Character in the In Between
My son and I have a joke that if he wants me to watch something that’s a bit of a stretch, all he has to say is, “Mom, it’s got great character development,” and I’m in. That’s how he got me to watch the movie Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, which is a story about character development set in a multiverse. It turns out that in-between spaces are great for exploring character, be that a modern tale about string theory or the bardo.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is about the character of President Abraham Lincoln, and it is set in the bardo, a Tibetan Buddhist idea describing the state of a soul between death and rebirth. The story takes place on one night. Following the death of Lincoln’s son Willie from typhoid fever, the boy was buried in a borrowed crypt in Oak Hill Cemetery. Newspapers reported that Lincoln visited the grave during the night, and Saunders uses that fact as the jumping off point to pull off a challenge — to help us see one of America’s greatest presidents more clearly.
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