SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER by Fred Waitzkin
If you write, my recommendation is to watch the film before reading Fred Waitzkin’s memoir. I know this is a bizarre request, but trust me the reverse order will pay off.
If you read the memoir first, throughout the film you’ll say: That’s not how the events unfolded, or that never happened.
However, if you see the film—and I hope it is many times over—when you read you’ll be flooded with “Aha!” moments like…So, this is where that moment in the movie came from. That entire scene developed out of this tiny interchange. Wow, that movie character is really a combination of about ten real-life characters.
All of these realizations will shake you out of your writing rut. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the power of extrapolation, discover the importance of truth in fiction and rediscover the key to drama lies in fictionalizing the truth.
By comparing Fred Waitzkin’s memoir to the movie you will also see how simple pieces of any life can evolve into an action packed story without the weight of backstory. Strong action is the result of material chosen wisely.
And for writers addicted, or rather dependent, on workshops and craft books there is no better advice than that of Josh’s teacher Bruce Pandolfini: I am only here to help you look. You have to find the answer yourself.
But Searching for Bobby Fischer is a compelling read even if you don’t write. And an ability to play chess isn’t a requirement to appreciate the journey of this father and son.
Readers will invest in Josh and Fred Waitzkin because they are flesh and blood, flawed and conflicted. Their shared goal, which becomes an obsession, leads Fred to fear he may fail as a father. While Josh—who plays like a Russian grandmaster at the age of seven and is adamant about hanging on to first place because “only first place means anything,”—sometimes only wants to act his age. “If I do good, will you buy me a vanilla shake at Bob Smiths?”
We root for Fred and Josh no differently than we do for the most complex of fictional characters. Their journey becomes our own. Even after seeing the movie countless times, I still couldn’t turn the pages fast enough—especially near the end.
I can’t imagine anyone reading this memoir without being moved. The single-minded passion of Fischer, the Waitzkins’ love of the game, and the sacrifices of the chess players in Russia and Washington Square Park in New York are an inspiration to everyone with a dream.
Searching for Bobby Fischer reminds us to remember the love of the quest, for love is what carries us through the highs and lows.
Strengthen your openings and master your endgame with Searching for Bobby Fischer.