The film August: Osage County opens in the home of Violet and Beverly Weston. Their decades-long marriage has been an attempt to blend their divergent natures; Beverly’s is poetic, Violet’s is mean. She wreaks emotional violence against anyone who gets too close to her frayed center. Beverly navigates her tumultuous waters by gripping the gunwales. As the film starts, he is bearing the tempest that occurs when Violet learns he has hired “an Indian” (the tragically and recently deceased Misty Upham) to help care for her through her developing stages of oral cancer. Having provided for Violet in this way, Beverly launches a boat on the lake where he is later discovered to have drowned. His family considers it a suicide. His death brings their three daughters back home, as well as Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae; her husband, Charles; and their son, a grown man they call Little Charles.
Sometimes, especially when I’m most in need of meeting myself—the actual Jill long lost within the daily, rigid busyness of life—I hunt for myself in the files on my computer.
I look for me between the lines of what I have managed to write down, in words and images that, over time, come together in patterns and threads and whispers. And I try to understand what I believe I have been trying to tell myself. I have discovered that the Jill who has been writing these past few months is one who can’t stop talking about the past, about memory, about loss.
A place isn’t a place until you tell stories about it, says Wallace Stegner in “The Sense of Place.” In fact, Stegner says, “[N]o place is a place until it has had a poet.” He has Yeats in mind, who claimed about Ireland that “there is no river or mountain that is not associated in the memory with some event or legend.” Stegner goes on to worry about the American “mythless man” who “lives a life of his own, sunk in a subjective mania of his own devising, which he believes to be the newly discovered truth.”
It has always seemed strange to me . . . the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egoism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second. – John Steinbeck