Monday, July 25, 2011

Life as Art

It is amazing how real life can translate into a work of art. I don't only mean non-fiction books and movies such as memoirs and biographies (The Blind SideMilkMarley and Me), but how seasoned authors and filmmakers can take a real life event and tell a story. When Albert and David Maysles decided to create a documentary on the Bouvier family in the seventies, they had no idea what they would be getting with the mother/daughter team of Edith Bouvier Beale. (Big Edie and Little Edie) The documentary of the reclusive pair living in a dilapidated house called Grey Gardens in the Hamptons became a cult classic and both a musical and HBO film were made just the past five years. I got to catch the final performance Sunday of a production of the musical and really loved how the creative team took this true-life story and created an arc of a story (that was different from the one created in the movie). My heart ached for the woman who never left her mother's house for all of those years and I marveled how this tale could bring audiences to tears. 

I suppose that is what affects us when reading a good novel. It is those fictitious characters in books (or movies) that are so well drawn out or portrayed that can move an audience as well. Good writing - creation of art - is really on point for me when they can move you and cause you to feel something. Either as true-life dramas or characters pulled from the head of an author like another favorite of mine: Owen Meany. That character was so layered, so intriguing - that I felt for him through the entire story.

Many times writers will take an event that happened and then "loosely base" a fiction work around that event. (The Virgin SuicidesIn the Country of MenRoom)  

So I suppose the saying is true that at times life is stranger than fiction. If it weren't - why would so many artists be drawn to these events to tell their stories?

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