Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! To evoke the famous luck of the Irish, four of our contributors present you with their recommendations for kismet-themed fiction. Somehow they all drew the short straw.
The Joy Luck Club (1993)
Ireland’s claim on luck as part of its cultural identity has always struck me as a bit odd, given the country’s tumultuous history. If I had to associate the notion with any people, it’d be either the Chinese, for whom gambling is considered a national pastime, or the Americans, for whom betting high comprises an intrinsic part of the national dream. One might find it fitting then that my recommendation for this piece centers on Chinese Americans. I’m referring to one of my all-time favourite flicks: Wayne Wang’s The Joy Luck Club.
Adapted from Amy Tan’s novel, The Joy Luck Club tells of two generations of women. The first is raised in China, where the mother characters accumulate enough hardship to think the scales ought to balance in favour of their offspring. The second grows up in America, where the daughters carry the weight of that promise. The way each woman deals with good and bad fortune bears insight on Chinese culture, the immigrant experience, parenthood, and the bond between fate and expectation. As a teen, I especially related to June (Ming Na), who shared my longing to be understood and recognised. That I met her at a time when I desperately needed a soul mate (real or fictional) speaks to my own luck, I think.
Putting aside the question of whether it’s real or not, there exist two schools of thoughts in regard to luck. One maintains that we each have a set amount to be emptied out, and the other, that we can make our own. The former belief is embodied in the Spanish film Intacto (2001), in which gamblers single people out for their luck and throw them into deadly contests like running blindfolded through a forest (lucky, no?). The latter informs my true recommendation for this piece: the 1985 Marvel Comics mini-series Longshot.
Questions of self-determination, fate, and the charm of being in the right place at the right time form the backdrop to this X-Men tie-in about an alien refugee with uncanny luck powers. If you haven’t read it, Longshot is well worth the effort to track down for both Ann Nocenti’s upbeat writing and Art Adams’ amazing artwork. It lays the cards out nicely, telling the story of not just the lucky but also the trampled luck leaves behind when all one does is accept life with a shrug and a smile.
A great book comes to mind whenever I think of luck. I could devote an entire website to the masterpiece and then write a sixty-page page essay or two. Unfortunately, I doubt anyone will pick up The Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player Handbook: Second Edition, no matter how much I praise it. I can recommend the next best thing though. I’m referring to BioWare’s Baldur’s Gate, a 1998 video game that bases its mechanics on the rules of chance established in Dungeons and Dragons.
Baldur’s Gate pits you against various mercenaries as you try to solve your guardian’s murder and uncover a crazy world of conspiracy and betrayal. The different classes available for your character (mage, fighter, cleric, etc.) create new challenges with every play-through. In addition, the game offers tons of extra quests and areas to explore, making it akin to an MMORPG in the style of EverQuest but without the pesky monthly fee. I don’t know about you, but I consider free entertainment a sign a good fortune indeed.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
No movie embodies the many iterations of luck quite like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which tells of a charismatic teen (Mathew Broderick) playing hooky to help his best bud (Alan Ruck) come to terms with impending adulthood. The movie shows us what life can be when we take the bull by the horns, but it also throws in lessons about karma and serendipity for good measure. From the answering machine to his sister’s sudden change of heart, everything works for this guy, partly because he plans for it but largely because his good character manifests it.
The truth is I’ve had a crush on Ferris for over twenty years. If my boyfriend planned a day like this and took me along, I would be his forever (and count myself lucky). That he would do it all to pull his friend out of a downward spiral gives Ferris Bueller’s Day Off the warm gooey centre it needs to make us forget the absurdity of one man having so much luck. Besides, any movie spoofed in a Super Bowl commercial ought to qualify as a classic.