Jul/Aug 2006  •   Fiction

Life Story: Pass

by Jennie Kaufman

Art by Victor Ehikhamenor

Art by Victor Ehikhamenor


TITLE: Life Story
AUTHOR: Confidential
SUBMITTED TO: Confidential
ANALYST: Jennie Kaufman
LENGTH: 115 pages
CIRCA: Present
LOCALE: Midwest; New England; New York City
DATE: 07/01/06
GENRE: Comedy-Drama



Would-be writer seeks success, happiness, relief from stupid job.


This is an oft-told tale of young artistic dreams that refuse to die. The dialogue is good, and characters are believable or at least recognizable as the kind of irritating people we have to deal with every day. The story structure & dramatic arc, however, are very weak. Might hold potential for reworking in another genre.


Story Line:


BUDGET:    Low


SYNOPSIS: Confidential



This story is directionless. The main problem is the protagonist manages to be simultaneously single-minded and all over the zoo. What should be a dramatic arc is more like a car-sickening series of switchbacks. The character desperately needs some sort of Morgan Freeman figure to give sage advice.

The protag. begins as a young bride with a passion for writing fiction. She quits her job as a copy editor, thus establishing her exquisite sensitivity to burnout. Then we go into the dog-bite scene from her first day working at a vet—comic relief, but how does it move the story forward?

Apparently the first major plot point is the couple's move to the East Coast. At first it looks like she's taking strides in a direction after the previous confusion & failure. Thank god. Gets a coveted editorial job, keeps working on novel. So far so good, but then she quits coveted ed. job. Volunteers for film festival (v. quaint) and starts writing screenplays (puh-LEEZE). Wins second prize for first screenplay—what is the dramatic point of SECOND prize?

This is where everything starts to fall apart. Not just their marriage, but the script. Too much patience has already been required of the audience. When she sprains her ankle on the award-winning weekend, it's impossible not to read it as self-sabotage, but that doesn't end anything—we just get more grinding repetitions of hard work/sabotage/hard work/sabotage.

Everything happens at least twice. Another move (to New York). She gets another coveted job, again quits it. Writes another screenplay. Decides she's not "Hollywood material"—no kidding!

Here, though, we have an opportunity for something new—will she go back to her long-suffering husband, find the error of her ways, have children? An outright born-again event, in today's cultural climate, would be fantastically profitable here, it would make the anti-Hollywood shtick work. She could still scribble—maybe write children's books!

Instead, she just keeps lumbering on, cycling through the same ideas in quest of a meaningful existence. This is worse than Beckett. Are we supposed to take it seriously when she "commits" herself to a life of freelancing? I detect no irony on the part of the writer. Also I detect no story sense.

There's some good dialogue and plenty of romantic complications. With its complete lack of a point, though, and its apparent theme of repetition, it might work better as an arthouse porno—with a theme of 2nd adolescence in New York City, how about a writing group where they literally bare themselves?, wrapping up when she meets the (2nd, of course) love of her life and they decide to make documentaries—no, what if they plan to make pornos themselves? It would add a meta layer that would justify the "literary" background.

In summary, there is material here that could be reworked with a Christian theme or as soft porn. Or possibly as a female Sean Penn, "desperate loser snaps, plans assassination" drama. As is, though, recommendation is definitely PASS.