Saturday, June 11, 2005

When Rape is Inevitable, Don't Procrastinate

I awoke not rested this morning, in a deep melancholy. Last night before going to sleep I watched 'Age of Innocence.' It made me sad the first time I saw it, smacking as it did of unrealized love, but last night it bummed me out for a number of reasons. First, there was Michelle Pfeiffer, who has Anne Bancroft's mouth, something I had pointed out to Annie, which she thought about for a moment and then agreed with, at the time I had written a screenplay I hoped-- and she did, too-- she would play Pfeiffer's mother in. The picture, as I said in the last report never got made, just as the play I wrote for Anne in my youth was produced with the wrong actress, and failed, conspicuously. (There were seven newspapers then in New York, and I was eviscerated in all but one of them, causing my mother to say "I didn't realize all those critics knew you personally.") Richard Dreyfuss said to me once, not originally, that no one dies saying 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.' But I am quite sure I will die wishing more things I had written had come to fruition. And I'm sure my mood is reflecting grief about Anne, not just that she died, but that we never got a chance to work together, to tie up that friendship with a creative bow.
I have never done my Edith Wharton, the novelist who wrote 'Age of Innocence.' When I published my first novel, Naked in Babylon, a friend of mine at Stanford, where I was working for my Master's, said "Well, now you've done your Dickens. It's time for your Conrad." I never did that one, either, but Wharton was more on my horizon, as hers, this 1920 page turner, was the first American foray into the Theory of Procrastinated Rape. I lapse now into my graduate student, who, at that pretentious Princeton of the West(their own title for themselves) studied the 18th century novel, with its bestselling Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, the first novel of procrastinated rape. To make it clear, a villainous lecher plots early on to have Clarissa, and apparently the spellbound 18th century reader hungrily ate the words till the deed was finally done. So it was that old Edith, or young Edith, whatever she might have been in 1920, portrayed and dissected New York society as the reader obsessively consumed the book wondering when, how and if Newland and Ellen would ever do it, which they did not, and I'm pissed about that, too.
Anyway, I'm covered with these feelings of loss, the road not taken, etc., the movie not made, the artistic friendship not consummated, as well as the heroine not getting laid. Anne did say to me that the character I had to write full out was that mother, so that's what I'm trying to do now, with my play. But there are little stops I have to make at stands along that highway, to rest the arms that are tired at the wheel, pick up a Diet Coke, whatever, try and understand what my real destination is, and hope that I get to it while I am still alive.
It's hot summer now in New York, air you can weigh. That, plus the heaviness in my spirit sends me to the theater today, to see 'Virginia Woolf,' as I haven't done my Albee, either.

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