Real life: My mother stares at me as I try to pick up our dog by the hind legs and push her around the living room like a wheelbarrow. “Don’t do that,” she says. I decide to write my first short story. It is called “Wheelbarrow Dog.”

Biopic: My mother stares at me icily as I, a writing prodigy, pick at my breakfast. “You know, if you don’t like it,” she says, taking a long drag of a cigarette, “I can feed it to the dogs.” She picks up the plate and throws it at the wall, where it shatters above my head. Although we are Jewish, my mother is played by Nicole Kidman.

Young Adulthood

Real life: I am thirteen years old, and I write short stories about a glamorous crow who runs a detective agency. The only item on my Hanukkah wish list is a CD of the original soundtrack to The Hours. I vaguely wonder what kissing is like.

Biopic: I, a thirteen-year-old writing prodigy, stare at my pills as they scatter across the bathroom tile. My father, Jewish Russell Crowe, tries to help me pick them up. “LEAVE THEM!!!” I scream, wild-eyed, mascara streaming down my face. I grab the Seder plate my father is holding and throw it at the bathroom wall, where it shatters above his head. “Words fail me,” he quietly says as he leaves, adding, “and one day they will fail you.”


Real life: I look out the window and see that it is raining. “How am I supposed to make it to English class when it’s raining outside?” I mutter, turning on the TV. Jackpot! It’s the cycle of America’s Next Top Model where the girls have to pose in open graves.

Biopic: I look out the window. It is raining, which is a metaphor for the tumultuous nature of my mental state as a young writing prodigy. My prickly mentor (Paul Bettany, Not Jewish) knows that I will be the one to write the poem that will end the Cold War, although I am wracked with doubt. “There must be something that connects all these letters,” I plead, and he shakes his head in disgust. “You will always be locked in a struggle between genius and madness,” he says. As I sink to the ground, my pill bottle breaks dramatically. I begin to sob.


Real life: “How’s your writing going?” my roommate asks. “Great,” I lie. “Did you see that article about how some eels are becoming hyperactive because rivers are full of cocaine?” My roommate shakes her head. “No,” she says. “I am a lawyer.”

Biopic: “How’s your writing going?” my colleague asks. I show him what I’ve been working on: twenty-six letters, arranged in countless combinations, separated by symbols I call punctuation marks. “You’re in too deep,” he says, shaking his head. My lip begins to quiver. What does he know about my work? About my words? I go to slap my colleague, and my hand passes right through his face. My god, I think as I begin to sob on the ground, have I been hallucinating my writing partner this entire time?

Middle Age

Real life: It is cold outside. “How am I supposed to write when it’s cold outside?” I ask, turning on the TV. Jackpot! It’s the cycle of America’s Next Top Model where Tyra pretends to faint to teach the girls about acting.

Biopic: It is cold outside. “All this writing, and where has it gotten you?” Jewish Nicole Kidman asks as we sit by an icy lake. “No husband, no children, no nothing. Just a dusty basement full of college-ruled paper.” A tear falls down my face as she drives away. I can never tell her that my writing is the only thing protecting us from the Soviets, just as I can never tell her that the inside of my house is covered in broken plates and loose pills. That night, in a fit of rage, I invent the exclamation point.

Old Age

Real life: “I’m sorry for pushing the dog around like a wheelbarrow when I was younger,” I tell my mother, clutching her feeble hand. “Have you gotten published in the New Yorker yet?” My mother asks.

Biopic: My old mentor (Paul Bettany, Still Not Jewish) comes to visit me at the seaside cottage where I’ve been living. “You look good,” he says cautiously. I tell him that I’ve changed. I’m taking my meds now, and I’m finally thinking clearly for the first time in years. My mentor smiles at me. “I got a call from Stockholm,” he says. “The Nobel Prize is yours—if you want it, that is.” A smile creeps across my face as the background music swells triumphantly.


Real life: I am hit by a car while riding a Razor scooter.

Biopic: I finish writing my life’s work, a philosophical treatise that lists every word and explains what they all mean. I have invented the dictionary, and it is my masterpiece. I take a seat in a chair next to the seaside and close my eyes. My silk scarf flutters off my head and is carried away by the wind. I take my final breath. Inside the cottage behind me, my cat knocks over all my plates.