Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Year of Yes

I love stories about immersion experiences. A great example is Super Size Me, the now-famous film documenting the effect of a month's worth of McDonald's food on one Morgan Spurlock. The godfather of the genre may be George Plimpton, whose stories about his amateur ventures into various professional sports are classics. Another that I've only browsed at the bookstore is Nickled and Dimed, written by a woman who wanted to see if she could really live on a waitress's paycheck for a year.

Now there's The Year of Yes, the memoir of a woman who decided to accept every request for a date for an entire year. No more "I have to wash my hair," or "my sister's coming into town that night." It was all "yes," all the time. She went on 150 dates and ended up marrying one of the guys - a man, incidentally, she never would have considered under normal circumstances.

It strikes me that these are stories anyone could write (no offense to those who have obviously written them well). The key is total immersion in an unusual or unexpected experience. You have to be serious about whatever endeavor you've chosen, and then you have to document the experience mercilessly - knowing that your own frailties and shortcomings are a big part of the story.

The great thing about immersion stories is that they give the reader the feeling of being a fly on the wall - of participating in an interesting social experiment. Reality TV wants to make us feel the same way, but it fails. The cameras are too big. The situations are too contrived.

So what's my point? I'm just thinking out loud.


Sally said...

I should have written the decade of Yes. Kristen, let's reflect on one of our favorites: Trapper Jack. Ah... those were the days.

Kristen said...

Ah, Trapper Jack. There were so many great facets to him -- all of which were too bizarre to have made up... If only there were a show called: "The True Nashville Story: Trapper Jack."

trace said...

you should check out "My Date with Drew." a documentary (although it often feels like a scripted movie) about a young man who grew up with a crush on Drew Barrymore, won $1100 on a game show on which she was the final answer and takes his prize money and 30 days to get a date with the love of his life. talk about immersion.

i loved this movie. it was about a resourceful guy with a dream who made it happen (with the help of creative, supportive, talented and connected friends).

furthermore, i thoroughly love the idea of saying yes to all the date offers, if only i had had one offer. (how pathetic am i?)

imron said...

150 dates? Did Maria have a job during this time, or was she out every day hunting for dates and striking up conversations hoping to get asked out? I think that makes a big difference.

Anyhow, Matt it sounds like you wanted to have an immersion experience of your own. What would you pick?

jason boyett said...

Hey, guys. Trace, thanks for the proud-big-sister comments.

One of the coolest immersion books I've read is The Know-It-All, by A.J. Jacobs, in which he tries to read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica and documents everything he learns. Hilarious AND informative!

As a writer, I'm always thinking about this kind of thing, looking for an angle for a book. Let me know if any of you come up with one, so I can steal it.

Donoghue Nation said...

I don't think Matt has the stomach or the commitment to truly pull off an immersion experience. Recall his (unfulfilled) promise to eat one Krispy Kreme per mile travelled by my hubby during the 2001 Ironman. That would have been over 140 donuts in about 12 hours. I forget the final tally, but he fell far short of that goal. If the man can't immerse himself in Krispy Kremes, then what, by God, can he be relied on to immerse himself in?!