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Monday, May 2, 2011

Read The Book Before You see the Movie! An Invisible Sign

I wanted to tell everyone who might not know that An Invisible Sign of My Own was a magnificently written, strangely real, and thrillingly odd novel by Aimee Bender before it became what looks like a pretty good movie, An Invisible Sign, with Jessica Alba, releasing May 6.

I read this book in the year 2000, in a library copy, and later bought a hardback when I had the means. I seized it off  the New Titles shelf as if there were a mob behind me, waiting to take it from me, because I had just come across Bender's short story collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, and every last one of them knocked me out cold. I had just completed an MFA in translation and then an MA in Medieval Studies, and not to knock the stuff I was translating and criticizing, but I hadn't read for pleasure for at least three years. I simply did not know that writing could be so wonderfully strange -- and still get published.

I was incredibly jealous.

Here I was, unemployed in my city of choice, hunched over a rickety table in the poorly wallpapered kitchen I shared with two roommates -- one of whom would tape the thermostat in place at just 55 degrees -- warmed by the energy of this book and saying "wow!" at every other word. The main character is incredibly observant, but can't make much sense of what she sees, so she takes refuge in the certainty of numbers. Haven't we all felt a little like that sometimes? Substitute words for numbers and that's me for most of my life. Through her job as a math teacher, she's thrown in among people and learns to make connections. The invisible sign has to do with someone in the neighborhood she sees hanging actual signs around his neck to alert everyone to his mood level -- not that anyone else understands the code.

That's a terrible synopsis. The really great thing about An Invisible Sign of My Own is the writing. I can't wait to see how it translates to film.

So anyway, read this amazing book. (Order it from Amazon by clicking the ad!) Then go see the movie.