Friday, September 28, 2018

Halle Butler, 'Jillian' (2015), Part I

Halle Butler, Jillian. Chicago: Curbside Splendor, 2015.

I read this twice in a row, first to see what happens and secondly, to see how things happen. 

Musing on Butler's style and substance, I had a vision of Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult, Tully) working with Werner Herzog (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Bad Lieutenant) to create a variation on Charles Schulz's Peanuts. It's wacky, sad and right on.

The setting is not overplayed, but there are clues that the location is Chicago (North Side, Far North Side, Northwest Side, Palatine or thereabouts), and the time is the 21st century, with lingering vestiges of the 20th (an office fax machine, for instance).

If you approach the main characters with the Dalai Lama's discussion of Compassion in mind, you will truly empathize with them. "To be genuine, compassion must be based on respect for the other, and on the realization that others have the right to be happy and overcome suffering, just as much as you. On this basis, since you can see that others are suffering, you develop a genuine sense of concern for them." (The Essential Dalai Lama: His Important Teachingsedited by Rajiv Mehrotra, New York: Penguin, 2005, p. 22).
Jillian Bradley is, on the surface, recklessly optimistic, while her office co-worker and foil Megan is heedlessly cynical. Both are unmoored, lost, nearly alone (socially alienated, trapped in their own minds) as they deal with contemporary life, complete with its endless economic constrictions, demands and expectations. The raucous humor of Butler's approach underscores the daunting realities of their lives. It's a bit like Ulysses through the scrim of two 21st century adult female workers who must deal with the indignities, absurdities and possibilities of daily life. 

Another post will delve into additional details, but the main things to keep in mind for now are that Jillian has a young son, Adam, and she adds a dog, Crispy, to the volatile mix of her household economy; while Megan, depressed and cutting -- wickedly so, at times -- has a dubious paramour, Randy, and even more dubious frenemies to contend with. It is through their interconnecting social -- and socio-economic -- relations that Jillian and Megan must operate, and with which many readers will undoubtedly relate. 

Today's Rune: Harvest. 

No comments: