“He [Ted] got out of the car and headed up to the house. He looked on the sidewalk where once he had scratched his name on the wet cement, but it was no longer there. It was smooth, like when a wave washes away initials in a heart someone drew in the sand. Always more waves than words in hearts in the sand, it seemed.”
– Vanessa-Cher Zimmerer –
Selling and tossing peanuts at Yankee Stadium while possessing an Ivy League degree, Ted Fullilove (a silly, but sticky name – and let´s be honest even the great Mr. Lovecraft had a silly name) wastes his potential by smoking pot and puttering around with the next Great American Novel. When his father is diagnosed with cancer, he comes back home – tension usually occurs through friction – where a whirlwind of revelations ensues. Lost time is lost, but a relationship can be repaired. Whenever the Red Sox lose, his father´s health dips drastically, so Ted orchestrates the illusion of a Boston winning streak toward World Series victory.
The premiss slightly reminds one of the German film “Goodbye Lenin”. Creating a fake historical event in order to grant a family member a last dying wish; to sum it up: a warm-hearted, melancholic comedy. But Bucky F*cking Dent goes emotionally deep – digging into the awkwardness of family relations, the inability to express oneself and lost dreams. The relationship between Ted and his father Marty is transferred to the huge stage, while big dreams have to go backstage. It´s the relations in our life which can make all the difference: Ted and Marty are able to connect again, because the past is only a story and does not exist in the present.
Duchovny portraits bittersweet nostalgia in poetic and yet sarcastic words. Always more words than waves – the words stick and are not washed away as if they have never existed like the hearts in the sand. The writing is formidable (Duchovny´s Yale University Master´s Degree in English Literature definitely pays off). There is a comic angle and yet it is depressing how Ted pulls his writing career off (the story of every writer without the name King). But he had managed to write a novel. A novel where nothing much happens, including a disdain for emotion and plot. “He [Ted] had read that Samuel Beckett said that the perfect play would have no actors in it.Ted thought that the perfect novel would have nothing happen in it.” The scene in which his literary agent gives Ted a devastating criticism on his manuscript, a true manifesto to every artist´s arrogance and excuse for not using a talent properly, is one of the novel´s most entertaining moments.
“No, war would’ve been good for you if you didn’t get killed, would’ve given you a subject, a fucking plot. Think of Hemingway and Mailer. […] Commit a crime and go to prison and get fucked in the ass. That´s what you need.”
And even so the reader must undoubtedly laugh, he will feel sorry for Ted. For wasting a life and a talent. But the harsh words are true: If watching paint dry is more interesting than a book, that book is trash and so is the author´s life, from which he should nurture his story’s emotions. Without friendships, sacrifices, loss, pain and love – life is empty.
“What if I don’t love you?”
“I’ll wait till you do.”
“You might have to wait a long time.”
They both got quiet. They both listened to the other breathe. They stood in different places on the exact same spot.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
There was a long pause, and then Ted said, “Waiting . . .”
With this feeling one closes the book and thinks: Do I want to be a writer, who only writes about oppressive feelings or do I want to go out into the world and actually experience something that I can turn into a book!? Think, dear young writers, think!
And before thinking and while reading enjoy the aphorisms that inspire you to think anyway.
Have fun reading Bucky F*cking Dent! Your Lit. erl – Team!