, so…I don’t know. It’s wild. And then, yeah, just the way he seems…he does truly seem to hate him at times. And how it’s like, can’t you have some compassion. And then the fact that I later found out that this was caused by an accident. It was caused by him…and also the nature of the accident. Like, he caught his wife sleep…having sex with someone else, broke it up, and then fell and hit his head in the course of that? It’s crazy to me that the father isn’t more sympathetic.

James:I think, honestly, I think it’s…the father is just selfish. I feel like he sees the son as not being what he wanted him to be and, like, an inconvenience to him. 

Luke:And there’s your toxic masculinity, right? There’s the idea that my son has to be this, like, my ideal version of a man who is going to be normal and fit into all of these boxes I have for him and behave in exactly the certain way that I find to be acceptable. And if he’s not that, I don’t know how to relate to him, because that’s the only way I know how to relate to anybody. So, to me, that’s the sad part of it. I don’t know, it’s interesting how, like you said, the moment where he and his wife reconcile, it seems to me that the book sort of says, “And now, all is forgiven.” And I didn’t really feel like he had earned that, as a character.

James:Yeah.

Luke:So, let’s talk a little bit about Cliff, because I think Cliff is really interesting, too.

James:Yeah, I loved Cliff

Luke:He was the psychologist. He was fun! 

James:Yep.

Luke:I don’t know how professional a lot of the stuff he does is, but I thought it was a ploy, right, him being an Eagles fan and stuff. I thought maybe he liked them okay, but he was really playing it up to connect. But, no, he’s like driving a bus and stuff.

James:Yeah. <laughs>

Luke:He’s legit.

James:Yeah. 

Luke:And I thought that was really funny, and…I don’t know, I really liked him, and I’m going to be really interested to see who they cast to play him and how that turns out in the movie.

James:And I do think it was a good tactic to connect to Pat, because clearly it did work for him. We were seeing it from Pat’s perspective, and he was like, “I have the coolest therapist in all of Philadelphia,” so obviously that did help. Let’s talk about his obsession, or lack thereof, with Kenny G, and the way that he… 

Luke:Oh my God, so funny. Mr. G. He calls him Mr. G., it was the best. <laughs> 

James:Yeah. I don’t remember if it’s exactly the same in the movie, but the way it takes place… How was it explained in the book? Remind me. 

Luke:Oh, like the reason for it?

James:Yeah. 

Luke:Um, I don’t think it was ever explicitly explained, but in my own head canon, and I think this is supported by the text, is that the smooth jazz rooms when he was in the bad place would often play this song, and this song that was smooth jazz was also the song that was played at his wedding ceremony. That was definitely in the book. Then, so it would remind him of the wedding ceremony, which reminds him of the infidelity and everything else, and so that song became very linked to a very terrible moment in his life. And then, like, it’s just so funny that it became not just about the song, but about the musician and then, like, he was really haunting him, even showing up in his room to play saxophone in his bedroom. It was so good.

James:It isreally good, yeah. The way that, like, if he hears it or if they even speak of the “bad man” or his music or anything...and he’s so obsessed with the fact that, like, he hates that guy so much and that he reminds him of things. Also, coming back around to the literature stuff. The way that he just cannot…he invests himself so heavily in the literature, and he like puts his own life on that, that he cannot cope with the fact that these characters are having unhappy endings—these endings that are just so bleak. And the fact that he cannot understand why those are important kind of shows where he’s at and why he’s not going to…until he realizes, and I think we kind of get that…until he realizes that you take the good with the bad, and silver linings are great, but it’s not always going to be like that. The real world is different. I think that’s like his growth as a character. 

