editorial comment

an exception to my own rule, and writing stuff

When I started this weblog I decided I would stay away from politics. There are a lot of blogs out there that do politics exclusively and much better than I could, and I figured that I should stick to the original idea: to write about writing.

I’m making a short exception today, to point to thisTalkLeft post, which provides the entire draft of a proposal

calling for a reinsatement of the draft–for men and women–ages 18-34, not just to those who might qualify for active military duty, but for those with skills the Government finds helpful in war–linguists, medical workers, etc. Just about everyone.

There’s more information on the Alliance for Security website. A lot more, all of it disturbing.

The media isn’t paying much attention to this topic, but I hope the rest of us will. For the record: I am not in principle opposed to any military draft; I am opposed to a draft put in place to fight preemptive wars declared on false grounds.

On other fronts, I need to go write. Things are moving, and so must I.

since that worked so well…

Thanks to everybody who let me know about The Trouble with Angels. It seems like people in their thirties or older have a pretty good chance of knowing it, so I’ll keep the reference. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is out on DVD.

It seems like they bring out another dozen old movies on DVD every week, but if there’s rhyme or reason in the order, I can’t figure it out. I was pleased to find TwA on DVD, but there’s a whole list of other movies I own on VHS and would like to buy on DVD, if only they were available. Two that come to mind right away are Yanks (1979) and Reds (1981).

Yanks-filmYanks was directed by John Schlesinger and had a stellar cast — a young Richard Gere as one of the thousands of soldiers sent to England for training before the Normandy invasion — Vanessa Redgrave, William Devane, Rachel Roberts, Tony Melody. My parents-in-law, who were in their early teens during the war in England and who have very high standards when it comes to films that deal with this period, loved this movie for the details. I liked pretty much everything about it, but especially the love story. Unfortunately it’s still not out on DVD, and my VHS tape has seen better days.

coverReds is also a movie I like a lot — in fact there are some elements of it that I adore — but some elements don’t work for me at all. It’s a fictionalized account of the life of John Reed, who was a radical American journalist and early member of the Communist party. He’s best known for his non-fictional account of the Russian revolution (Ten Days that Shook the World is available on-line as a free etext through Project Gutenberg, here). This film adaptation of his story stars (and was directed by) Warren Beatty at the height of his box office appeal. The rest of the cast is pretty spectacular, with the exception of Diane Keaton as Louise Bryant. But in spite of her performance (which reminded me of Annie Hall; all her performances do) the rest of the cast really did keep the movie well above water. In addition to
Edward Herrmann as

Max Eastman;

Jerzy Kosinski as

Grigory Zinoviev;

Jack Nicholson as

Eugene O’Neill;

Paul Sorvino as

Louis Fraina;

Maureen Stapleton as

Emma Goldman, the first hour of the movie really struck me for the short interviews with the people who actually knew John Reed and Louise Bryant and who were active during the period in question, in journalism or politics. henry-miller

These interviews really make the movie, in my opinion. They include everybody from an irrascible older

Henry Miller (People fucked back then just as much as they do now. We just didn’t talk about it as much),

Dora Russell,

Scott Nearing,

Rebecca West,

Will Durant,

George Seldes,

Dorothy Frooks, to the comic genius

George Jessel.

The movie is beautifully filmed and edited, the scenes in Russia during the revolution most especially well done, and the ending (highly fictionalized) moving.

Reds-filmWhen this was shown in the theaters in 1981, it was with an intermission. (They used to do that with long movies. I remember intermissions for The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady, for example.) I saw Reds in Evanston, Illinois when it came out. When the lights came up at intermission time, one old lady sitting right in front of me turned to her companion and said, “You know dear, I don’t think they’re Republicans or Democrats.” I had to bite my lip to keep from bursting into laughter.

I really liked this movie for many reasons (not least the fact that it made me learn more about the history of the time and events in question) but again, it’s not available on DVD.

dialog overheard

I like to keep track of dialog I overhear that strikes me as unusual. Not that I *listen* to other people’s conversations, understand. It’s just a professional hazard, having bits of conversations jump out at you while you’re sitting, minding your own business. I suspect pretty much any writer of fiction experiences this. I have a whole file full of little gems, and here’s one I picked up in New Orleans.

After a week of gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish in every possible configuration, we decided to try something outlandish, like Italian. Found a restaurant that was highly recommended, got ourselves out there by rental car. Northern Italian cuisine, heavy linen tableclothes and napkins, the wait staff very formal — you get the picture. So we’re waiting for soup and talking in this almost empty restaurant (it was quite early) and the only other occupied table is right behind us, two elderly couples. They were exchanging news about friends and family and so forth, got into politics for a while, and then fell into silence while they got ready to order. Then a querulous, confused voice said, “But I don’t see spaghetti and meatballs anywhere on this menu.”

It took me by surprise, and I nearly laughed out loud.

One of my all time favorite overheard comments was while I was in line at the grocery store in Ann Arbor. Two undergraduates, young women, seeing each other for the first time in the new fall semester:

Q: Hey Katie! How are you doing!
A: I got my wallet stolen in the taco isle at Meyers!

For years I’ve been thinking about this, and playing with it. So she got her wallet stolen. Sure, it’s an unsettling experience. But what’s the significance of the two prepositional phrases? Why qualify the statement that way? There’s definitely a story waiting to be told. Don’t know if I’ll ever get around to it.

one inch frame

Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a book I often read through when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the project at hand. As I am just now. Her “one inch frame” is a reminder that I’m supposed to be thinking about the character in front of me, and just her, and what she’s up to right now. Forget the War of 1812, the British Navy, the complicated politics, the fact that I’ve got characters waiting for me up there in Paradise and on l’ile de lamatins, too. Just concentrate on Giselle at her breakfast table looking at the ships in the harbor.

The problem is, Giselle is still a little put out at me for leaving her to her own devices.The last we saw her was about half a million words ago and now she’s being standoffish. However, she tolerates me as she would a portrait painter.

I wish her husband would come along so I could get a look at him, because I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that he’s somebody I’ve seen before.