The answers to life's big questions

09 April 2014

The Silver Linings Playbook author Matthew Quick on how being thrown in at Hollywood's deep end led him to ask yet more big questions. And the answers? Well, you'll just have to read on.

 

When I was a little boy I used to keep my mother up late at night with impossible philosophical queries, such as, 'Where did I come from?'

'You would never take any answer as final,' Mom says. 'You didn’t take anything at face value. You over analyzed everything. At four you even asked me to explain taxes to you. Taxes! You were four!'

And so standing on the red carpet at the Oscars in 2013, waiting for our limo, surrounded by the most famous celebrities in the world, moments after watching Jennifer Lawrence accept an Oscar for playing a character I had dreamed up, instead of basking in the wonderful afterglow, I nervously whispered into my wife Alicia’s ear what I had been obsessively thinking about for the entire show, saying, 'How did we end up here?'

It wasn’t just an idle question; I really wanted to know the answer.

How does a kid from a working-class neighborhood just across the river from Philadelphia—a boy from a family with absolutely no connections to the entertainment industry—end up attending The Academy Awards?

It’s one thing to dream about being a published writer with movie deals and it’s quite another to suddenly find yourself living that reality.

It can get heady.

I have kind, hard-working, extremely talented, and truly deserving novelist friends who have not received the breaks or opportunities that I have, and I sometimes lose sleep thinking about that fact.

In the thirty-six years since I was an inquisitive four-year-old, again and again, I’ve learned this: you don’t often get neat satisfactory answers, no matter how many questions you pose.

I wrote The Good Luck of Right Now—a novel that playfully explores the rhythms of the universe—in the whirlwind of my first movie adaptation experience. Bartholomew Neil has known nothing but the love of his mother for almost four decades. When his mom dies, our hero—without higher education or even a true coming-of-age experience—is suddenly forced to grapple with life’s biggest questions, which he does with childlike naivety.

Maybe some part of me was hoping for answers when I began writing, but somewhere along the way, Bartholomew began to help me revel in life’s mysteries again, at a time when I felt as though I was under tremendous pressure to justify my lot with some sort of bulletproof philosophical treatise.

I once heard the wise Joseph Campbell say something like, 'If you think you know, you don’t know. If you think you don’t know, then you know.'

There’s wisdom in admitting our limitations and, at times, allowing ourselves to be the leaves in the stream.

On the red carpet, just after I whispered in my wife’s ear, Alicia smiled at me and said, 'Just allow yourself to be here. It’s okay. You can let yourself enjoy this little miracle.'

Smart words from a beautiful woman.

How did I get so lucky in love?

See. I’m doing it again. Asking questions. I just can’t stop.

My latest novel is an opportunity to play with life’s greatest mysteries without getting too neurotic about it. Here's a little video to introduce it.

And a passage from the audiobook, read by Oliver Wyman:

The Good Luck of Right NowI hope The Good Luck of Right Now makes you laugh and smile just as much as I did while I was writing it. 

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