Matthew Quick, ’95

best-selling author of The Silver Linings Playbook

Headshot

AS ONE OF THE NOVEL’S ORIGINAL settings, La Salle missed the cut for the eight-time Oscar-nominated adaptation of Silver Linings Playbook. But the University certainly took a starring role in the evolution of the life of the book’s author, Matthew Quick, ’96.

For those who have missed the hype, Silver Linings Playbook tells the story of Pat Peoples, recently released from a mental health facility and intent on regaining the affection of his estranged wife. Despite a restraining order and other challenges, Pat is sure they’ll reconcile because he is working hard to improve himself, and because he believes in silver linings. In the midst of trying to regain his life and catching up on the Eagles, he begins a friendship with Tiffany, a widow with her own problems.

Since the movie’s release last November, it’s hard to miss the praise for both the book and the movie, or the count- less appearances by Oscar-nominated leads Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (who eventually won the best actress Oscar at February’s ceremony). Yet, there was a time that this success seemed nearly impossible for Quick.

As a starry-eyed teen with his heart set on storytelling, Quick faced opposition. Friends and family with the best of intentions told him he would never make it as an author. The boy from a blue-collar neighborhood in Oaklyn, N.J., went on to college, battling severe depression and the awkwardness of adjusting to life as a freshman.

But then Quick signed up for a theater class with Helena White, a drama teacher, and she took a special interest in him. “She was such a positive force at La Salle. She encouraged me and taught me to write,” he said. “It was a very important part of my La Salle experience.”

Attending a liberal arts school gave Quick the opportunity to dabble in courses such as philosophy and jazz theory, which were essential to teaching the “whole person,” a part of La Salle’s mission that has always stuck with him.

Quick graduated with a degree in secondary education and English. He married fellow Explorer and novelist Alicia Bessette, ’97, and began teaching in New Jersey. He told his students to follow their dreams and live up to their potential—then realized he wasn’t taking his own advice.

Bessette encouraged Quick to pursue his true calling, and the two risked everything to make it happen. In the end, it paid off tremendously. Quick has authored Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock (set for release in August 2013), Boy21, Sorta Like a Rock Star, and, of course, The Silver Linings Playbook.

La Salle’s role in The Silver Linings Playbook is more than just as the setting for a chapter in the book. It was at La Salle where, Quick said, “I was becoming the person I wanted to be. I was writing, I was in a band playing music, and then boom! College ends and you have real-world consequences. For 10 years, I was thinking, ‘That’s life.’ But then I decided to go back to where I was at La Salle, writing novels every day.

“It doesn’t have to end when you graduate.”

It’s safe to say the novel he wrote has been well-received, and Quick admits he loved director David O. Russell’s adaptation to the big screen. The process has been an experience. Quick was only on set once during filming and said he was nervous when he first viewed the film during a private screening from The Weinstein Company in New York City.

“When you settle a movie deal, especially as an unpublished author, you have absolutely no control,” he said. “When I saw the film, I loved it. At first, my fists were clenched, my heart was beating, and then, about a half-hour into the film, I began really enjoying the film and laughed a couple times. It was a great adaptation of my work and a great David Russell film.”

Russell actually went out of his way to seek Quick’s approval, noting that he kept many of the original lines from the book. Quick said Russell did a lot of research and took it seriously, remaining respectful of the novel.

The success has been exciting and slightly dizzying. His calendar is beyond full, his travel schedule insane, and his e-mail blowing up with requests. “It’s thrilling and it feels very validating,” he said. “I took a lot of risks to get here and I endured a lot of naysaying.”

And he’s prepared to do it again. Quick’s latest novel, The Good Luck of Right Now, hasn’t even been released, and DreamWorks has already purchased the film rights.

Looking back, Quick said he still relies on his Lasallian education. “The lessons that I learned there and the philosophy about teaching all, that everyone is worth educating, is still a big part of my philosophy,” he said. “When I write, I don’t write for the 1 percent, highbrow population. I try to write for everyone to read. It’s very intentional, and my La Salle education is still working for me today.”

For those high school or college kids with a dream, he advises to move away from the negativity and toward those who support you. “For every Helena White, there were a hundred people who told me I was foolish and I was going to fail,” Quick said.

“Things worked out for me largely because of what I did while I was at La Salle, writing every day,” he said. “I walked the red carpet at the Oscars last year, and Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for a character I wrote, and I did that with a La Salle English degree. So if people keep telling you that your dream is not possible, don’t believe them.”

-Liz Vargo, M.A. ’10