“Sometimes I feel like my whole life is just a movie I’m in.” she says, somewhat tearfully, “and I don’t even have the best part.” “Or two movies,” he says, “or more. All happening” – “I adore you,” she whispers, kissing his speaking lips – “at the same time, like some kind of montage.” “Yes, fraught moments like these are like that,” she replies in her deepening melancholy, “but” – “I feel like I’ve always loved you,” he murmurs, nibbling her earlobe – “it’s an illusion.”
To those who scoff at the guardians of proper punctuation – those of us who rant against apostrophes in plurals, or who want the old Oxford comma back in these days of measured keystrokes – the above paragraph shows just how much fun you can have with appropriate punctuation. But, like children who must eat their vegetables before they get dessert, you have to master semicolons and commas first. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, there’s the proof, right there. No dessert for you.
I loved Coover’s “Going For a Beer” from last March, and I’m just as thrilled with this piece. We start with a young woman watching a movie, then to a movie about a woman watching a movie, and to a man watching a movie about a woman watching a movie… Reality keeps swapping itself out, and we’re never sure if we’re in a movie or in someone’s reality – or if there is, ultimately, any reality. The characters aren’t sure, either. It’s incredibly well-done. Look at the passage above. There are two scenes (maybe they are movies, maybe one is a movie) playing out at the same time: in one, they are talking about life being like a movie, and in another they are kissing.
In his Book Bench interview online, Coover talks about his love of movies. It shows here. The movies are never quite exactly what they seem to be: Brief Encounter, sort of, La Belle Jour definitely, but not necessarily, it’s all very smoothly woven together so even if you can’t identify the movies, you recognize the archetypes: the hopeless romances, the almost-loves, the stories we’ve been raised on since people could tell stories, and it’s all here, in this story he tells us.
Or, it’s just a really fun story.