I contributed a little piece to the latest installment of The Rumpus’ ongoing “Readers Report Back From …” series. The topic was “Running Away,” so I wrote about the summer I avoided writing by playing golf. They gave it a terrific illustration, as you can see. Thanks to Susan Clements for including me.
As an amateur Paddy Chayefsky scholar and a huge fan of Network, this scrawled programming grid for the fictional UBS network is as good as it gets. (Thanks, Carlos!)
My favorite line in the Times article is when Chayefsky wonders: “All this is Strangelove-y as hell. Can we make it work?” Chayefsky is one of my top influences as a writer, period, and it’s because he did make it work. He managed to be both a naturalist and an absurdist.
Network begins in the mundane world of television news, but ends far away, carried by Howard Beale’s insanity/vision. It’s a neat trick if, like me, you are attracted to both narrative convention and stylized language. (Can it be any wonder that Aaron Sorkin is a devoted Chayefsky fan?) And Chayefsky’s language is incredibly stylized as the film gets going, even beyond Howard Beale’s famous rants. Faye Dunaway’s character calls Beale “processed instant God”—and it actually works!—while Robert Duvall’s declares that he was recently a “sun god” at the network’s parent company.
I don’t care for stories that fail to crack open the everyday with the absurd, yet I don’t like stories that take place in a world I cannot immediately understand, either—stories that are experimentally alienating. Network avoids both perils by masterfully ushering the viewer across the bridge from the everyday to the absurd, and not a month goes by that I don’t mull over how, exactly, Chayefsky did that.
WHY THEY CRIED
"... demonstrates real insight into the way we live now."
"Reminiscent of George Saunders and James Thurber, Why They Cried is a great collection of modern tales."
–Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief and co-founder of One Story
"Jim Hanas has a remarkable talent for imagining and crafting uncanny little worlds that make me vaguely nervous. And yet I never want to leave."
–Rob Walker, co-founder of Significant Objects
"A tender and smart assembly of fiction about people trying to communicate—with each other, the world—and all the ways they fail. Fail better, fail beautifully."
–Fiona Maazel, author of Last Last Chance
Jim Hanas is the author of the short story collection Why They Cried (Joyland eBooks/ECW Press) and director of audience development at HarperCollins Publishers.