Introduction (links and photos coming soon)
I am basking in a wave of satisfaction, having just watched the Red Box movie, Authors Anonymous; completed reading Michener’s The Novel; and visited the Darkside Theater to see Words and Pictures with Juliet Binoche and Oliver Kline. I like all this stuff of the creative life swirling around in my consciousness. I remind myself that, although I am not writing much this week, I am nourishing my creative life which can only help me to better do my work.
Authors Anonymous Overview
The tongue-in-cheek comedy of Authors Anonymous explores the dynamics of a writing group when the seemingly least likely member lands an agent, a publisher, and movie rights in quick succession. Jealousy rages as the remaining members reexamine their commitment to their art and the ego that stymies or propels them forward. This is a very funny romp but not so far from the truth. Not a BIG movie, but entertaining and insightful for those of us who strive to live by the pen.
Surely my writing groups would love this! I don’t mean to suggest that our circles are all about competition, but consciously or not, we are modeling for each other the progress and pitfalls of the writing life, and this is a good thing. We mimic each other in the sense that we internalize each other’s voices like friendly angels leaning over the keyboard to coax and coach us along.
And some weeks, we don’t seem to accomplish very much. A couple people cancel. No one has pages. Then we can look like a bunch of posers who are pretending to be writers, but that’s just an impression, not the truth. The truth is that we have demanding lives that enrich our writing and keep us honest. We cannot shirk our responsibility to live those lives fully.
The Novel Overview
Michener has divided the book by role: writer, editor, critic, and reader. He reveals to us through each voice (and personality) the path of intellectual development that leads the person to his chosen profession, the personal and professional pitfalls, and the overlapping concerns of a small publishing house, an editor, her writers, (including the critic), and the reader who comes to embrace all of them.
The author gives the reader a great education regarding the publishing business, though technologically dated, (copyright 1991); publishing is a rapidly evolving enterprise, even within the novel.
Yes, I enjoyed the descriptions of the Pennsylvania Dutch, the small prep school, and the New York publishing house, as well as the tragedy that unfolded and the twists and turns of each person’s life; Michener is a masterful storyteller. But being a story about books and book writing is an especially big draw for me. (Remember Elizabeth Kostova’s, The Historian? Umberto Ecco’s, The Name of the Rose?)
This book was nourishing in several ways: good storytelling, excellent content that directly relates to the writing life, and a peek into the mind of an editor which is a role I am eager to study.
Words and Pictures Overview
This is a movie about two teachers in a high-achieving prep school who challenge one another to prove the supremacy of their art, one above the other, words versus pictures. It is really just a ruse to get both of them and their students motivated, to push them out of their comfort zones. The personalities are both charming and difficult—the writer is a drunk and the painter is beleaguered with rheumatoid arthritis.
The fire to create is central. It is very exciting to see their creative processes on the screen. In watching the writer pitted against the painter, I saw my own internal dialogue come to life. Well, it isn’t so much a dialogue as the multiplicity of artistic expression. I want to reclaim my brushes and palette, and I’m not speaking in metaphor. This movie left me itching to paint. I want to hold a big fat brush loaded with paint, like Juliet Binoche, (yes, she really is a painter who paints in this movie!), and twirl around on my swivel chair across a broad canvas. What a yummy thought. This could be the summer that I revisit my stash of paints—I said that out loud? So be it.
In addition, I appreciated the conclusion as the two artists come into alignment. Romance, yes, but more than that, they both value what the other has to offer, painter and poet. That gives me a quiet thrill.
All three of these sources of inspiration honored the writing/creative life, even the spoof. It is validating to realize that the creative life is a subject in contemporary literature and film. We are not talking about da Vinci, but just us regular folk who do what we are compelled to do which is to create. And we struggle to get it right because it is an opportunity to communicate something essential or profound. Many of us are lucky enough or wise enough to surround ourselves with a community of writers/artists for support . (I include the artists we meet on the page or the screen.) This is the life.