before night falls

I think I saw this Julian Schnabel flick in college. There is a scene where the writer Javiar Bardem plays is being harassed by the cop Johnny Depp, who sticks a gun in his mouth and tells him never to write again. Still, Javiar Bardem keeps writing. My reaction to that was like, if someone ever threatened me to stop writing, I’d be like “No problem, dude, I’ll quit write away, you never have to worry about it from me” pretty quickly. I kind of hate writing, so what’s the difference? I also had a professor in college who was locked in a prison in Africa, jailed for his writing, and he wrote on toilet paper in jail so he could keep writing! Wow! (Incidentally, despite such a dramatic back story, he was quite dull as a teacher. I don’t remember him saying a word. ‘He mostly sat through class like a stone.) The reaction of both of these people is amazing, and inadvertently, discouraged me from writing, or encouraged me to listen to my lazy heart, because I was thought, well, no way, I’d never deal under such extreme threats, I’m no writer. (I truly am lazy. I had a screenwriting teacher who says you have to write a minimum of ten minutes a day to keep working on your craft. She probably meant that it’d be cool if you wrote longer, but all I heard was “cool! I only have to write ten minutes a day!”)

Lazy as I am, I have spent the past year not writing, not being creative (busy, you know, working, cleaning poop, etc., which is yes, as glamorous as it sounds), and I feel it. I feel a lack, a longing without it. I can tell I am not as happy, so ugh, this lazy girl, is going back to it.

hawaii five-o

I just caught the opening tonight of this show — dude, more than half of the cast is Asian! Two out of four leads are Asian, but one of the Asian actors from Heroes is in it, the credits are like a kajillion Asians. Wow? Where have I been?

The opening had a couple in a bathtub full of bubbles surrounded by candles. That kind of romantic scene can only be coordinated when you have a team of like twenty, and even with their help, must be incredibly uncomfortable to experience. Still, I love that Hollywood portrays romance like that. It makes me giggle.

P.S. Wow, in the first thirty minutes, six Asian actors had scenes and lines!!! WHAT??? They even get to talk to each other in American accents. Wow. I am stunned.

J.D. Salinger

The first J.D. Salinger I read was Catcher in the Rye in high school. It was a big-deal book because no other books we were taught were ever things you could relate to, they did not really concern themselves with connecting or moving the reader. I’ve also read Franny and Zooey and the collection of short stories Bananafish for a Day…and I can’t stand any of them. They make me physically angry.

The writing itself, from what I can recall because I have not touched the stuff since before my 21st birthday, was good — the voice is believable and the characters sound like real, live depressed people. Here is what I had a tough time with — the effortless beauty of the characters who took their beauty for granted (Franny literally wakes up in a scene with perfect hair); the biggest sin in the books are being “phony”; the attitude that children are perfect because they are not at phony.
But what I always found strange was that although these protagonists hold children on such pedestals, they invariably put them in danger, maybe due to the fact their misery made them so selfish? (Can you tell this is like a totally balanced, impartial review of Salinger’s work?)

Well, like take a look at Seymour in “Bananafish” — he admires this little girl for her yet-unmarred-honesty, but creeps her out when they sit next to each other at the piano. He takes her swimming, and there’s a vibe that he might drown her in one moment. He feels disconnected from everyone (which is a big deal. That’s an awful feeling I don’t wish on anyone), even from his beauteous fiancee, whom he considers a big-fat phony (um, so why are you engaged?). The story ends with him killing himself in front of the fiancee. Nice.

I’m also not down with the idealization of children. They’re just people, dude, and they will learn to hide what they think and feel later on, which is not necessarily a bad thing. What might be seen as purity now is actually just…simplicity. If the little girl turned to Seymour and said “dude, I’m eight. I cannot handle your crazy. Go to a shrink and let me live my life. Thank you,” I would probably be a big fan.

(…it occurs to me just now that I may be misinterpreting the idealization of children, and it’s really more a reflection of the protagonist’s desire to return to childhood, that they’re projecting their own memory of innocence on to the children, however inappropriately…crap, then it would mean I’ve hated Salinger pointlessly for years…no matter! I am continuing with this theory!)

My high school teacher asked, But don’t you see? The fact that your reaction to the writing is so strong is a testament to the quality of the writing. (I’m paraphrasing…or actually, I’m making it more complicated.)

The thing is I don’t like Salinger characters, they give me heartburn, and if you don’t like the Salinger characters, I don’t think you can be a fan. What rubbed me the wrong way about this guy’s work was a) the endangerment of children (because I actually do like kids) and b) we were asked to identify these incredibly loaded, good-looking depressed people who found the world inauthentic and thought that was a huge crime. It’s not that I couldn’t get down with that — as I said, alienation is a horrible part of being human, but jees, committing suicide in front of your fiancee — really? Was she that phony? Does she really deserve it? Yes, in our fourteen-year-old revenge fantasies.

Hmmm, but now that I’m adult, I’m kind of pro-juvenile fantasies in fiction, so does that mean I should go revisit these books and find that I now may actually love them? Oh crikey.

sometimes, it’s the little things

When things are rough, little things can get you through. After a crazy night with the kids, behind my mom’s back, my dad snuck a piece of candy in my hand, which made me go into silent convulsions. When the radiologist tech tried to stop Boy Twin from kicking off the metal blanket during his chest x-ray, he exclaimed in the best New Jersey accent, “I’m just trying to protect his bawls!” Me too! I’m just trying to protect my son’s bawls too!