Finding Forrester In The Evening

William Forrester
"The firsht rule is that a writer writesh!"

Two films with writers as central characters, same silly story.

Finding Forrester, 2000

Sean Connery plays brilliant, Pulitzer-Prize-winning, washed-up author William Forrester. Featuring yet another great hairpiece for Sean, that and his ever sexy lishp.

Rob Brown plays God-given talent Jamal Wallace, kid from the streets of New York who dribbles a mean basketball and rat-a-tat-tats an even meaner set of typewriter keys. Of course, no one knows the answer to the age-old question, “Are writers born inside a bubble made of miracles?” But after watching this film, your insides are sure to swell with the resounding answer “Yes! By God, yes!”

Conflict point numero uno (all good stories require seemingly insurmountable conflict points, right?): Sean Connery Forrester — and let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that this production could have earned much cash if say, Mel Gibson or Alec Baldwin played our aging author — and Jamal, oh what a perfect up and coming name made in Liberal Heaven, Wallace meet by chance. If memory serves me well, Mr. Pulitzer finds himself in possession of the kid’s backpack, and the kid wants the backpack back.

Jamal requests Forrester’s help, although his strong sense of dignity forbids the possibility that he beg for such assistance. Mr. Hairpiece resists. We the audience, especially we writers in desperate search of inspiration, know that Sean William Forrester suffers the dread disease known to authors from F. Scott to Capote to Lil’ Ole Us as Writers’ Constipation.

Forrester has for so long born this backup that he’s become a recluse (another oh-so-original idea regarding burned-out and all-but-forgotten scribes).

I refuse to include a spoiler here, but one pivotal scene requires, yes requires that I comment. Sean Pulitzer sits before his typewriter. Jamal Meanstreets sits at his typewriter. The two stunning authors face each other. Sean begins to tap tap tap. Jamal hesitates. Sean asks Jamal, “Whatshthematter?” He goes on to tell Jamal, “The firsht rule for a writer is that a writer writesh!”

Oh, woe is I? That before watching this film I wasted so much of what might have otherwise become my stellar career seems an unintentional mortal sin! After all, I coulda’ been a contenda’.

Starting Out in the Evening, 2007

Early In The Evening
"You want to bed my mind?"

Frank Langella plays brilliant, washed-up author Leonard Schiller whose books are out-of-print. No fine hairpiece or sexy lishp featured in this one, just a flabby old man who still owns a well-toned mind, but we are treated to a hidden away photograph of Frankie, aka Leonard, when he was young and irresistibly hunky.

Lauren Ambrose plays God-given talent Heather Wolfe, rich, cute and erotically inspirational child (as in makes even an old man want to bed her for sake of the afterward intellectual conversation) from the mean quadrangle of your typical Ivy League University who hugs you because she loves your intellect and records the depth of a washed-up author’s personality in one helluva Masters Thesis. Of course, no one knows the answer to the age-old question, “Are writers born inside a bubble made of miracles?” But after watching this film and juicing up over Heather’s sensitive flesh, your insides are sure to swell with the resounding answer “Yes! By God, yes! I think I’m coming!”

Conflict point numero uno (all good stories require seemingly insurmountable conflict points, right?): Frank Langella Schiller — and let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that this production could have earned much cash if say, Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman played our aging author — and Heather, oh what a perfectly delicate name made in Hubba Hubba Heaven, Wolfe meet by less than chance. If memory serves me well, Heather Hubba Hubba pursues Frankie, slithers first into his confidence and then into his bed (just to stare, not to touch, mind you) in order to commit research for her thesis.

Heather requests Schiller’s help, although her strong sense of dignity almost forbids the possibility that she beg for such assistance. Mr. Flabby resists. We the audience, especially we writers in desperate search of inspiration, know that Frank Leonard Schiller suffers the dread disease known to authors from Hemingway to Hellman to Lil’ Ole Us as Writers’ Constipation.

And of course, Schiller has for so long born this backup that he’s become a recluse (another oh-so-original idea regarding burned-out and all-but-forgotten scribes).

I refuse to include a spoiler here, but one pivotal scene requires, yes requires that I comment. Leonard Langella sits before his typewriter. Heather Hubba Hubba sits in the next room over, yet engaged in intimate contact with her mentor’s soul, pad of paper and magic pen in hand. The two stunning authors face each other through the ether. Leonard begins to tap tap tap. Heather hesitates. Leonard asks Heather, “What? You want to go to bed with me? Flabby old brilliant moi?” He goes on to tell Heather (with his soulful stare and not with words, mind you), “Well, all right, but remember that you cannot always interrupt me this way, because the first rule for a writer is that a writer writes!”

