Monday, August 20, 2007

Today I saw a butterfly on the subway . . .

Since Becoming Jane wasn't in my town, I watched it somewhere else. I only saw teeny bits and pieces of it because my toddler wasn't interested. I saw just enough of it, though, that I do want to see the rest. And my mother and sisters told me how it ended since we were all at the same showing. We found it more difficult to suspend our disbelief while watching a fictional portrayal of Austen's real life than we do when we watch the movies based on the fiction she wrote. It felt like a lesser version of everything I love in her fiction. The chubby, overbearing mothers in Austen's fiction are comically lovable. This version of her real mother was mostly sad; she was so desperate for Jane to escape poverty. The balls were less poetic, the romance less appropriate, and the happy ending much harder earned. And even then, it was a lesser happiness. But it fascinated me. As someone who wants to be a writer, I enjoyed watching Anne Hathaway act as one. And although I know it was a made-up version of something that might have happened to Austen, I believed the general concept - that our real lives are less neatly tied than the stories we will create. And that shown without the poetic descriptors writers love, real life would look rather like a bland imitation of good fiction. Which of course is what I love about writing. When it's worded well, it's prettier. Even the most mundane of events. And then they are captured that way forever.
We all often find our lives mirroring something we saw or read in movies or books (a la Kathleen Kelly and the butterfly on the subway in You've Got Mail - oh my goodness, that movie has great lines). But it really truly is the other way around. Life just looks better when captured in an art form. It's why I write in journals. One for myself, one for each of my children. They're like a scrapbook without the cutting and the gluing. Those 5-year-old birthday parties are such a chore (we don't even do them, frankly), but how wonderfully poetic they look on a scrapbook page surrounded with interesting borders or in a slide show set to music about how quickly children grow. It's the same with journaling. It just captures the moment and seals it as a beautiful thing. It makes life stand still and mean something.

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