Not Quite As Strange As Fiction

January 13th, 2007

A while back, She Who Must Be Taunted and I saw a movie called “Stranger Than Fiction”. Will Ferrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS auditor without much of a life who turns out to be a character in a book being written by a novelist named Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson). Karen is trying to kill him off, but she’s got writer’s block, so Harold has a bit of time to face his own mortality, during which he frees himself of his bonds, learns to live his dreams, and finds love. Go see this movie – I haven’t ruined it for you at all. And I’m telling you about it for a reason.

There’s a way in which, as a songwriter, I am both the writer and the main character, even though my songs aren’t really about me, most of the time. But they’re a little about me, all the time, I think. And there’s no doubt that many of us see the romance of Harold Crick in our own lives – lonely, isolated, blocked from our dreams, and then suddenly liberated, nobly, and reaping the rewards of liberation – the love of someone who desires the core of us. Certainly, I can read my own history that way quite easily. But in many ways, Karen Eiffel is the more interesting of the two – confronted suddenly with the flesh and blood of her own imagination, shouldered with responsibilities no longer hypothetical. There are those of us who sing to change the world, or touch a heart, or coax a laugh. Sometimes our subjects are real – sometimes they know about the homage (or not, depending), sometimes they don’t; sometimes they approve, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes their lives liberate us from our writer’s block – but sometimes we end up being no better than vultures.

In the end, Karen Eiffel quite literally holds Harold Crick’s life in her hands. None of us have that power, but it’s fascinating to think about what we might do if we did. I don’t typically cry at movies, and neither does SWMBT, but we were both weepy at the end. Go see it (well, rent it, by now, probably) and let me know what you think.

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