Someday, Someday, Maybe: A Novel
Lauren Graham (Twitter) (Fan site) (IMDb)
Ballantine Books (April 2013), Hardcover (ISBN 0385367473 / 9780345532749)
Fiction, 352 pages
Source: Purchased audiobook (Random House Audio, April 2013, ISBN 9780385367486; Audible ASIN B00B3Y1B5U)
Reason for reading: Personal
“’Begin whenever you’re ready,’ comes the voice from the back of the house.
“Oh, I’m ready.
“After all, I’ve prepared for this day for years: The Day of the Most Important Audition of a Lifetime Day. Now that it’s finally here, I’m going to make a good impression, I’m sure of it. I might even book the job. The thought makes me smile, and I take a deep breath, head high, body alert, but relaxed. I’m ready, alright. I’m ready to speak my first line.
“’Eeessssaaheeehaaa.’ The sound that comes out of me is thin and high, a shrill wheezing whine, like a slowly draining balloon or a drowning cat with asthma.
“Shake it off. Don’t get rattled. Try again.
“I clear my throat.
“’Haaaaaawwrrrblerp.’ Now my tone is low and gravelly, the coarse horn of a barge coming into shore, with a weird burping sound at the end. ‘Hawrblerp?’ That can’t be my line. I don’t think it’s even a word. Oh, God, I hope they don’t think I actually burped.”
Book description, from the publisher’s website
It’s January 1995, and Franny Banks has just six months left of the three-year deadline she set for herself when she came to New York, dreaming of Broadway and doing “important” work. But all she has to show for her efforts so far is a part in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters, and a gig waiting tables at a comedy club. Her roommates–her best friend Jane, and Dan, an aspiring sci-fi writer–are supportive, yet Franny knows a two-person fan club doesn’t exactly count as success. Everyone tells her she needs a backup plan, and though she can almost picture moving back home and settling down with her perfectly nice ex-boyfriend, she’s not ready to give up on her goal of having a career like her idols Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep. Not just yet. But while she dreams of filling their shoes, in the meantime, she’d happily settle for a speaking part in almost anything—and finding a hair product combination that works.
Everything is riding on the upcoming showcase for her acting class, where she’ll finally have a chance to perform for people who could actually hire her. And she can’t let herself be distracted by James Franklin, a notorious flirt and the most successful actor in her class, even though he’s suddenly started paying attention. Meanwhile, her bank account is rapidly dwindling, her father wants her to come home, and her agent doesn’t return her calls. But for some reason, she keeps believing that she just might get what she came for.
Comments: I’ve long since owned up to my guilty-pleasure reading of celebrity memoir, but celebrity-penned fiction is something I’ve been more hesitant to try. But I was willing to set aside any misgivings for Lauren Graham, the actress who embodied one of my all-time-favorite TV characters, Lorelai Gilmore of Gilmore Girls, especially after I learned that she read the audiobook of her semi-autobiographical first novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe, herself.
Graham’s protagonist/stand-in, Franny Banks, is quickly approaching the last six months of her self-imposed three-year deadline to make a go of an acting career New York City, and it’s not looking promising. She’s done a couple of commercials, but the closest she’s come to stage work is in her acting classes…and at the comedy club where she serves drinks. She’s got her fingers crossed that she’ll get noticed for her monologue during the annual class showcase, and then things will start happening–but until they do, she’ll be taking catering jobs to pay the rent she splits with her best friend Jane, a production assistant, and Dan, a Princeton who crushed his parents’ med-school plans for him when he decided to try writing sci-fi screenplays.
Someday, Someday, Maybe has a firm sense of time and place: New York City, 1995. Franny and her roommates share a converted brownstone apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in the pre-hipster era when it was still outer-boroughs cheap to live there. Pay phones are still plentiful all over the city, and when you can’t reach someone via one of those phones, you leave messages on her answering machine and ask her to note them in her Filofax datebook. The Internet is still the province of a niche market of techie specialists, and video-rental stores are big business. While on the one hand I find it a little sad to be nostalgic for the ’90s, it is pretty striking to realize just how much we’ve come to take for granted in less than 20 years. Being constantly connected and accessible to one another hasn’t just changed the way we tell our stories; it changes how they happen. Some aspects of Franny’s story would play out differently in 2013, just because the world works differently. That said, the heart of Franny’s story is finding one’s footing in adulthood–the tension between pursuing your dreams and making a living, learning and working, and navigating new and changing relationships–and that story remains resonant and timeless.
I thought Franny was thoroughly charming, and related all too well to her insecurity-fueled inner monologues, although I was less patient with the guy-inspired ones than the career-conflicted ones. I felt like the romantic angle of Someday, Someday, Maybe was there because it was supposed to be, and for me, it was the least compelling part of the novel. It’s curious; Graham has said she wrote a novel because she tried a memoir first, but it just wasn’t that interesting; but for me, the element that most establishes this book in a conventional fiction framework isn’t terribly interesting either; it feels less authentic, although it could be just as autobiographical as some of the other attributes Graham has given Franny. And all things considered, I found the novel generally enjoyable and in spots delightful, and I breezed through the audiobook. There are times when Graham’s reading really does sound like reading, but she handles the dialogue and character voices particularly well, and her connection to the material is never in question. There’s already talk of a followup novel and/or a TV-series adaptation, and I’d be happy to spend more time with Franny Banks either way.