Reading Questions for Someday This Will Be Funny by Lynne Tillman
June 07, 2011
Warning: May contain spoilers
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. In the first story in the collection, "That's How Wrong My Love Is," the narrator describes her relationship with a pair of mourning doves that nest outside her apartment in New York City. What else is the story about? What do we learn about the narrator and her environment? What kind of a person is she? And what do you think the title of the story refers to?
2. Lynne Tillman's stories rarely have a traditional narrative arc, an obvious "beginning-middle-end." The story "Chartreuse" describes a married couple on their fifth anniversary. What is happening in the moment of the story? What are the implications for the couple later on?
3. "A Simple Idea" is, on the surface, about someone who thinks she's been caught by the police for parking in an illegal parking spot—but the story actually traces the arc of a friendship between two women. Does the depiction of the friendship feel realistic to you? What do you think about how the story ends? Do you have any relationships that are defined by one great story?
4. One of the most provocative stories in the collection is "Give Us Some Dirt." Discuss the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. What were the facts of the hearings? What was at stake? How is the Clarence of the story portrayed? "When he delivered his rare speeches, he occasionally mentioned his girth, which drew a laugh, since his body was a source of mirth." Who is laughing at his body, and why? "He'd have the last laugh, he was color blind, and they'd all pay in the end." Is Clarence color-blind? Who will pay in the end?
5. Talk about how Tillman plays with traditional gender roles in "Playing Hurt." Who is the "breadwinner"? Who is the "victim"?
6. In "But There's a Family Resemblance," the narrator talks about the different ways we know our families—through stories passed down through generations, through photographs or home movies, through inherited wisdom absorbed through the culture and mass media. What informs the ways in which you think about your family? The narrator also insists that secrecy is an essential component of family. Do you agree? Are there secrets in your family that you feel duty-bound to keep? Does loyalty require us to keep secrets?
7. "Later" imagines a conversation between Marvin Gaye and John Lennon. What did the two of them want to learn from each other? What did each of them have to give? Imagine a conversation between two other musicians (or artists or writers, etc). What would you want them to ask each other?
8. Finally, think about the title of the collection itself: Someday This Will Be Funny. What is Tillman saying about how time changes the way we feel about events? Are there any events that can never be funny, no matter how much time has passed?