Oscar Wilde turned the idea on its head when he said: “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” There is a frightening number of examples of real life apparently copying circumstances as related in art works, films and prose.
One of the main concepts behind my novel Simon Says was the idea of fiction turning into fact. In a fit of exasperation about confused postmen and an unreachable neighbour, Simon vents his frustration by writing a fictional story, killing off his neighbour. To his great surprise the man then really dies. And the more he writes, the more he influences reality, to the point where someone dear to him seems bound to become a victim of his imaginings.
I thought of Simon again the other day in a weird twist of life imitating art. First, here is an excerpt from the book:
Simon was tempted to eat the whole packet of muffins all in one go. He would die an agonising death of indigestion. Let no one deny him his misery over his damaged car. He was sitting on the veranda, sharing his second muffin with a grateful Coyote, when her ears suddenly perked up and she ran over to the fence. She barked and scratched at the fence, throwing up soil and mulch.
Still chewing on his muffin, Simon walked over. Putting an eye to the fence, he peered through the wooden slats. At times a big tabby cat from somewhere in the neighbourhood wandered over and he expected that it was this that set Coyote off. He did not expect to see the blond head of a child.
“Good morning,” he said, for want of a better opening line.
The child slowly looked up. It was a girl of five or six, huddled in among the gardenia flowers and the fronds of a golden cane palm. She had clear blue eyes and cradled a doll in her arms. When she smiled up at Simon, a dimple appeared in her cheek.
“Hello,” she said. “My name is Anna.”
“Hello, Anna. I’m Simon. Would you like a muffin?”
So much for fiction. In real life we were recently doing landscaping on a battle axe property (another similarity with the novel), transforming a bare muddy patch into garden beds and lawn. In a previous phase the space had been occupied by a rampant growth of palms and shrubs, which were subsequently removed some time before we came onto the scene.
The elderly couple living next door evidently had some visitors and it wasn't long before a small voice piped up through the slatted fence.
"Hello." A girl of about five years old was down on her knees, peeping through the slats.
"Are you building a house?"
"No, we're making a garden."
"To make it beautiful."
"Oh. But there was a garden. What happened to the other garden?"
"They took it out, I think. They removed the plants."
"Yes," confirmed the girl. "The other garden died."
Some chapters on in Simon Says the golden cane palms where Anna is sitting are removed. Men die, gardens die. In fact as in fiction.
As life keeps on imitating art imitating life imitating art. Ad infinitum.