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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Family: Lesley M.M. Blume

The literary family that I've adored continuously - from childhood to the present -- is J.D. Salinger's Glass family. I still really love that one footnote in Franny and Zooey" that describes each of the seven children: Franny, Zooey, Walter, Waker, Boo Boo, Buddy, and of course, Seymour. When I was at Cambridge, I wanted to stage a play based on 'Franny and Zooey,' but then I heard that Salinger sues the hell out of anybody who tries to dramatize anything based on the Glass family, so that was that.

I was amazed, then, when Wes Anderson dished up a remarkably similar family of child geniuses in his film The Royal Tenenbaums -- and came through it unscathed by Salinger's legal team. I loved the Tenenbaums with as much gusto as I loved the Glasses - from Margot with her play dioramas to Chad with his dalmation mice to Richie with his ballroom of paintings.

If I had to put my finger on what attracts me to these families, I'd have to say it's their combination of unbridled creativity and utter dysfunction. The narrative of enormous-yet-squandered brilliance and potential has always been very interesting to me, and I explore it a lot in my own writing. The Glasses and Tenenbaums have also been a big influence on me as I've created my own child-savant characters in my books: Cornelia in Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters is an expert in words; Franny in The Rising Star of Rusty Nail is a piano prodigy; and the title character in Tennyson is an uncannily sharp writer whose talents belie her age.

-- Lesley M.M. Blume

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2 comments:

Melissa Walker said...

I love this portrait of Family! The unrealized potential people always really fascinate me too. Thanks, Lesley.

Little Willow said...

Some of my favorite fictional families put the fun in dysfunction. :)