“The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can’t ever really know…what’s going on. So it shouldn’t bother you. Not being able to figure anything out. Although you will be responsible for this on the midterm.”

– Larry Gopnik from A Serious Man

“I said: ‘I am alive’ and then pain said: ‘This does not create in me a sense of obligation.’”

– The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan


In my high school composition class, the teacher continually harped on the SSONW principle: “Say Something Old a New Way.” I can’t think of two better examples than McClanahan’s genre-fusing amusement park of a novel The Sarah Book and those dastardly Coen Bros’ A Serious Man.

With this book and movie pairing, you’ll find:

  • Artful angst-building
  • Sad motel rooms
  • That change and loss are inevitable but also inevitably hilarious
  • Surprising legal separations
  • Insatiability
  • The fear of being replaced and discovering that fear is completely valid
  • Tenderhearted nihilism
  • Strangely reverential views of parking lots
  • Emotionally wrecked professors and their run-ins with students
  • Mounting frustrations
  • Trying on religion and finding it’s not the right size
  • How to cope with being a cautionary tale

This pairing is a series of funny, ridiculous, mournful redefinitions. It teaches us via Postmodern Job figures that love/hate and alive/dead are the proverbial different sides of the same coin. This pairing will stomp on your heart and it will not apologize in the slightest and you will ask it for more.

If this combo didn’t portray such a hopeless view of marriage, you’d marry it. That’s the only way it would leave you alone, if you stick with McClanahan’s redefinition: “We didn’t have anything to say to one another. We were called a family.”