Mirror on the Wall
Everyone knows fact and fiction can reflect each other with startling clarity–– who hasn't picked up a book or watched the news, only to feel an eerie sense of déja-vu? Occasionally the fiction comes first, often the fact; sometimes the two are so closely bound it is nearly impossible to tell which is which. Now and then, the figment of an author's imagination revolves around a specific event, or an event mimics the story, as in The Titan and the actual disaster of The Titanic. More often, though, come the alarming coincidences between the real world' and its literary counterpart. Such is the connection between Shirley Ann Grau's The Land and the Water and the July 16, 1999 disappearance of John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Foremost, and most disconcerting, are the weather conditions outlining both tragedies. During JFK, Jr's infamous flight, and Butch, Stan, and Linda's more obscure sailing jaunt, the weather played Benedict Arnold. In the children's case, it suddenly turned stormy, hiding the shore, the water, everything, in a thick blanket of fog. No matter which way one turned, all they met was a flat blind of mist, and when the keel was torn out, feel icy water slowly enter their lungs. The Kennedys left late, due to a fashion crisis' on the point of his wife, Caroline, and paid for their carelessness, and her vanity, with their lives. Like in The Land and the Water, J.F.K., Jr. lost all sight when night and stifling haze rolled in. The two danced in a deadly chemistry until they were in a sphere of invisibility––just like the children. Land and water blurred together, until one could not tell which was safe, or even if anything at all could save them. Traveling in top-of-the-line equipment, surrounded by what they thought they knew, catastrophes were the farthest thought from their minds. The deaths are made ever more poignant when one considers that flying and boating were mere hobbies; they perished in the very belongings that once brought immense pleasure. Rescue missions were futile, bodies found in an irrefutable message from Death; a message that left many mourning, many denying, many shocked by the sheer gravity of young people simply ceasing to exist.
However, the similarities can only strike one deeply when compared to the few incongruities. The obvious true and false' aspect comes into play; it is the simple, sad truth that The Land in the Water is a story, come to life in our brains only, whereas the Kennedys really and truly breathed. The plane the Kennedys vanished in was a far more complicated instrument than the children's boat, which may have led to their untimely demise. Even so, Linda, Stan, and Butch had more experience with boats than Kennedy had with planes, adding to the assumption that the children's watery graves were an awful chance brought about only by circumstance. These slight variations are the only curtain between reality and embroidery on the fabrication of such.
After comparing and contrasting the stories until my brain ached, I have realized it is clear that J.F.K. Jr's disappearance and The Land and the Water are almost too close for comfort. The fact and fiction mirror each other so closely it is nearly impossible to think of one without the other. Now that the connection has been made clear, the similarities never cease. Fact and fiction do, indeed, cast shadows on each other; forever woven together, they make up the fabric of time.