Thoughts: August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

OsageAugust: Osage County

Tracy Letts

138 pages

Published in 2008 by Theatre Communications Group

Source: Personal Library

Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

A few years ago, I had this wonderful idea to read as many Pulitzer-Prize winning plays as I could. And I did. I read Angels in America, Fences, Topdog Underdog, Wit, and many more, including August: Osage County. I loved this project and enjoyed almost every play I read.

Last month when I was going through a reading slump, I decided to reread this play once again, especially since it’s been made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. I wish I could say that I loved it as much this time around but I didn’t.

August: Osage County is the story of the dysfunctional Weston family. When the patriarch, Beverly Weston, goes missing, his daughters and their families come home to be at their mother, Violet’s side. To say Violet is manipulative and selfish isn’t going far enough. Violet loves her pills as much as Beverly loves his liquor. As she likes to tell it, nothing slips past her so the family’s secrets aren’t really secrets. At least not to her. Her husband, Beverly is a famous poet who hasn’t written anything in years. Their house is run-down and closed off to the outside world. Every window in their home is covered in shades and taped down so the inhabitants can’t tell night from day.

Of Beverly and Violet’s three daughters, Barbara and Karen left as fast as they could, while Ivy stayed closed by. To have all three daughters and their families back home spells disaster and it is. Long-held secrets are unearthed and the Weston daughters have to take a deep look inside themselves to see what they’ve become.

When I first read this book back in 2009, I loved it. The play was dark and well-written. It still is. I was shocked at the turn of events in the book as secrets were revealed and family turned against each other. I wouldn’t say Violet is a villain but she sees disaster coming and refuses to speak up. As I reread this play five years later, I wasn’t as shocked by the story’s events. They didn’t have the same impact they did years ago and I wondered about that.

With the boom of reality TV and the fact that “news” isn’t the same anymore: more gossipy, more celebrity based, what was shocking even a few years ago is no longer anything to give attention to. Could that be it?

While August: Osage County is insightful and brilliant, reminding me of Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey into Night, I don’t think I’m going to reread it again. I am going to see the movie version.  My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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22 thoughts on “Thoughts: August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

  1. It’s disappointing when you return to a book looking for something n particular only to find it absent on that visit, but perhaps it could still hold the same charm on another occasion. Either way, I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and I’m reminded that I should try to make room for reading more plays myself too…one of those “someday” projects.

  2. I would love to go watch the movie, just to watch Meryl Streep. It is disappointing when a book doesn’t have the same impact the second time around, especially when there are years between the reads.

    1. I remember the twist but I wasn’t as shocked by it. That’s a consequence of rereading: you already know the really good parts. :-) That didn’t bother me but still…the play lost its spark for me.

  3. I really want to see this movie, but it’s so hard to make the time to actually go to a theatre with so much else going on on the weekends. I almost always end up watching later on DVD after all the buzz is over! :(

  4. Do you usually enjoy books on a reread? Since I love knowing spoilers anyway, I tend to enjoy books more when I reread them — there are a few exceptions, but they’re rare. Maybe if you’re genuinely spoiled by spoilers, that could account for it.

    1. It’s rare that I don’t enjoy a reread. I think every time you reread a book, you find something new that sticks with you. This time, it was Violet’s treatment of everyone even though she could have stopped the dysfunction in its track. But it wasn’t enough get me to enjoy this work as much as I did in the past.

  5. Count me in as another one who did not know this was a play. I never read plays anymore – only did for school. I should give them a try again though! Haven’t seen the movie yet but really want to.

  6. Sorry it didn’t live up to expectations the second time around. Your review certainly left me intrigued enough to want to read it for a first time though. :) I do enjoy reading plays, but rarely do it for some reason.

  7. I have been surprised by how this movie has been marketed. It looks like a comedy in the previews! I’ve read it and seen it performed and it’s a powerful show, definitely not a comedy though.

  8. Maybe the movie is a comedy…..Not holding up if you know the plot twists is a mark of a bad play in my view. I’m seldom moved more than I am by a good production of Lear, or Godot, and I’ve seen both many times. I’ve seen Rhinoceros in five different productions now, and really got something from each. I saw a production of Medea a few years ago and I just couldn’t believe it when she killed the kids, which, of course, I knew she would do going in.

    There really has to be more to a play than plot twists.

  9. It’s funny how re-reads can change out impressions of a book. I doubt that if I re-read some of my old faves that I’d find them as good as the first time around.

    When the movie came out, I was intrigued when I found out it was a play. I heard in an interview that the play has such a keen following that the actors were very very careful about not changing the words in any way.

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