Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Richard Russo is Ruining My Life

Anne Lamott told me to listen to my broccoli, and I did. Or, at least I thought I did. In actuality, I was listening to Richard Russo's.

You see, I wrote a short story a couple years ago called "Trespassers" about a group of children in an orphanage who escape to the abandoned convent across the field. The main character has a safe word he mumbles to himself whenever he's scared. For this, he thought of the least scary word there is: broccoli.

The unfortunate thing here is Richard Russo thought of it first. And what's more--somewhere in the back of my mind I knew this. Why I dislike Russo is another blog post altogether. Anyway, I may not like him personally, but even I can admit he's a damn good screen writer. This being said, Keeping Mum is one of my favorite movies. It's a fun, silly British comedy with Maggie Smith, Rowan Atkinson, and Patrick Swayze to name a few. In it, Rowan Atkinson's son is being bullied at school. Maggie Smith signs on as a nanny, and one day she tells him to think of a magic word--any word. He chooses broccoli.

I remembered this scene abruptly about two months ago while riding in my boyfriend's car. I became outraged. Richard Russo stole my broccoli! And then I thought back to the date the film was made: 2005. No, no. He didn't steal anything from me; I stole from him. This man whom I am loath to admire is the one from whom I plagiarized.

There are no grand revelations in this post other than the fact that my mind likes to screw me over now and then by prompting me with things I think are original, when, in fact, they aren't. This includes, but is not limited to, titles of poems. I wrote a poem about fall in New England a little over a year ago and couldn't think of a good title. I thought of the leaves crunching on the ground beneath winter boots, and my brain said, "Eureka! 'Trampled Under Foot.'" On the score of its originality, I think Led Zeppelin would disagree.

You might protest and say, "Well, Russo isn't the one ruining your life. You are! Or, your brain, anyway." And you'd be right. Just let me have my drama for now. It's apparently all I have.