Like many others who’ve been privileged to spend most of the pandemic thus far working from home, I’ve started to go back into the office a couple of days a week, and let me tell you, I picked an excellent first commuting book in We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman. I absolutely love books that engage with the mental gymnastics, emotional instability, moral quandaries, and all the other messiness of being a creative, and Silverman does it with aplomb here in this story of a playwright whose descent into temporary madness cost her a promising career and forced her to start over across the country. It’s incredibly messy, but who among us isn’t at least a little bolstered by the fact that everyone screws up tremendously in their own ways, and no one fully has it together?
Not too long ago, Cass was a promising young playwright in New York, hailed as “a fierce new voice” and “queer, feminist, and ready to spill the tea.” But at the height of all this attention, Cass finds herself at the center of a searing public shaming, and flees to Los Angeles to escape — and reinvent herself. There she meets her next-door neighbor Caroline, a magnetic filmmaker on the rise, as well as the pack of teenage girls who hang around her house. They are the subjects of Caroline’s next semi-documentary movie, which follows the girls’ violent fight club, a real-life feminist re-purposing of the classic.
As Cass is drawn into the film’s orbit, she is awed by Caroline’s ambition and confidence. But over time, she becomes increasingly troubled by how deeply Caroline is manipulating the teens in the name of art. When a girl goes missing, Cass must reckon with her own ambitions and ask herself: in the pursuit of fame, how do you know when you’ve gone too far?