Luke:So, I want to talk…I think one of the really fascinating things for me as a writer, at least, was the theme and the…sort of…he gets into it with his therapist, I believe, about why do we read depressing, dark fiction? I think that’s a really interesting topic. I think we should save it for the end of this, though, because I want to get through all the story and then, as we’re summing it up and talking about that kind of fiction versus what this kind of fiction is…or purports to be, at least. And maybe like different purposes they serve. But I think it’s about time. What I’m going to do is I’m going to divide up the plot into three sections here, and I’ll just briefly go over it, and we can kind of react to each chunk. So, a former history teacher who has moved back to his childhood home after spending time in a Baltimore psychiatric hospital, Pat believes he has only been away for a few months, but soon realizes it has been years. He struggles to piece together his lost memories and what has become of his wife, Nikki. He has a hypothesis that life is a film created by God, and that its silver lining will be the end of a part-time with Nikki. Pat embarks on a path of self-improvement in order to win Nikki back. At a dinner with his friend Ronnie and his wife Veronica, Pat is introduced to Tiffany Webster, who has also moved back home after losing her job after her husband’s death. So, that will be the first chunk here. It’s kind of introducing all the major characters and, I think, gives us an opportunity to talk a little bit more about Tiffany and her role in this model. Because we don’t actually ever get her side of things, other than what she says and then the letters that she has created as Nikki’s…so, yeah, she actually wasn’t talking to Nikki on the phone. She never actually spoke to her, right?  

James:Right.

Luke:Like, it was all just pure invention. Yeah, that’s right. So, those are all just purely from Tiffany. Which is interesting, right? It kind of recontextualizes them and actually makes me want to go back and revisit them because they give a different meaning when you know for sure…because I suspected, but knowing for sure that she’s just wholly inventing it is interesting.

James:Well, and the knowledge that she has of the school system and the way that they’re teaching…like, she does the research to trick him. And, clearly, she thinks that this is going to be the…you know what I’m saying? Like, in one of the letters, she talked about Nikki, but Tiffany, talked about how the school now like an online service where teachers can check in and check the grades and that kind of stuff. So, for her to know that stuff to put it in a letter, she did all that research in order to trick him. So, clearly, she thought that this was the right thing to do, but I think the initial reaction is that she selfishly was doing this to trick him into being like, “Okay, I don’t care about Nikki anymore,” and then kind of open his eyes to Tiffany.

Luke:Sure. So, back up a little bit. What did you think of her character and her own tragic backstory?

James:I think of this as the part that…like, on the front of the book it says “heartwarming” and stuff…I think that this is the part, and I don’t know that it’s necessarily very heartwarming for me, as much as I think that it’s nice that it’s more of like one of these true-to-life stories that you would…a story that, you know, everything is messy in real life. So, for these two characters to meet in this way and to have all of these problems and to kind of find each other. And, at first not really…like, clearly Pat at first has other things on his mind, and then to slowly come around on it. I think that it’s nice that these two “broken” characters find each other and find some sort of salvation in that. Her character, specifically, is interesting because it’s not that she…I think she’s aware that she’s being irrational sometimes because she knows why she’s doing it—because of the passing of her husband. And, so she’s willing to let herself be…whether she realizes it or not, she is going through the grieving process, and maybe she is saying, like, “Well, this is what I want, and this is what would make me happy, so I will push it to this extreme in order to get that.”

Luke:So, I mostly like her character. I do think she falls a little bit into the umbrella of the manic pixie dream girl trope, in my opinion. You would say, “Whoa, what do you mean? How so?” Well, I mean, she’s obviously odd. She’s got that kind of manic thing going on, in that she’s got a curious way of looking at the world. She challenges our main character, who is a man, in a way. She is definitely attractive. She is attractive to him. And then, the dream girl part of it, I think, is caught up in there, too, right? Like, she’s beautiful, she’s sex-obsessed, and she’s a little bit messed up, but if she can just get fixed by her protagonist, she’s going to make for, like, the perfect girl to be with, right? So, there’s a little bit of that going on. But I also think that sort of reduces what is otherwise a pretty interesting dynamic created here. I don’t know how fair it is to level that, but…yeah, I don’t know. It’s kind of there, but ultimately I was still able to enjoy the story, and I was still able to find her character interesting and true-to-life. I’m not sure that this would happen this way, but I could see it. It was enough to where I could buy that someone would be this way. So, yeah, I don’t know. 

James:What did you, just specifically, what did you think of the following him and running every day and, like, kind of forcing herself into his life like that?

Luke:Yeah, it’s interesting, right? She becomes kind of obsessed with him in that sense. I don’t know. I guess I didn’t…because I don’t have her perspective, I didn’t really understand why. Now, she says later, “I’m scouting you,” and we see that she’s…Now, I guess he’s just immensely attractive. You know, physically attractive. And he probably would be if he worked out as much as he does. 

James:He looks like Bradley Cooper, so yeah.

