As many of our long-term readers have no doubt picked up on, I’m not a big fan of Japanese TV and so prefer to unwind with a video instead. And as I’m sure you’ve also picked up on, videos come pretty late to Japan, so it was only recently that I saw the movie Limitless, first released back in March 2011 and based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn.
In the story, the main character Eddie Morra begins as a struggling writer. He (somehow) has a book contract without having written a single word (only in Hollywood) and is facing a deadline of submitting the first ninety pages or risking his advance. (I can hear you now, “He got a contract and an advance without having written anything?” I know, I know…) Faced with this situation, Eddie locks himself in his room with a blank Word file staring out at him from his laptop screen and vows to get to it. The trick is not to leave the room, he tells himself. Hours later, and with nothing to show for his time, Eddie is tossing down beers in a crowded bar.
Between drinks he is telling a couple of men at the counter next to him about his book’s plot. He stammers, hems and haws, mutters about a sci-fi exploration of the self, about an examination of the meaning of modern life, about a… Giving up, he returns his attention to his beer and leaves his conversation partners looking at him in bewilderment.
This was of course one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie. How many of us have faced this exact situation? When asked what our book is about, we find ourselves completely at a loss to even begin to explain, and often resort to using stupid clichés or non-committal generalities to describe it, which of course interests no one. Yet when in front of a computer screen we are somehow able to conjure up the essence of the entire work in a back cover blurb of three hundred words or less.
Maybe it’s just that we’re shy and not as confident as we might be about our books, especially when they’re works in progress. That would certainly describe me—and even when I’m finished and extremely pleased with a book I still have a very hard time talking about it in person. It could also be that we tend towards introversion, like Eddie we do lock ourselves in our rooms for hours on end, eschewing a social life in order to bang out what’s burning in our minds, hunched over our keyboards like grizzled old men or women over a mahjong table. Except that it takes four to play mahjong and just one nutty loner to be a writer.
I’ll leave you with a wonderful quote from Limitless. Narrating the back story, Eddie’s voice is heard describing a shaggy-haired neurotic-looking man dressed in rags and shuffling across a busy New York street with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth: “You see that guy? That was me not so long ago. What kind of guy without a drug or alcohol problem looks this way? Only a writer.”
Next week, Paul j Rogers on using Tarot cards to uncover the potential plot subtleties you didn’t even realize were in your own book.