I’ve been a devotee of Lauren Graham’s ever since she uttered the words, “I ate the fuzzy Certs. They tasted like keys.” And I realize that it wasn’t her who wrote them, but (probably) Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of Gilmore Girls. And I realize that it wasn’t her who said those words, but her character, Lorelai Gilmore. Those technicalities don’t matter, though, because only Lauren Graham could have played that other LG, and only she could have delivered those words the way she did. There was something inexplicably cool and trustworthy about her. I didn’t necessarily want her to be my mom, though I’m sure plenty of viewers did, but I desperately wanted to live in a world where she was a real person. Though the two LG’s are separate people, the real one definitely shares the best characteristics with her fictional counterpart. The beauty, the brains, the wit. In case you can’t tell, I really admire Lauren Graham.
So it should come as no surprise that I read her debut novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe and I loved it. Granted, it was an easy read, written for young adults — and I almost wish that the language and complexity had been heightened for regular old adults, because I know Graham is capable of it — but for a debut piece of published prose, wow. I don’t know how much of the story is based on her real life, and I don’t even think it matters, but it’s clear that it comes from a very personal, specific place. Graham’s main character, Franny, is a mid-twenties struggling actor in New York. As a young adult, I could see this story being inspirational. As an actual adult in the age range of the main character, it hits on something else altogether. It’s like a chronicle of what I feel, and what I imagine I might feel in the future. I don’t want to be an actress, but I have related goals and self-doubts, and it’s scary and comforting to know that someone successful did, too. Franny has a way of being self-deprecating that’s so relatable without being pathetic or whiny. She’s inconsistent, like a real person. She has a fascinating backstory that’s accounted for, but doesn’t explain absolutely everything about her. She tows the line between true art and monetary success regularly, and struggles with the decisions she makes. She’s interested in certain guys for believable reasons, and the choice in her prescribed love triangle is not obvious. She’s truly multidimensional.
I related especially closely to Franny’s general social graces but specific attention to certain social cues. There is a scene in which she and her actor love interest, James, act out a romantic scene together, but she hadn’t prepared or read the scene all the way through, so she thought James was coming on to her, when really he was just saying lines from the scene. It’s brilliant. And even though it’s something I can’t literally relate to, because I’m not an actor, I felt like I could literally relate to the misreading of the situation. The getting-in-too-deep and needing to save yourself. The extreme self consciousness and thrill of trying to play catchup for the fear that the other person wouldn’t notice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that described in a book before, but when Graham wrote it out, it felt like she had been inside my head before she did it.
Her language is concise and straightforward and hilarious, and she doesn’t spend a lot of time being imprecise or wishy-washy. That’s another thing I’ve always liked about her, when I’ve seen her in interviews, and it comes through in her writing. When daydreaming about the aforementioned James, she says, “Maybe he grew up on a farm in Texas, or Georgia. Maybe he had chores in the barn every day, and helped his father harvest corn” (p. 46). And when she actually pursues him, she is surprised by her own success: “I have been forthright and bold, like a woman with actual confidence would be, and in return for my bravery I have received a direct and pleasing answer” (p. 181). Her inner thoughts are nerdy, but they come out glibly, and so it’s impossible not to like her.
She also makes acting, something so foreign to most people, very easy to understand, at least from an aspirational standpoint. Regarding The Phantom of the Opera, she describes the frustration of the people in the show in a way that most viewers never would have thought about: “I imagine being in the cast of that show and having to listen to people talk about the chandelier as their favorite part” (p. 77). She also describes being a perceived minority in a sea of majority egoists: “I wonder what that’s like, to never worry about filling the silence” (p. 78). Another favorite, along the same lines: “I’m too concerned with feeling good to be willing to feel as bad as I should to be successful” (p. 150).
The book ends on a somewhat ambiguous note, perhaps to indicate that there’s more to come, but it’s also a pretty satisfying way to leave Franny, too. In the end, she’s comfortable with ambiguity because she knows she can handle it. And ambiguity, as Graham proves with this excellent book, turns out to be pretty lucrative if you know how to work it.