At The Water Works Restaurant and Lounge, Quick contemplates Philly communities.
From Benjamin Franklin to Noam Chomsky and, of course, the creators of the Berenstain Bears, Philadelphia has seen authors of all stripes. One of the latest is Matthew Quick, whose debut novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, tells the story of a local family’s efforts to support each other through mental illness and the up-and-down fortunes of the Philadelphia Eagles. “I was trying to write about this place that was really healthy and really bad for me at the same time, and that’s what the Eagles are for most people in Philadelphia,” Quick jokes.
The 2012 David O. Russell film based on the book starred Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and was nominated for eight Academy Awards—including nods in all four acting categories (netting Lawrence an Oscar) and for best picture. His latest novel, The Good Luck of Right Now (published by Harper), is the story of Bartholomew Neil, a mentally challenged Philadelphian, told entirely through letters to actor Richard Gere. A feature film adaptation is currently in development.
Quick sat down with Philadelphia Style to discuss his work old and new, the city’s literary character (and characters!), and his own Philadelphia story.
Philly plays such a huge role in your writing. What is your history with the city?
I have memories going back to being a small kid on the stoop in North Philly, where I was born. It’s just always been a part of my identity. It’s who I am. It’s where my people come from.
What is it about the relationships of Philadelphians that makes them interesting subjects?
Philadelphians are people who care about each other. They’re hard on each other, but if you do the right things, people reward that. My books are largely about people who make ways to find unlikely communities and bond together. But one of the downsides of being in this place is that it’s hard to be different. Writing poetry in high school didn’t compute. I might as well have said, “I’m going to quarterback the Eagles someday.”
So how did your new book, The Good Luck of Right Now, come about?
I started thinking about the rhythms of the universe and the coincidences that brought me to this point—synchronicity was interesting to me. Also, many years ago I received a “Free Tibet” letter from Richard Gere. I read it and I thought, There must be people who take this seriously.
Since writing these books, you’ve become an advocate for mental health awareness. Can you tell us more about that?
True love for someone isn’t loving them just when their life is perfect. That’s also Philly: We may have warts, but we take care of our own.