(500) Days of Summer
Looking through an array of Christmas cards yesterday, I was struck by the complete lack of imagination of the wording inside them. Has it always been like this, I wondered. For the last few decades I’ve gone for blank cards because the generic wording never seemed to fit—for me anyway. And now the words all seem very much the same.
In the 2009 movie, (500) Days of Summer, a romantic comedy about a woman, Summer, who doesn’t believe in true love, and the young man, Tom, who falls for her, Tom is employed by a greetings card company to write the sentiments inside the products. I was fascinated. Do jobs like this still exist? I also really felt for him when his depression resulted in a departmental transfer—from greetings to condolences. But, more importantly, where are his cards?
How often have you received a card from someone you haven’t seen or heard from since last year, and seen something like, ‘lots of love from Aunty Flo and Uncle Bill’? And that’s it. No news. Not a scrap. Flo’s husband, Uncle Bill, may be recovering from a triple bypass following a massive heart attack, and Flo herself celebrating the year she climbed Kilimanjaro (aged 89, and probably precipitating Bill’s condition), but all you get is ‘lots of love’. Oh, and, ‘wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’, because that was already printed there.
Let’s make our words really matter.
Just to continue the light-hearted theme of the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards, and grinding to its climactic conclusion (see, it’s contagious), the winner of this year’s award goes to David Guterson, best-selling author of Snow Falling on Cedars.
His novel, Ed King, brings the Sophoclean tragedy Oedipus Rex (note the pun) from the distant past into late 20th century Seattle.
In one scene the main character “massaged, kneaded, stretched, rubbed, pinched, flicked, feathered, licked, kissed, and gently bit her shoulders”, but the clincher for the gong was “Ed stood with his hands at the back of his head, like someone just arrested, while she abused him with a bar of soap.” And I love the end of that scene: “Then they rinsed, dried, dressed, and went to an expensive restaurant for lunch.” Well, after all that you’d need to, wouldn’t you?
What is it about reading a sign? You’ve seen it plenty of times—someone drops litter beside a fully signed-up trash can, dogs and their human slaves roam unfettered on a dogs-on-leashes only beach, we skip across the road when the sign says, DON’T, and junk mail appears in the letterbox, despite the sign that asks otherwise.
Do we not see signs, or are we ignoring them? Why isn’t the message getting through?
Maybe our message just isn’t strong enough, poorly worded, or too obscure. Perhaps what we want to say is drowned by the clutter of our lives, or perhaps we aren’t reading words any more and just want to look at the pictures.
How has reading changed for you?