Sunday, June 30, 2013

Kate Hepburn on friends

"We are required, I think, to be polite and considerate of others: This is a sort of social compact we have with each other--and very few people honor it, I might add. I'll stay out of your way, smiling all the time, and you stay out of mine. If I stumble or my tire goes flat or I appear to be short of funds or food, I'll happily drop by and help out. But, for the most part, you stay over there and I'll stay over here. 

You'll learn as you live a bit longer that there are very few people who are really interested in who you are and what you're doing: That handful who do care and who do want to see you do well are treasures. Hold them very dear and very close to you. Forgive them almost anything. Be there for them. 

But most of life is solitary and hard--you work and you study and you fail and you do the damned things over and over again. And this is your responsibility. Most people, as I've said, are stupid and lazy and really only concerned with getting through the next couple of hours with silliness and stimulation and something to eat. Be polite. Look ahead. Ignore them. Do the work. Move forward." 

--Katharine Hepburn/Interview with James Grissom/1990/Photograph by Norman Parkinson, 1952/

Here's another excerpt from either the same or another interview Grissom did with Hepburn.  Evidently they're included in a book, which I now must find and obtain:

Turtle Bay
I'm so tired of the term victim. Everybody's a victim. I'm not talking about the tragedies of the world, in which people truly are victimized: I'm talking about everyday activities in which people enjoy crying out about their status as a victim. Everybody has been abused or betrayed or deliberately set out on a course of failure. This is such bullshit, I don't even know what to say. Our failures emanate from within us; my failures are my own damned fault. I can't look at a man or a woman or a studio or the mores of a certain time and say, Well, I was a victim of that person or that time. No, I might have allowed them to lead me to believe that I was unsuitable or unattractive or untalented. And I never let them, so I was never a victim. And this is not because I'm so smart--anyone can adopt this philosophy and do quite well in life. Refuse to be a victim. Learn from the unfortunate incident--failed audition; being fired; losing at love--and do something about it, and then succeed at the next go-round. I can't even turn on the television or look at a newsstand now without seeing the latest victim. I find people horribly boring, I must say. I think they must enjoy their acute ability to enjoy and promote their failure.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Might We Finally Forgive Farce, the Forsaken Genre?

My two published novels and their work-in-progress sequel may feel confident they'll win recognition some day, but this doesn't do their creator much good. By the time their adopted once venerable genre struggles back from exile to its rightful place in the commercial canon he will long have drifted to the predictable unpredictability of mystery and crime fiction. It might even come to pass that by then his name will appear, in the service of accuracy, with the modifier “the late”.

Too late to bask in the glow these three novels could have earned, being in the redeeming vanguard of a genre that's fallen shamefully over the years, devolving from the respectability of Chaucer and Shakespeare into a shabby cudgel of disparagement.

What a farce!” The disgust curls its lip at the target, which could be anything from a tasteless hamburger to a government to life itself: “There are times,” said Mark Twain, “when one would like to hang the whole human race, and finish the farce.”

I suppose the word's loss of dignity, from theatrical form to curse, can be blamed on the lower status of comedy in plays such as “The Canterbury Tales” and “The Comedy of Errors”compared with something more sophisticated, such as satire and parody.

V. S. Pritchett, British writer and critic, put it this way: “The difference between farce and humor in literature is, I suppose, that farce strums louder and louder on one string, while humor varies its note, changes its key, grows and spreads and deepens until it may indeed reach tragic depths.”

Warner Bros. cartoon producer and director Chuck (Charles Martin) Jones made the distinction more charitably and literally. “Comedy is unusual people in real situations; farce is real people in unusual situations.”

I prefer the Jones definition because of its greater clarity. I wrote the first two novels thinking they were political/social satire. My thinking hasn't changed, yet from a marketing point of view I've come to see the word “satire” as a tad pretentious. And this overthinking has birthed a sniggle of doubt that my work passes muster with the conventional interpretation of just what a bonafide satire must be.

Better to play it safe, then, whether or not this doubt bears merit, and notch down the hype and thus the expectations of potential readers.

Ah, expectations. Therein lies the rub.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

So...(Ch 30 draft - President makes his pitch)

Geddes listened without interrupting while Ruth recounted her conversation with the president. He walked alongside her in silence awhile after she'd finished. A sullen bruise had appeared above the treeline in the west, marring the sunny sky with its promise of an inhospitable day's end. Ruth seemed impervious to the sporadic wind gusts, but Geddes zipped up his Iowa Hawkeyes jacket and hunched his shoulders against the chill. No one was near them at the moment, yet Geddes kept his voice cautious when he spoke.

