“We read to know we are not alone” – A screenwriter

 

There are two movies dealing with the topic of writing and most precisely writers that I found myself watching extensively throughout 2015.

ShadowlandsPoster

I first saw “Shadowlands” when I was channel surfing (Channel 2 on Spanish Television after lunch) and all I remember was hearing one character addressing Anthony Hopkins as “Mr. Lewis”. I didn’t make the immediate connection that the character was C.S. Lewis but after letting the scene develop for a few more minutes I decided to stick around after realizing that this movie seemed to be about a writer which at that time I only knew for the following three reasons:

1 – Reading The Screwtape Letters (after hearing Kevin Smith talk about it in his podcast),

2 – The Narnia Chronicles movies (which I have not seen but that I still remember announced back when the craze of Harry Potter had studios brutally searching for the next Harry Potter)

3 – Being a friend of J.R.R Tolkien (fact I found in the first section on the first DVD of extras of The Fellowship of The Ring)

I’d later find out that the movie was released in 1993 and was based on a play written by William Nicholson (he is also the screenwriter).It is the second screen adaptation of the play – thank you IMDB-. Brilliantly directed by Richard Attenborough (of Jurassic Park and Gandhi fame) and, along with Hopkins, with Debra Winger (of An officer and a Gentleman fame ? – uh go figure and also thank you again IMDB-) in a role with some acting choices that puzzle me and yet glue me to a character that in real life I would most likely detest. A brief plot synopsis follows: C.S. Lewis teaches in Oxford and lives a quiet settled life. Once he meets a Joy Greshman and a relationship begins, that then turns into love and finally loss, shaking the foundations of that settled life.

For those interested, C.S. Lewis wrote a book called “A Grief Observed” under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk dealing with the loss of Joy Greshman, I’ve not read it (yet) but as

Agriefobservedcover
First Edition Cover written under pseudonym by C.S. Lewis

part of the research I found two quotes from the book that really stuck with me and that have automatically added it to my to-read pile:

 

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead.

“The death of a beloved is an amputation.”

I don’t want to discuss in detail my feelings on the movie itself I’d rather summarize by saying that I really enjoy it. Instead I’d  like to highlight one particular subplot that, as a movie editor, I would’ve cut but as an engrossed viewer it caught my attention. The subplot is about one student in his class, characterized by a rebellious book loving attitude – I wonder if I’m the first person that has written those three words in that order -.  The student ends up leaving Oxford before finishing his studies – with no major impact on the plot – and appears years later in a chance encounter with Lewis. It is in that chance encounter when the student tells Lewis that his father, that had recently passed, used to tell him the following:

“We read to know we are not alone”.

Please keep in mind that line.

The second movie that I watched extensivelythe_end_of_the_tour-333977475-large in 2015 is called “The End of the Tour”. The film is  a road-movie based on the trip that David Foster Wallace (played by Jason Segel of How I Met Your Mother fame) and Dave Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg of The Social Network fame) took to promote Wallace’s famous book Infinite Jest. Lipsky, an unknown writer working as a reporter for Rolling Stone, covets Wallace’s achievements, thus creating the whole dynamic of the film. The movie is based on the book “Of course you end up becoming yourself” which is a direct transcription from the tapes that Lipsky recorded in order to create his Rolling Stone article – which he never did publish as far as my research goes-.

I’ll make a note at this point saying that I’ve only read (technically re-read because I find it extremely inspirational) the essay “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace, and although I’m curious to read Infinite Jest I am extremely intimidated by its size and vocabulary (I might start with “Consider the Lobster” a collection of essays that appears to be far more accessible). I had known a bit about Wallace prior to this movie, but only after I saw it did I familiarize myself with the writer and learned that sadly he committed suicide after struggling with severe depression for a large part of his life.

The movie’s final scene has Lipsky addressing the members of a bookstore where he is describing his relationship with  Wallace and what his writing meant to him. In these final moments Lipsky says that Wallace said “David thought books existed to stop you from feeling lonely “.

After digging around I have not found any source that attributes the first sentence to C.S Lewis (fun fact: when Wallace was once asked for his favourite books and guess which one made it on the list?: The Screwtape letters), regardless I feel that both statements regarding books summarize perfectly how I feel about them.

Following this last paragraph I’ve tried to write a conclusion that somehow guides the narrative of this article. I couldn’t think of any and had to stop writing.

After resuming the entry this morning I realized that there is indeed no conclusion, but that both phrases triggered a few things I tend to think about.

First and foremost is that, whenever I find a movie or book (usually in this order) that somehow captures me and fascinates me, I feel the need to research and know everything about it. Like a spark that sets a fire I become obsessive. This learning process is by far the most effective I’ve ever experienced, not driving by the need to be taught but by curiosity.

Second, that this very first entry has validated the fact that, even if nobody reads this, it helps me to write it down. So no excuse to not give it another go.

Third, that I’m OK, with merely sharing a quote.

                “We read to know we are not alone”

                                                                                – William Nicholson

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