I think we’ll put this one on the best-of-the-year watch list. It’s about Lawrence, a recovering alcoholic and aspiring TV writer who is working on a script for a pilot. His agent is obscure, and Lawrence’s recent work is an underarm commercial that was shot in “tax-friendly Winston-Salem.” Lawrence obsesses about an invitation he receives from Kate Lotvelt, an actress/producer/writer whom he’s met, briefly. He worries about how he responded, he worries that she invited him by mistake, he worries that she hasn’t responded to his RSVP. Beautiful obsessing and, I have to say, totally realistic.
There’s more, of course, from whether he should invite his roommate along, to what he should wear. (I’m surprised he doesn’t obsess about what time to arrive, since that’s pretty common obsession material.) On the way to the party, he goes to a bar, even though his mother has called as she does every day so that he will promise her that he won’t drink. In the bar, though, after he’s ordered the drink he’s promised he won’t have, he gets a sign to straighten up, and so he leaves without drinking.
And then he gets to the party, still obsessing. This is all beautifully done. He wants to present his pilot—he’s carrying pages—to Kate. As readers, we know that his pilot is derivative of the show Kate has just finished work on. He chats with her—after he reminds her who he is—but he doesn’t show her the pages. And when she moves on to another conversation, he begins to drink. From there, the ending is inevitable.
Good stuff. Ferris belongs on that “20 Under 40” list that this story is a part of.
[available online only to subscribers, but check out the Q&A with Joshua Ferris]
June 14 & 21, 2010
“The Pilot” by Joshua Ferris