When are you supposed to get back to him?”


What did you tell him?”

That I'd get back to him. I tried to keep the alarm out of my voice.”

It's in your voice now, Ruth.”

That may be because I'm a little afraid of what I'm thinking...”


...that we should do it.”

Geddes stopped walking. He clutched Ruth's elbow and she pivoted to face him. He said nothing, just looked at her, intently.

You don't, I gather,” she said, eyebrows raised.

Way too risky. For us, him, for the country, for chrissakes. Best case, the world watches our president come unglued and babble like a toddler. Worst case? Shit, Ruth, I don't even wanna think of a worst case. What if his big secret is he had sex with his mother or he murdered somebody? Jesus, there's no telling what might come out.”

Al, he's an object of contempt now. How could it get any worse? He told me White House employees he's never seen before bump into him in the hallways – I mean physically bump into him – and scowl at him as if it was his fault. No apology. Nothing. How can a president fall any lower than that?”

He'll be incapacitated. The world will watch him regress to infancy, babbling and sucking his thumb. He'll be declared incompetent. Do we really want Quentin Kudlow running things even for a day, not to say more likely two or three weeks? And couldn't we be charged with attempted assassination? What if he goes insane? Or dies?”

He says he'll make a statement on camera. And we're taking you and Liz along. And, I'm finally taking it, too.”


Why not? What better reassurance we're not pulling something? What better gesture of bipartisanship?” She laughed. Geddes shook his head.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Little Dog from Outer Space

I heard her behind me almost the instant I saw that damned thing on his desk. “Kinda thought maybe I'd find you here,” she said, her voice strong with youthful promise.

“Hi, Sal. Just get up?”

“I smelled the coffee.” Holding a steaming mug, she reached over and set it on the desk next to mine. She inspected my cup. “Can I warm this up?”

I looked at her, shook my head and tried to smile. She smiled back, beaming a radiance that pushed away the chill.

She slipped an arm around my shoulders, and kissed my cheek. Her scent was warm and innocent. “Dad,” she said, “you think they'll find him?”

“It's been three days, Sally. If he was in the tower, I don't think so.”

She squeezed my shoulder. “Uncle Mark call?”

“He's probly still on alert. He'd be here if he could.” I said this without conviction, knowing my brother's indifference to the family. It was he whom I'd always suspected of stealing the dog. He'd been jealous when Dad gave it to me, had even taken it a couple of times when we still lived at home. Clyde, the oldest, had taken it back the second time, warning Mark with a cuff on the head not to do it again. I hid the dog when Clyde went off to college.

Wasn't much to look at. Size of a walnut, but heavy, a dull bronze color. A man Dad knew, a farmer, hit something with his plow. Scientists at the university said it was a meteorite. They broke off a chunk to study and gave him the rest. He had it made into these little dogs. I was about 10, and I found it magical. Treasured it for years. At some point it disappeared.

And here it was on Clyde's desk.

The little pooch couldn't have picked a worse time to show up. If emotions played football I was the skinny third-string halfback caught in the bone-crunching clash of behemoth linemen. Love for an idolized brother, stunned at the cusp of certain grief and now hammered by treachery. The word why ballooned to fill my consciousness.

“Oh, there's your little dog,” Sally said, her voice trying gamely to cheer. She reached across me and picked it up, brought it close to her face. “Hi, little guy,” she cooed.

All these years, I was thinking.

“Oh, Dad, I'm so glad Uncle Clyde kept him.”

“Yes,” I said. “me, too.” My voice sounded odd.

My only child held the little metal pup a long while. “You know, Dad,” she patted my shoulder again, “I've always felt kinda bad about that.”

“Bad? About what, Sally?”

“After we lost our house and Uncle Clyde was helping us move. He was always so nice...”

“What do you mean, Sally?”

“Well, I gave him the little dog. He saw it in a box and picked it up. He seemed so pleased to see it. I told him to keep it, as a present. He said it was yours. And that's when I told a lie. A little one, I thought...”

She looked away, face turning red. “I said it was mine, that you gave it to me.”

In a blink a seam appeared in the crush of football linemen, and I dashed through into an open field. I climbed slowly out of Clyde's squeaky chair, turned and wrapped her greedily in my arms.