Luke:Yeah, and he looks just like Bradley Cooper, so… <laughs> I don’t know. It was fine. And I think that, if we had gotten her…if we’d gotten chapters from her point of view, that would have been explained in a satisfying way, I would imagine. 

James:I can see what you’re saying, though, with the manic pixie dream girl thing. It does seem like it came out around that time, too, right? Like mid-2000s time is when it was like…I think we’re aware of it enough now to see it and call it out, but it was very popular during that time period, I think.

Luke:Oh, I think it has been popular, and it continues to be popular to this day, especially a lot of fantasy…er, fiction written by men…because it is sort of a male wish fulfillment thing, like I’m going to find this girl who’s broken in all the right ways, and then I’m going to come in and fix her, and she’s going to be the perfect match for me kind of thing. And in a very sexualized way. 

James:Yeah.

Luke:I definitely got that from her because the implication is that she is sort of obsessed with sex now.  

James:Well, you can’t help but feel that when it’s like a male writer. Like if it was a female writer writing this character, you probably wouldn’t feel that way. 

Luke:Probably not.

James:Even if it was a female writer writing from the perspective of a male character. 

Luke:I don’t know, because these tropes are usually perpetrated by men, but they’re not always. As we’ve definitely learned in this country, there’s a lot of this sort of stuff…this sort of problematic stuff that can come from anyone, um, because it’s ingrained in our society. And the other thing is that I’m not trying to slam Quick here, and I’m not trying to slam anyone who’s ever put this sort of trope in their fiction, because it can be interesting. I guess I’m just trying to say that it’s important to me to be aware of these things. That way, if I were to put it in my fiction, I would do it on purpose. That’s kind of my goal, right? Like, I want to be in control of what I’m putting into my fiction. And the way for me to be in control of something like this is to be aware of it. And if I’m completely blind to it, what happens is that you accidentally put in in there. Nobody is sitting down and saying, “I’m going to put a manic pixie dream girl in…” Like, almost nobody is doing that. They’re just doing it accidentally. So, I think that’s also important to remember. 

James:Yeah, that’s cool. 

Luke:All right, let’s get into the next section of plot here. Pat trains with Tiffany and performs in a dance competition with her. After the contest, Tiffany agrees to be a go-between and gives Pat a letter, supposedly written by Nikki. Pat suggests a meeting with Nikki at the place where they got engaged. Despite no reply, he slips away from his family to meet her. Nikki is not there. Tiffany is. And admits she has forged Nikki’s letter, and she has been trying to help Pat move on and gain closure with his marriage because she, Tiffany, is in love with Pat. Pat is furious that the last two months of correspondence were a lie. In shock, Pat runs into an unfamiliar neighborhood and is assaulted. By chance, he encounters Danny, his friend from the Baltimore mental health facility. Danny helps Pat get to a hospital and reunite with his family. Pat still does not recall how or why he was separated from his wife, and only when he watches the wedding video, which his mother had hidden, do the memories eventually return. With the realization that he and Nikki will never be reunited. So, this covers a lot of ground in the story. I want to back up and talk about how pretty bizarre, to me, the dance competition stuff was in the book. Because it felt like it kind of came out of nowhere. And then we literally get a big dance number out of it, which is so strange…

James:Having seen the movie, I feel like it maybe is relevant sooner in the story…the dancing is kind of relevant sooner in the story, so maybe it wasn’t as jarring to me, and knowing that it was coming, I didn’t even notice it in the story. But, yeah, I can totally see that how it seems like it came out of nowhere. 

Luke:I mean, I get…it serves an interesting purpose in the story, because it does show that he’s willing to give up the football, which up until this point has been such a sort of positive experience for him, for the most part. And he gives that up to train for this and to achieve it, and he has this moment where he is able to demonstrate this dance. And it’s interesting because it feels very cinematic, and it feels like it was written in a way that it was, like, hopeful that it would be filmed, or something. Because, I don’t know, it just seems like such a visual thing, and I bet this plays really well in the movie. But, for me, it was okay. It was cool to reveal that everybody was in the crowd and clapping for him and stuff, but I don’t know, it wasn’t as like emotionally effective of a scene as some of the other ones were. 

