The following is in response to the film Wonder Boys, based on a book of the same name written by Michael Chabon.
This film is about the interactions between two writers: professor Grady Tripp played by Michael Douglas and student James Leer played by Tobey Maguire. The difference between the two writers is that Leer is young and has completed a novel and Tripp—obviously older—is suffering from what I can only describe as reverse writer’s block: he is unable to stop writing his book. Tripp has written a manuscript that is over two thousand pages with no end in sight.
The film also says a lot about writers and their craft. What I have read about the book is that there is a recurring thought about how writers are more or less freaks. Chabon writes that writers are a “sour and squirrelly race” that suffers from “midnight disease”—an emotional insomnia. This is seen in the film when Leer says that he stays awake at night and thinks about his writing; Tripp seems to be in this state continually, walking around in a marijuana haze. At one point, Tripp flat-out tells Leer that he is a freak.
Though the writing process doesn’t always turn writers into pot-heads—at least this is definitely not the case with me—writing is often an arduous profession and can make the best writers become emotionally ill. Perhaps the same could be said about Truman Capote—in the film Capote, Truman is a drunken ass at a party celebrating Harper Lee’s success with “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Even Jack Dunphy is seen in the film slamming a door on Truman, ill because the interference of noise. I guess all writers have that odd quirk, rituals they perform in order to write as Tripp wears an old bath-robe.