Thursday, June 20, 2019

Binnie Kirshenbaum's "Rabbits for Food"

Binnie Kirshenbaum is a novelist and short story writer. She has twice won the Critic's Choice Award and the Discovery Award. She was one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists and one of Paper magazine's Beautiful People. Her books have been selected as Favorite Books of the Year by The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, Newsweek, Vogue and National Public Radio. Her work has been translated into seven languages. She is a professor and Fiction Director at Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts.

Here Kirshenbaum dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Rabbits for Food:
There’s no costume nor any amount of make-up to transform Ricky Gervais into an attractive forty-three year old woman, but he’d be pitch perfect in the role of Bunny. While many fine actresses could be entirely convincingly as a clinically depressed woman—Keira Knightly was amazing as the severely mentally Sabine Spielrein in A Most Dangerous Method —but Bunny is not only deeply depressed. She is acerbic, anti-socially honest, and she has deep compassion for all animals and oppressed people. As Gervais does in his stand-up routines, and when he hosted the Oscars, Bunny wields her wit like a machete. She is wincingly funny. This willingness to speak truth as she sees it coupled with her anguished vulnerability results in comic excruciation; a state of being of which Ricky Gervais is the master. When my husband and I binge-watched The Office we laughed ourselves sick but by the end, I was weeping. I asked my husband, “Why am I crying?”

“How could you not be crying?” he said. “This is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Gervais’s character could not conceal his desperation to be loved by everyone; a desperation that thwarted any chance of fulfilling that need. Bunny’s desperation is better concealed, but the bottom line is the same. He wants to be loved. She wants to be special. His attempts to mask his humiliation fail, as do Bunny’s efforts to bury her shame.

For the obvious reasons, Gervais will never be cast as Bunny. In the terrific film Will You Ever Forgive Me, the extraordinarily versatile Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel was hilariously acerbic, anti-socially honest rude, and unbearably lonely. She’d make for a great Bunny, but to risk a comment of the sort Rickey Gervais might make, she’s too plump for the role. I say this only because it matters that Bunny is thin, too thin.

As to the right director, I haven’t a clue, but some years ago I gave a reading in Florida, after which an older woman marched up to me and asked, “Do you know my son?”

Her son was Todd Solondz, and I told her that I loved his films, but no, I didn’t know him.

“I thought you’d know each other,” she said, “because you’re both kooky.”
Learn more about the book and author at Binnie Kirshenbaum's website.

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