James:Yeah, the thing that gets me with the dancing is that, ultimately, he’s still doing it for the wrong reasons. You know what I mean? Although it is helping him to move on without even realizing it, he is doing it for the directly wrong reasons, because all he wants is the letter. He wants the go-between. He wants to talk to Nikki. And something I was just thinking about is…so, we talked about the letters are pure fiction from Tiffany. She recommends a couple of books for him to read, and I think one of them is Huck Finn, and the other is Catcher in the Rye.

Luke:Yeah.

James:Which I think is interesting because it’s like the…she’s recommending certain books because she’s hoping that he will respond to them, again putting his own life on those stories and thinking of it in that sort of sense.

Luke:I don’t know. I love the little sections where you’re getting his descriptions of these books and, like, The Bell Jar, and all these different ones. It’s really interesting. Oh, so before we get past it, the football in this story. I was like, “Okay, he’s setting up to where his life is going to be in parallel to the Eagles’ season,” right? We see the ups and downs. We hear, in particular about Hank Baskett, and how well he was doing. It seemed to be reflective of how well Pat was doing in his life. And, you know, their wins and losses. And they go on a three-game losing streak when he, you know, goes and trains. It felt like, cosmically, these two were linked in the story. And that progresses all the way to the end, where they play a very important game on Christmas, and a very important moment happens in Pat’s life, right? And then they come out victorious, and they’re going to the playoffs, I assume. And then…at first, I was frustrated that we didn’t get resolution for what happens after that. Like, do the Eagles go on to the Superbowl or not? I could look it up, obviously, because this is all based on a real season… 

James:They don’t. Spoiler alert. 

Luke:I couldn’t remember, but I didn’t think so. I came back around, and I thought, “Okay, we’re not getting the resolution of this football season, but we also don’t know how Pat’s life works out.” We don’t get a long epilogue, where it describes how Tiffany and him are happy together and living fine and they’re both well now. We don’t get any of that. They might be just as fucked up. They just have a moment at the end of the book, and that’s all we really get, and so I felt like it was actually fitting, in retrospect, to not tell us how the season ultimately played out. 

James:Yeah, like that’s cool. And it’s like we…but I think that moment is obviously enough for us to say he’s moved on, his life is going to continue instead of being stuck in, like, this continuous rut here.

Luke:Let me read the last section of plot here, just because we’re talking about it. After several weeks, Pat recovers from his injuries and, after receiving a letter, agrees to meet Tiffany. Pat explains that he asked his brother, Jake, to drive him to see Nikki and observed her from afar. Finally realizing that she has a new family and is happy and, thus, accepts it as the ending of the movie of his life. Tiffany gives Pat a cloud chart as a belated birthday present, and they lie on the ground and watch the clouds together. Pat pulls Tiffany close, and she tells him that she needs him. As they lie there on a frozen soccer field in the middle of a snowstorm, Pat kisses her and says, “I think I need you, too.” Okay, so that’s where the book ends. And it is a kind of a sweet moment. To back up a little bit, what did you think about this whole thing with him running and getting assaulted and then waking up and finding Ronnie?

James:Yeah, I was thinking that it was going to be that he got jumped, that he was assaulted and that he was going to…it was going to have been some sort of, like, hate crime or something. Like it was a targeted thing or something. I don’t know why. I just felt like it was so much about mental illness, I thought maybe it would be something like that. But it didn’t really make sense to the character because it’s not like he has that sort of mental illness. It’s not as outward as that…

Luke:Yeah, you’re right about that. Unless it’s the Giants fan back for revenge.

James:<laughs> Yeah, I didn’t really know what to make of that. I think it’s just, like, him…maybe it’s like he had caused harm to others, so maybe like that full circle of him getting beaten up was part of, like, his process of pushing through and kind of coming back to…kind of moving on with his life.

Luke:It was a little bit unbelievable to me. It felt very, very like “This is what I want to have happen to the plot.” You know, but like, if you think about it, he was like sprinting through, like, downtown Philadelphia, essentially. And, yeah, sure it was maybe a “bad part of town,” but somebody who is, like, full-on running, I feel like it’s pretty unlikely to get attacked. Because that person is, like, you have to run over and try and intercept them, to try and trip them is, I guess what happened, and then he got beat up and robbed. It just seems like such a bad target for any…for this sort of thing. It just seems incredibly unlikely. It also felt like a weird fever dream to me. Because he wakes up and he sees Ronnie, and I’m like, “Oh, he’s totally hallucinating this.” But I guess he’s not. It is Ronnie, who just happened to be there when he, like, woke up from being assaulted. So bizarre. And then they lampshade it by saying, like, “This is the sort of thing that happens in a movie,” which I was like, okay, I guess he’s trying to say that ultimately this is a “movie,” although it’s a book, and this story is like that. So, I guess it worked okay for me, but it just felt pretty…it felt pretty out there.  

