In Writing

Here is what is tickling my fancy this summer:

The Leftovers – a new HBO series based on the Tom Perrotta novel.  I have a quirky connection to Tom Perrotta (see below for the story), so I was predisposed to love this show.  But it turned out to be even better than I hoped it would be.

The premise is intriguing: 2% of the world’s population has disappeared without warning or explanation.  (It doesn’t sound like much, but when you put it into numbers that’s 140 million people).  It’s been three years since the “sudden departure.”  Some people think it was the biblical Rapture.  Some people are trying to live like it never happened.  Everyone’s falling apart in some fascinating and believable way.  Some people have joined a cult called the Guilty Remnant, in which members wear white, chain smoke and never speak.  The main character, the chief of police of a small New York suburb, (played by a sexy-as-hell Justin Theroux) might just be losing his marbles.  The teenagers are giving in to hedonism.  The mayor is a fabulous, smart woman with an intriguing romance.  There’s a woman who lost her whole family who is walking around with a gun in her purse for an unknown reason.  Dogs have gone feral and some creepy dude is shooting them.  It’s delicious mayhem.

In one sense, it’s a beautiful microcosm for existence.  I mean… aren’t people disappearing from our world with no explanation all the time?  Isn’t that what death is, inexplicable and inscrutable?  And aren’t we all coping with that in our own individual ways?

The show is smart, well-paced and intriguing.  If you want answers about what happened to the people who “departed,” then don’t watch this show.  That’s not what it was about.  If you want a show that respects your intelligence and gives you tantalizing clues but never spoon-feeds you, tune in pronto (it’s on HBO on Sunday nights).  As a matter of fact, episodes 1 and 2 have been so perfect I’m afraid all this show can do from here on out is break my heart, since it has been just so damn good.

Oh my goodness, and the music.  There’s this one violin riff they keep playing that haunts me in my dreams.

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Oh, PS, my Tom Perrotta story:  About 6 years I was flipping channels and I came across what looked like my son’s best friend’s father masturbating on HBO.  Obviously I thought I was insane, until I mentioned it to a friend.  “Oh, yeah, didn’t you know?” she said.  “He’s an actor.”

Intrigued, I watched the movie.  It was Little Children, based on Tom Perrotta’s novel.  It was such a perfect look at the underbelly of suburban living that I had to read the novel, which also did not disappoint.  (Tom Perrotta also wrote Election, which was made into a movie with Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick).  I was moved to write Tom Perrotta an email to tell him how much I loved his writing and explaining my very tenuous connection to him.  This was years before I’d gotten an agent or had much hope that I’d actually make it to be a writer.  He was in a position that was unattainable to me: a Real Writer.  And when he wrote back and was so nice in his email it’s almost like he got me a little step closer to my dreams.

That’s why I love to see Tom Perrotta succeeding.  But even if your child’s best friend was not in one of his movies, you should still watch The Leftovers.  Because it’s genius.

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