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Monday, April 23, 2007

Who's narrating your life?

Of writing about his iconic book Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak* recalls a moment from his childhood: the moment in the Wizard of Oz movie, where Dorothy is trapped in the Wicked Witch's castle, and that blood-red hourglass has just been turned over, clocking down her time left alive. Judy Garland's acting, and that moment where she's screaming into the crystal ball when Aunty Em's face flashes up, "I'm here! Save me!" was, to Maurice, a "sensational fear" . It was both wonderful and frightening: "I would have killed anyone who tried to take me out of the movie house."

I read this passage and knew immediately the scene; the seconds; to which he was referring because that scene would be frightening for a child. It was for me. When I was little, I remembered thinking at this point, "Boy, I'm glad it's her and not me." Then of course, putting myself in the protagonists shoes as I so often do, I would then wonder, "Well, OK then, if that WAS me, what would I do next?"

At that age, it's so easy to step in an out of a narrative. Perhaps we lose that as we get older; we are told at school that life must take a certain path and we, if we are to succeed, should choose it early. Our parents may make this point also, mores the pity. I am lucky that my mother (I don't remember dad ever saying anything on the subject) never pressured me to 'pick' a career. Then many people wake up when they're forty and go, "Wow, how did I end up here?" and realise they've had an unfulfilled previous twenty or so years because they've never actively narrated their destiny. It was easier to "go with the flow", when really that flow was a rip taking them out to sea.

What movie moments have made you 'wake up' to certain truths (good or bad) in your life? Or haven't you ever thought about it before?

*Sendak, M 'Visitors from My Boyhood' in Worlds of Childhood: The Art and Craft of writing for Children. ed. W. Zinsser (1990) Houghton Mifflin: NY.

Comments on "Who's narrating your life?"


Blogger mcewen said ... (12:46 pm) : 

Much as I am loathe to name an American [mushy] movie, I have to admit that 'pay it forward' hit home for me, but I would say in my defense that I was pregnant with ........somebody of other at the time which I'm sure counts as 'mitigating/hormonal circumstances' and it definitely needed to be edited.....but that's enough excuses for now.


Anonymous SusieJ said ... (11:39 pm) : 

I'm sure there is a movie -- and truly, it is "It's a Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart." Corny, overdone -- I know. But I can't help it. What more can that movie say about doing what needs to be done, and helping so many lives, and realizing how much you were loved and didn't know it. I get teary-eyed during the opening credits.


Anonymous Joanna Young said ... (6:53 am) : 

Just wanted to say hi - I'm one of your stumbled upon visitors! I love the post - the picture of the book grabbed my attention, but I also really liked the gentle exploration of the concept of narrating your life... One of my favourite ideas :)

Best wishes and happy blogging



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