SHADOWS AND GHOSTS
Categories: Contemporary, Literary, Satire, Women's, Jewish
I wrote Shadows and Ghosts because I love movies and I wanted
to give readers a cinematic experience, but, more specifically, the kind
of cinematic experience one finds in classic women's movies. So, I
fashioned a tale about a critically acclaimed, slightly crazy, Bohemian
filmmaker, and gave her a conservative, uptight, identical twin sister.
Then, I surrounded her with a cast of women as smart, mouthy, and
neurotic as she is, and framed her story with screenwriters' directions
and images from the films that shaped her life.
The book opens with this image from Young Frankenstein—
Dr. Victor Frankenstein stands over the inanimate hulk he has made and begs the heavens to give it life.
— because it represents how my filmmaker, Ida Mae Glick, and probably all filmmakers, writers, artists, and composers feel when they create something.
SUGGESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
In her opening statement, Ida Mae cites images from these films:
—Singing in the Rain
Even if the films are unfamiliar, the images provide an important introduction to Ida Mae's character. Why?
Mae says, "Within this frame, I can impose context upon chaos, mess
with people's minds, and manipulate their perceptions." Does this make
you trust her as her story unfolds? Or not?
The main body of the book begins with the phrase: "Fade In." What effect did that have on how you read the book?
has two narratives going simultaneously: Ida's Mae's first person, past
tense account of the events leading up to her heart attack, and a third
person, present tense description of the events following it.
Did this technique ever make you ever feel as though you were watching a film that had a voice-over?
Shadows and Ghosts deals with relationships between:
—mothers and daughters
—patients and therapists
—husbands and wives
—unmarried men and women
—artists and their subjects
—reality and illusion
—the living and the dead
How do these materialize in the book? (For instance, Ida Mae and Lisa are sisters and twins. But, are there any other types of sisters? Any other types of twins—i.e. non-human images that occur as twins. There are two main mother-daughter relationships—Ida Mae's and Edna's, and Fern's and Judith's. But are there any other motherly relationships between characters?). Discuss these and how they connect to each other and the book as a whole.
While there are many women in Shadows and Ghosts, Ida Mae, Fern, Lisa, Edna, and Judith have the largest roles and go through the greatest changes. Discuss the growth (or lack thereof!) in these women. How did you see them at the beginning of the book? In the middle? At the end?
Spencer K. Montague's tale occurs as a story within a story which uses many of the book's themes, such altered vision and the boundary between reality and illusion. What other themes can you find in it?
Why does Spencer begin his tale by talking about the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden?
Who is his other-worldly visitor in the forest preserve and jail?
Who are Ida Mae's other-worldly visitors?
Although there are many other-worldly beings in the book, the title refers to other types of shadows and ghosts, too. What are they?
After Ida Mae and Edna argue in Chapter Five, Edna disappears. In
Chapter Six, Ida Mae says, "I never should have yelled at her." Is she
talking about their most recent argument? Or
What does Ida Mae want most in life?
ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
Watch The World of Henry Orient,
would Ida Mae and her sister feel so strongly about this film?
girl do think Ida Mae felt was most like her? What about Lisa?
see any other parallels between Ida Mae and Lisa and the characters in
the film, particularly regarding their fantasy lives, and their
relationships with their parents?
—Do you think Ida Mae saw any of
herself in Henry Orient?
Watch Rebel without a Cause.
spoke to a generation of teens in the 1950's, and made James Dean a
star. Why does Ida Mae identify with it?
Watch The Purple Rose of Cairo.
—Of all his movies, Woody Allen calls Purple Rose
his favorite. Ida Mae feels such a strong connection to this film that she cites it as she enters the Wielander Dairy Barn for the first time,
and meets Phyllis's friends. What similarities do you see between the
boundary between the real and cinematic worlds in Allen's film, and the
boundary between those two worlds in Ida Mae's life.
—In both the film
and book, what consequences arise when those boundaries dissolve and characters cross them?
Look at these paintings by Rene Magritte:
The Human Condition I
Empire of Lights
The Blank Signature
The Son of Man
The Large Family
The Voice of the Winds
Mae says of Magritte, "He would have been my guru...had we lived at the
same time." What is is there about this artist's work that so appeals
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