Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Unfinished Sympathy

I have parts of five scripts done. Two are comedic, three are dramatic. The three dramatic pieces have been separate stories, but they've also been combined into alternate variations, with one turning the three stories into some kind of Robert Altman movie that goes on for three-plus hours and introduces 125 characters.

In case you haven't guessed, the key word above is "parts". Ideas have never been a problem for me. I can toss ideas around with the best of them. One of those random ideas turned into Frank Belmondo, which, let's face it, if you haven't read all of that, you're missing out on something so amazing, it caused more than one of my friends to say, "What?" I think if there is a Funny or Die producer out there that wants to take a shot on a web series about a former child modern dance prodigy with an old man's voice who turned into a has-been actor, I am willing to talk (don't steal, it's already registered). It's the closest thing that I've come to a fully-realized idea, and even that could be longer, tighter, better.

I keep coming close, but every time I get near the home stretch, my need to edit (and re-edit and re-edit), comes out, and I find myself reformatting it. Maybe it was due to rejection from script readers in my youth (oh, I am bitter of them). Maybe I am afraid of what might happen if I get something exactly where I want it to be and it's not enough. Maybe I just have ADD. Maybe I'm just a lazy shit. I'm sure it's a combo of all of the above.

I like to think that I can write. I like to think that I should be writing. Maybe I need to have a Misery moment, but maybe a happy version where someone more attractive than Kathy Bates (no offense) nurses me to (mental) health and turns me into a prolific writer. Hey, maybe that's a sixth story...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

20 Books This Year, #20, "A Fan's Notes", F.E. Exley

I had finished one of my New Year's resolutions a day-and-a-half before the end of the year, reading the F.E. Exley classic A Fan's Notes. I know for some people reading 20 books is a piece of cake - my brother, for example, probably gets through his 20th book around mid-April - but considering my attention span, combined with my interest in sometimes reading "heavy" books, I need to take my victories where I can.

There are people who say that Notes is one of the greatest pieces of American literature ever written, and I am certainly not going to dispute that fact. Following Exley's personal journey through failure, madness, drunkenness and his worship of Frank Gifford during his time on the New York Giants, Exley creates a compelling, dark, twisted world that is exquisitely written. The fact that he was even able to complete this book is stunning, as there could've been several times he could've given up and let himself wither away in a mental hospital (which he was in multiple times). Yet, here this book stands, surveying the wreckage.

I'm not breaking any news that this book is great. Many people have delved into this before, as I am sure what I'm going to say next has been, as well. I look back at some of my favorite writers of my favorite books, and the core behind them all is some sort of madness. Raymond Carver drank himself to death. James Ellroy had a frighteningly bizarre childhood and young adulthood, including the murder of his mother. Exley seemed to relish his insanity/alcoholism. Woolf and Hemingway killed themselves. Hunter S. Thompson lived perilously close to the edge for years until paying for it in the process. Pynchon and Salinger went into hiding for most of their lives. All had moments (some full careers) of genius, and all paid for it in the process.

It brings up the question: to be a truly great writer, does one have to sacrifice a piece of themselves in the process? Can one find greatness without it?