The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

9780062107374_p0_v1_s192x300On my bookshelf is an old copy of Jane Wagner’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, with pictures of Lily Tomlin in her one-woman show, channelling a host of characters.

Lily Tomlin was in my life this week as Frankie in the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie.” I had resisted watching a svelte Jane Fonda and a funny Lily Tomlin, but after seeing Tomlin’s interview on the Late Show, I gave in.  I watched it all, and now I am missing Lily Tomlin’s character with her hippy-dippy soul-searching good heart.

The narrator of Jane Wagner’s tour de force is Trudy, a wise and funny bag lady who has been “certified” as mad, but whose wisdom and perception challenge those who are supposedly sane.  Others appear through Tomlin’s talent: Chrissy, a young woman who spends too many hours in a health club; Agnus Angst, an unhappy adolescent who tries to use a book written by Gordon Liddy (notorious from the Watergate scandal) as a guide to life; and a group of friends who have been together through the  failed “Women’s Strike for Equality,” and are not sure what to do now.

Opening the book randomly (after looking at the pictures, of course), I found a gem:

“I have gained and lost the same ten pounds so many times over and over again my cellulite must have déjà vu.”

and another, even more relevant thirty years after the words were written:

“Wow, breathing is a bio-hazard. If we don’t take in air every few minutes, we die, but the air we are taking in is killing us.”

Underlying the humorous asides and the running commentary on society is the message that each of us has some power to alter the course of our own lives as well as our own world.  The same message ended the Frankie and Grace series, with both women hopeful and determined to finally set the direction of their own lives.

The book is actually the script enacted on a Broadway stage, and eventually made into a movie.  But I like the idea of reading it, being able to savor the phrases most appealing to me, even flipping back and forth to reread.  Guess I’ll just start at the beginning and enjoy being with Tomlin again for awhile.

“Here we are standing on the corner of “Walk, Don’t Walk”…

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