Arnon Grunberg
Words Without Borders

The Squid and the Whale

From all sides I heard that I should see The Squid and the Whale, a movie by Noah Baumbach.
Finally I gave in. I went to Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and saw the movie. Now, this is not going to be about The Squid and the Whale, and whether I liked it or not. (I’m only willing to admit that I did like the Pink Floyd song in the movie a lot, and I went home with the urgent need to reconsider Pink Floyd completely.)
This is purely about the fact that two of the main characters in this movie are authors. Brooklyn-based authors that is, but then again, 98% of the authors in American movies are Brooklyn-based.
The man, Jeff Daniels, is not that succesful anymore.
Actually, he is not able to find an agent. His wife, Laura Linney, is rather succesful. She is excerpted by The New Yorker, and will soon be published by Knopf. Even as an author with a husband who is not able to find an agent, who could want much more? One of the reasons for this couple's divorce, or so the movie suggests, is that the wife is making it, and the husband is more or less a has been. He is a man who seems to be more obsessed with finding a parking spot than finding an agent. Besides this parking spot thing, he is teaching creative writing. In his class, there is this rather attractive girl who has the habit of producing titillating prose.
A few questions: Why do authors in American movies always teach creative writing? Why do the authors always have a girl in class who is writing something almost indistinguishable from pornography? If this is based on reality (I have never been to a creative writing class), isn’t it about time to call it creative pornography? These questions might never be answered. But thank god The Squid and the Whale teaches us a few lessons: If you are an author, never fall in love with another author.
Go for the tennis teacher.
Tennis teachers seem to be more decent humans beings than authors, they seem to be less obsessed with finding a parking spot. They don’t tend to spoil conversation with remarks about a “minor Dickens.” And they actually can play tennis.
Another great thing about tennis teachers: a few of them are also Brooklyn-based.