tea berry-blue (teaberryblue) wrote,
tea berry-blue

Stranger Than Fiction, The Author God, & Metaauthorship/metareadership

So, I have been looking forward to this movie since I first saw a trailer for it sometime early this summer.

What was very odd to me is the number of children who were in an audience for a movie that is basically a story about literary theory.

I am going to start by discussing it with no spoilers and what I think it means in terms of authorship, etc. I'm assuming anyone interested in seeing the movie has seen at least some form of advertisement, and there's only one thing in the movie that I think can really be spoiled but it's so much the crux of the movie that I don't want to touch it somewhere where people can read it without warning, and that's obviously whether Harold thwarts his imminent death.

The question of whether an author is, effectively, a god, like Karen Eiffel becomes in Stanger than Fiction, is something people have discussed for so many centuries that the idea pops up in Plato & Aristophanes, Shakespeare (Shakespeare wrote at least three plays that are thinly-veiled discussions of his own personal author-godliness, namely Hamlet, The Tempest, and The Winter's Tale, and he touched on it in almost all of his comedies and a couple of his tragedies, too).

More significant in this case, since Eiffel is a woman, is Mary Shelley's work in Frankenstein, which is essentially a story about how men and childless women use art and authorship to take the place of children in their lives, and Victor Frankenstein sees childbirth/creation as making him like a God. I mean, we're all familiar with people's fear of what it means for man to play God-- it's what turned the eugenics movement into Nazism, it's the reason some people oppose genetics-based scientific and health initiatives, cloning, even in-vitro fertilization or questions of choosing when to turn off life support. And yes, I'm digressing. But the point is that one's work is a creative, generative force by nature, and in Frankenstein, where childbirth and womanhood are kind of elevated to the level of a demigod, the ability to attain such a thing, and thus, godliness, is also something to be feared. One's work needs to be loved and respected, not discarded-- the work of authorship is given equality with the Author himself (or herself, though I speak of Frankenstein here and not Shelley). It is somewhat ironic coming from a woman whose husband abandoned his first wife while she was pregnant, but lots of people have already written stuff about the generative force and fear of reproduction and lots of other lovely things in terms of Frankenstein.

So what does it mean when we turn an author into a god? There is clearly a differentiation here in terms of whether we are speaking of an omniscient, omnipotent God in the way of a monotheistic religion or a more human and prone to error Ancient type god, because if we equate Eiffel with Zeus or Hera, etc., that's somewhat different from equating her with The Creator of All, if you get my drift. And in some ways, that's safer, because those kinds of gods are prone to error. They do things wrong. When Bible-God does something jackassy (which he does on occasion), he's like, "dude, Job, stop freakin' questionin' me! My job is too hard. Do YOU wanna try bein' God?" Meanwhile, Zeus is turning into another cute, fluffy animal to seduce a virgin and impregnate her, as he is wont to do.

I think that the most interesting point in terms of Eiffel's Godlike powers is in the scene where the phone rings. There is a Jewish school of thought that the Bible is history not because it happened, but because God said that it happened, and that God's word makes everything true (& in the New Testament, the Word *is* God). In the Creation in Genesis and Gospel of John (In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God) eg, that which God says, is-- God's Word is the generative force by which all things are made. But the phone ringing scene is absolute in its definition that Eiffel's words are a real performative utterance, just as the words of the Biblical God are & create. The fact that her notes, however, do not constitute a performative utterance brings up some questions about God along the same vein-- can God think of doing something without doing it? Can God go, hmm, I think I'll make Light and is Light not actually made until God speaks "Let there be Light" just as the phone does not ring even though Eiffel expects it until she types "The phone rang?"

And I think that is the crux of Eiffel's breakdown and subsequent realization. She's God. But she's spent her whole life being a God of Death, when God is generally thought of as a Creative force (moreso after the movement of the New Testament to the Old Testament, clearly). She has not been able to complete a book in ten years because her life & her acts as an author (god of sorts) have been as destructive as her habits, and it takes making her a god in act to teach her the value of creation & generation.

I also want to throw out the question of whether tragedy is, as Professor Hilbert seems to think, the more valuable endeavor, or can comedy be equally gratifying in a literary context? In his description of the two, he points out that comedy is the celebration of life or reproduction or generation or something like that (I forget the exact term he uses), as we all know, and thus, to a generative God, one would think that life/comedy would be the more valuable of the two.

Now, back to Shelley, because I got quite stuck on the Shelley question during the movie. I'm not sure how many of you have read her husband's work, Alastor, which is clearly about choosing between earthly pleasures and a higher, more mystical calling, and I know some people have read as Shelley's (Percy's now) attempt to reconcile his human relationships and his devotion to activism. Which I just wanted to note because I find it an interesting tie-in with Ana and her own conflicts in terms of choosing between her steadfast stick-it-to-the-man attitude and her interest/love, etc., for Harold which develops over the course of the film. I know that this was a conflict for the Shelleys throughout their lives, so I find it fascinating that in a movie that focuses so much on the same concept that Mary's masterpiece focused on, that there would be another major theme that comes out of something her husband grappled with throughout his (short and poetically-ended in a very Karen-Eiffel-esque manner) life. It also (Alastor, the poem) is kind of interesting in terms of Eiffel, too, because it can be looked at as the metephysical journey between Life and Art, which is very much what happens to Eiffel, who becomes so wrapped up in big-A art that she forgets about Life and dwells on death until she discovers what it means to be responsible for someone else's life, and that rejuvenates her Art.

Finally, and then I'm going to bed because I'm just about done musing on this movie, I wanted to talk about Eiffel's statement about Harold at the end of the movie, about someone who is willing to face death when he knows it, and I just thought the whole idea of someone who was willing to give up his own life to create great art (which man, I want to think about in terms of The Winter's Tale, but I really need to sleep first), which reminded me of the author=God equation in terms of the story of Abraham and the Binding of Isaac. God tested Abraham's faith in the Bible by making him knowingly bring his only son to his death and give him up willingly, which is the same thing Harold does at the end of the film. Although I'm not sure in Harold's case what that is, because it's not the same test of faith Abraham shows. Harold goes into it beieving that Eiffel's story is more important than his own singular life,which is kind of him raising art above nature.

Okay, I only got through Author God stuff and not the other topic, bah. This might turn into a series of posts.
Tags: movies, reviews, stranger than fiction
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