Oh, woe is I? That before watching this film I wasted so much of what might have otherwise become my stellar career seems an unintentional mortal sin! After all, I coulda’ been a contenda’.

So why do I call these stories silly? And why if I thought them silly did I watch them?

Second question answered first (this is a favorite trick that we writers born carrying the burden of God-given talent employ; it’s called Reverse Agitation).

I’m a sucker for a story about writers, even writers whose sexy lishps, Hollywood hairpieces and flabby bellies belie the reality of a writer’s boring life. After all, and as I already said, I coulda’ been a contenda’. And yet I’m not.

First question answered next.

In neither of these two films are we allowed to see or read the supposedly exquisite, award-winning and poetic prose that any of the four main characters wrote. I oftentimes tap away, or scratch pen point onto pad of paper, but somehow my writing isn’t award-winning material.

Oh woe is I! Maybe I should have been born tall and quick enough to dribble a basketball, or sexy enough to bring brain-dead authors back to life just by suggesting that they go to bed with me.

Opening Locked Doors

Locked Door

There are at least two ways to interpret a closed door. The coward turns an about face, feels sorry for himself, and walks back from where he came. The explorer breaks the lock if need be, opens the door and enters a mystery. Once inside, he records whatever story he discovers, in whatever manner suits his fancy, and tells his tale to anyone who might care to listen.

For about a month now, I’ve stood before that closed door and stared at its handle, afraid not so much of opening it, but more that I might not be able to tell you about what lay on the other side. I’m not at all sure of the exact position I hold on the yardstick that measures a writer’s willingness to risk tripping over the threshold, but I’m certain that I hesitate too often and for too long a time.

A dear friend and fellow writer recently wrote to me to say, “For a writer who knows he has talent to give up and not make sure his work is available to the public, even available ‘eventually’ is an example of the true meaning of a SIN.” This comment came from a man who, although he’s not religious, is honest about what he thinks is right and what is wrong.

Lately, I’ve thought a great deal about what this man said to me regarding sin; and I’ve concluded that the truest sin I commit by not writing a word or two now and then is one that I commit against myself.

What I wrote in an earlier post about my relationship to writers critique groups was indeed honest. I do not benefit from the comments of other scribes as I compose a work-in-progress. Just as I should reserve the showing of a story until a time when I think it is ready to be read by other people, I should not bring a few raw manuscript pages to a meeting of writers’ minds. I am most likely an exception to the rule where this issue is concerned.

And what I write is not publishable. I am a word twister. I own precious little sense of plot as I plod my way from one image to another.

A couple of days ago, I enjoyed a brief conversation with a local friend and fellow writer. She belongs to the same writers organization hereabout as I belong. She, as I told her, is a brilliant storyteller with a formidable and lovely grasp of language. When I told my friend that I cannot write a publishable tale, she asked me, “How do you know?” “Because I’ve been writing for a long time, for many many years,” I said.

I was not then feeling sorry for myself. I told my friend the truth. Yet, as I drove my blue pickup truck through foggy air and along potholed avenues on my way home from her house, I wanted to find the missing piece to my puzzle. Why can’t I write an article that could be published, for instance, in one of the local newspapers? Other writers I know succeed with this task; and I know that I own the technical skill to match their efforts? So what stops me then?

Perhaps my preference for gray, misty skies, for the comfortable blanket feeling the clouds afford me, insisted that I answer that question and thus unlock the closed door in front of me.

Truth is that I don’t want to write the type of article that our local newspapers publish. I don’t like writing foreshortened tales of 789 words or fewer. More to the point is the fact that what I want most to write — a short story or a novel that grips me as well as many I have read — is beyond my grasp.

Some people consider me a writing snob, one who reads only so-called literary works, the classics old and modern, Dostoevsky, Michel de Montaigne, Updike and The Bard. This is not true. These days, for instance, I’m in the middle of Robert R. McCammon’s novel, Boy’s Life. In this book McCammon breaks a cardinal rule, or maybe two such rules. He wrote the story from a first-person point of view (many writers and editors will tell you that’s a “no no”). Furthermore, McCammon admits to telling the reader of events and sensations that the narrator could not possibly have experienced. Example: The boy, Cory, watches his father jump into a deep lake in an attempt to save a drowning man, and the narrator tells us what the father sees and feels as he’s diving into the water.

And guess what? That broken rule, although as a writer I must notice it, does nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the book. And guess what again? McCammon’s novel continues to be a well-praised bestseller.

And guess what a third time? Yes, I enjoy and admire the works of Dostoyevsky, Montaigne, Updike and The Bard.

And if you’re not tired of guessing what, please hear me when I say that if I could write a story as well as any of these authors, I still might never be able to publish it.

By the way, my friend, thank you for encouraging me to open that locked door.