22 March 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

Ever have a book that you wish didn't end, because you love the characters so, so much?  This is The Silver Linings Playbook for me.

Once again, I crawled out from whatever rock I must live under, because I didn't know about this book until I watched the Oscars and discovered that it was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.  (True confessions, I don't read New York Times Book Review, and I'm thinkin' that I should.)

It's rare to read an "inner voice" written as convincingly as this.  I sort of forgot that I was reading.  But at the same time, you are reminded again and again that it's a quirky, not-quite-healthy mind.  (Now that I think about it, I think this would make a TERRIFIC audiobook.)

I like the "supporting" characters too.  I like his friends Danny and Ronny, his brother, Tiffany, but especially Cliff the therapist.  I like reading Pat's feelings for all these people. I even like reading about the people who are difficult in his life: Pat's father, Ronny's wife.)  And I LOVE the deep enthusiasm that nearly all the characters have for Philadelphia Eagles football - it's the real common ground in the story.

I'm looking forward to seeing the film, because I can't wait to see Jennifer Lawrence's performance as Tiffany.  She was kind of tongue-in-cheek smart-alecky leading up to the Oscars, because I think she saw herself as a long shot (frankly, I got confused and thought she had been nominated for her role in The Hunger Games, to which I was, like, what???).  I'm a little surprised that she was cast for Tiffany, because the books seems to depict Tiffany as a little older (I was thinking early 30s).  But the key is the character, and her acting, not her age.

The trailer makes me think that the movie diverges from the book.... quite a lot.  For example, we (the readers) don't know (until a few pages from the end) why Pat was in the hospital, because Pat himself can't remember why he was there.  He doesn't deny that there was a reason, but he genuinely can't remember it.  And I think that the denouement of that moment is important in the pacing of the book; I hope the film will do the same (although I doubt it, because they let the cat out of the bag in the trailer).

Many 20th & 21st-century works explore the experience of mental illness: The Bell Jar; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; Girl, Interrupted.  Often, the "inner voice" of the mentally ill is angry and bitter (largely because the main character is being hospitalizing against his/her will, sometimes appropriately so, but other times not).  Pat is confused and bewildered by his loss of time, but Pat's inner voice is NOT depressed.  In fact, it's a cheerful, hopeful voice.  Pat has learned new ways of thinking during his time in the Bad Place (the hospital).  He wants to get better: "It's better to be kind than right" is a sentence he says to himself often.  He wants to be a nicer person.  He DOES see the silver lining in many things in life.  He makes a point of mentioning things that "depress" him, and he prefers to avoid them.  It's refreshing to read a character that is mentally ill but NOT in despair.  Because although those two states usually exist together, not always.  And I do believe that depending on the diagnosis and treatment, a person with mental illness can sometimes create new neural pathways and heal.

This is a book where I have my own movie of it in my mind, which is interesting, because Pat thinks of his own LIFE as a movie, which will naturally have a happy ending - reunited with his estranged wife.  But there are other happy endings, and other silver linings.  By the end, he is able to believe that.

I loved this.  I hope you will too.

Have you read it?  Seen the movie?  Do you like one better than the other?

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