James:Yeah, I didn’t really understand what…other than what I said I was trying to pull from it, I didn’t really understand the reasoning behind him getting hurt like that. 

Luke:Wait, is it Ronnie or Danny? Because he has another friend, Ronnie.

James:Danny. 

Luke:Because he has another friend, Ronnie. 

James:It’s Danny, yeah. 

Luke:Yeah, so that part was weird, but ultimately…whatever. Now, I do want to talk about the ending here. It was mostly good but, once again, it felt a little bit tropey. Maybe just because I’ve seen other movies that do this. The laying on the ground, looking up at the sky. It’s also, like, super-cold. They’re in the snow. It’s snowing on them. I feel like people don’t do this very often in real life because it’s just too uncomfortable to do that when it’s that cold? 

James:Well, they made a point of saying like, “I don’t know anyone else who would do this with me,” kind of. Like, in order to say, like…

Luke:Yeah, I forget the reason.

James:Yeah.

Luke:They’re looking up at the blanket of gray clouds. It’s a very literary ending to me, which fit the book okay. It’s funny because I sound like I…I guess I’m nitpicking because that’s what we do on the podcast, right? But, ultimately, I liked it. It is fine. And it had that heartwarming note at the end, which I guess backs up what’s on the cover. It does feel heartwarming at the very end. 

James:I think it will be interesting, once we see the film, to hear where you land on it, but I think I enjoyed the film a little more, if only for the fact that I think the story is messy, and maybe that’s by design. 

Luke:Well, I don’t know. I haven’t seen it yet. But we are going to be watching it this next week, and we’re getting into February soon, and it’s going to be that time of year. Love is going to be in the air and, you know… 

James:So, does this feel to you like a romantic comedy with…

Luke:Yeah.

James:…with like, some mental illness thrown into it? 

Luke:Oh. No, no, no. No. I feel like this is a much deeper story than that.

James:Yeah.

Luke:And I like that. And I like the story. And there’s enough going on here to where, like, this is the kind of romance I really enjoy. In a sense that it’s messy, and it’s true to life in a lot of ways. Yeah, I don’t know, this just appeals to me. And, so I’m glad we’re covering it this time of year.

James:Yeah, I want to mention a movie that it kind of evokes to me, but it’s like, I would say, a little bit lesser version, just because I really enjoy this movie. But something about it reminds me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Luke:It’s the laying on a frozen thing, and… <laughs>

James:<laughs> Yeah. There is a little bit of that, but it’s also the characters dealing with their internal…like, struggling and grappling with their own feelings and the way that they’re…because, like, in Eternal Sunshine, he wants her back, and he just can’t cope with not having her. And I think that’s the same thing with Pat and Nikki relationship. 

Luke:I can see why you would make that comparison and, honestly, I did think of it. And, to me, at first I felt like it was just that surface-level laying on the frozen thing, looking at the sky. But you’re right. There is a lot thematically that overlaps with that, and I agree that is superior because that’s one of my favorite movies. I don’t know if you know this about me. I don’t know if we talked about it or not. But if I had to list top ten, for sure, I think that would be in there. 

James:It’s a great movie.

Luke:I love that movie. And, yeah, I can see some overlap. I haven’t seen the movie yet for this one, so we’ll see. Maybe the movie is incredible in a different way, but yeah, that’s going to be a tall order to try and live up to that film for me. But we shall see. 

James:Now I feel like I may be over-hyping a little bit. I don’t want you to think that it’s going to be Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, your favorite movie. But it’s a solid film. I just thought there were interesting parallels. 

Luke:So, I think one way to attend this thing will be to talk about depressing fiction and why we read it, but I think we’ll save that for the very end and revisit…just to cap this thing off.

James:Okay, that sounds good. If you guys wanted to find us on social media, we’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All of those are @InkToFilm. And we have a Facebook group called The Council of Inklings, where you can come and join us. We have polls, and we post things about upcoming adaptations and things that we’re interested in, so come check that out.

Luke:Yeah, I just wanted to thank Steven E. again for commissioning this, essentially, and being a Jukebox Hero, and I hope that you enjoy this coverage, and I hope that you enjoy next week. Yeah, thank you again, and if anybody wants to learn about that the process to get your own episodes, go to Patreon.com/InkToFilm. 

James:Another way you can help out the podcast is leaving a rating or review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts.  

Luke:Yeah, and we wanted to shout out Jen again for being our transcriptionist, and she’s writing this down right now, which I thought about a couple times while we were doing this episode, and it felt weird. But I’m sure I’ll get used to it. But, yeah, thank you for everything you’re doing for us. We really appreciate it. 

James:And we wanted to thank Ross Bugden for the use of our intro and outro music.

Luke:All right, man, so I want to talk about this because I think this is a really…I mean this is probably too much to talk about at the end of an episode like this, but just briefly, what did you think about the discussion of why depressing fiction is important? 

James:Well, I have a quick answer for it, I feel like. So, for me, the way that I’ve always approached stories is like, these are other lives that you’re living, and you’re not going to be able to…this is the only way that you can experience this many things in your life. You can experience things that you’ll never experience in your actual, everyday life. So, for me, experiencing sad or, like, really heavy topics and having to empathize with a character that’s going through these things is the reason to do it. Because I think that the more empathy that you have, the more fulfilling your life will be, and I think in general it’s like having those different stories to pull from and…they’re almost like life experiences for yourself. So, that’s where I’m at on that. 

Luke:Yeah, I like that. That’s the take that this book seems to take, too, and the idea of empathy, I think, is key. So, if you can imagine a person, this is a hypothetical fictional person…if you can imagine a person who says to you, “I don’t ever watch or read anything that is dark or depressing. I don’t like that stuff. I don’t ever consume it.” And all they ever read or consume are happy endings, happy stories, happy movies, whatever, I feel like I would think that person is less empathetic. You know what I mean? I might be wrong. But I think I would assume that person isn’t as empathetic as someone who does. Because, I agree, I think that stuff like that can teach you empathy. Now, that’s not to say you have to fully immerse yourself in those kinds of stories to learn empathy. I just think there can be a nice mix of that. And I worry about that sometimes when I see really powerful and, like, loud movements in the literary community on Twitter and stuff, with people saying, like, “We need positive fiction,” and people kind of like being highly critical of dark stories and highly critical of depression fiction, saying like, “Real life is depressing enough, I don’t need depressing shit in my fiction, I don’t need dark shit in my fiction,” what have you. I get it. But I also worry, because I feel like depressing fiction is important, and I feel like it does…not only teach empathy, but I think it can also give you a sense of being understood and, if you’re going through dark things in your life, it can make you feel like other people get it, and other people see that life is dark, and other people understand my pain…in whatever fictionalized sense. And, so…I don’t know. I guess I’m always hesitant, and I’m always kind of skeptical of these pushes, and I wonder how…I don’t know, is it really a good thing to be pushing for, I guess is what I’m saying. I don’t know.  

James:Yeah. I mean you think you just write your truth, right? If something is coming out of you, and it’s positive, write that. And if something is coming out of you, and it’s negative, I think there’s a place for that, as well.

Luke:I don’t think one side is inherently better than the other.  

James:Right. 

Luke:I think there’s a place for both, and I think, often, the push for positive fiction is made from a sense of like, “Hey, we want room at the table for this too,” because it feels like all sort of fiction is dark nowadays. I think that’s totally fair to push for that and say, like, “Hey, this is important, too.” And it is. I just would caution against going so far in one direction that you’re saying that all fiction that is dark and depressing has no value or shouldn’t be written, or what have you. Or shouldn’t exist. And I think that’s where it’s like, “Yeah, I don’t know if I agree with that.” 

James:Yeah, I get that. But, with that, I think that we should wrap the episode here. It’s been a lot of fun covering this book. I’m looking forward to covering the film next week. 

Luke:Absolutely. I think I told you in some bonus episode or something that I just watched…maybe it was last week…that I just watched A Star is Bornwith Bradley Cooper, so I’m excited to get back into the Bradley Cooper fandom and see what he was like in 2013 and, I don’t know, I’m into it, and I’m looking forward to it. But, until next time, thanks for listening.

 

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