Monday, August 14, 2017
August 14, 2017
Departmental retreat. Things change, and I let them flow through my hands, assuming I will not be there to be affected when the changes kick in.
The juggernaut of events rolls past the point where I feel I can have any useful thing to say, any complete understanding. Here’s a dilemma. I believe in Free Speech. I believe there is either Free Speech or there is not, and that cherry-picking– THIS free speech but not THAT free speech-- makes the light go out all at once. I do not believe Hate Speech is essentially different from Free Speech, however lamentable, however jaw-droppingly ignorant. I do not believe that hurt feelings, or even righteous outrage, is the red line that ends Free Speech. This is a conviction I barely have the courage to express, for there is dogma on the left as well as dogma on the right, and one treads carefully. When I reprehend an opinion I hear expressed publically, I assume the remedy is education– somehow to grab someone at the right time in their life and make them justify the things they believe in accordance with reason and Faith and whatever authority rules their hearts. Or, if they are lost, to save those around them by the twin powers of reason and example. I don’t think we can defeat racism– or any other ism– by telling it to shut up. Historical Nazism in Germany would not have been ended by the war, I think, if German citizens had not been dragged to the concentration camps and made to look at the end point of their leaders’ rhetoric, if they had not looked on their ruined cities and seen the outcome of racial delusion. I think our new brand of it has been dealt a blow by the baboons in Charlottesville showing off in front of the cameras and embarrassing everybody who is not lost in the morass of white supremacist rhetoric. It could be that my leftist FaceBook feed deceives me, but it seems to me that there must be five hundred people outraged and heart-sore for every white supremacist carrying a torch in Virginia. Is this not, in its way, well? Is this not a kind of victory? I want racism to be talked and reasoned to death, to be outlived by generations untainted by it. I think for it to go underground, unheard and embittered, however satisfying to us personally in the moment, will engender something still filthier down the road.
Watched several hours of night rat shooting on You Tube. Satisfying in ways I dare not explain even to myself.
Went on line to discover what courses I am teaching this semester. Mildly disappointed.
I said in conversation about the teaching of writing that what I stand for in all my disciplines–teaching, writing, acting, painting– is CLARITY. One of my colleagues adds “but there are different kinds of clarity,” intending to excuse the opacity of academic-speak from the rigors of clarity. Its not being the time nor the place stops me from saying, “No, there are not. Clarity is clarity, and what is obscure or muddled is in error, regardless of the excuses it want to make for itself” I am such a Platonist. . . .
August 12, 2017
Bestirred myself to go with DJ to a recital put on by the Hart brothers at All Souls. It was lovely, the presentation suave, the selections perfect for their voices and the space. Ives' “The Housatanic at Stockbridge” a shocking masterpiece. Constantly reminding myself that there is always something interesting to do. One doesn’t have to be in Dublin. Noticed how many artists think their art is a dying art– Lieder is a dying art, theater is dying, painting is dead. Yet we trundle on. Refugees from Charlottesville at the studio.
Friday, August 11, 2017
August 11, 2017
The birthday of Johnny Secaur, the kid who lived across the street from me for a while on Goodview. I remember his birthday. I remember he tried to grow radishes in a box. It worked. He made sculptures out of soap and glued them to rocks. He moved to 1117 Lower Drive in Kent. I thought we’d be friends forever.
Napped on the couch. Dreamed that I had driven a copy of Nimmo’s Quay to the Druid in Galway. I was the very first to arrive in an immense parking lot, that was sort of under water and sort of wasn’t. I delivered the script, but when I tried to find the truck I had driven, I couldn’t find it. Daunting, because I thought I’d parked it precisely where it could be found easily again. Plus, I had to find it before the sea rose and washed it away.
After Washington Place in Omaha, three directors asked to see it. Not one of them read it after it was sent. Some theater guy in Illinois begged to read the Lincoln trilogy, underlining I Promise to Read it. He never did. JB in New York agreed– or asked, I forget which-- to read new plays, which I sent, and he has not read one of them. I do know this is the proximate cause of the Great and Everlasting Stall, but short of assassination or arson, I do not know how to hammer past it. Send periodic notes, “You promised to read. You will never regret reading”? Hold loved ones for ransom? Ignited by receiving today a rejection from a small press that took 13 months to respond to NSDL, and clearly had, in all that time, not opened the file.
Some time at the studio, mostly wasted. Flocks of people fleeing from the heat in Florida. Lost important keys.
Binchois on the CD
Half thought to audition for Montford’s Othello, till discovering it was a vanity project to show that a woman can play Othello. A woman can say the lines, of course, but beyond that, no. All the work that goes into an honest production pretty much wasted on a stunt. Do I think all gender-blind casting is a stunt? I pretty much do, but it’s because I tend to be evidence based in my thought, and I never saw such an experiment that came near working. I never saw such an experiment except that the ONLY thing you thought about was how well or ill the person was filling the part designed for someone else. Saw V Redgrave in The Tempest at the Globe, and she was a great actor but a mediocre Prospero– even ignoring the fact that she had to go to the back every now and then to have her lines whispered to her. OK, men can be a scream as Lady Bracknell, and I can imagine a killer Julia Caesar. But otherwise– Why don’t they let me play in the NBA? I can dribble; I can shoot a basket.
AG is to direct Uranium 235. Allowed to think of it as a choice, but the choice was actually that or cancel. It will be fine. I always liked AG and miss working with him.
A series of face-slaps recently. I should be used to it- and I AM, actually, but amazed, like Guildenstern at the opening of R&G Are Dead that the same damn thing can keep happening, the same wry tone be struck, with such unnatural and deadening consistency.
I look up, and it’s evening—
Binchois, like the calling of a seabird. . . .
August 10, 2017
Skin of my hand whitening and peeling off, like little bits of frost. It’s always something.
Finished Nimmo’s Quay, realizing it’s the third version of the play I pretty much always write in or coming home from Ireland– where the American meets and loses the love of his life in Ireland. Wonder where THAT comes from?
Thursday, August 10, 2017
August 9, 2017
Cool morning. Turned down (by my count for the 26th time) for a state arts grant. Two girls from downstate got them . I can hear the conversation now: “Isn’t it time for some women’s voices?” That are bad, that we will never hear from again, but at least it’s better than giving one to him.
Letter from Daniel Rakov saying that The Great Comet, which gave every indication of running forever, will close before Labor Day, torpedoed by the controversy surrounding the naming of Mandy Patinkin to play Pierre. Patinkin did something to irritate someone, I forget what, and now the producers think that the controversy will not allow them to fill key cast openings. The letter reads a little like strategy to terrify troublemakers into line, but if it tells the truth, and unless things work in ways I don’t anticipate, what I thought would be a financial triumph for me will leave me with a loss of 3/4 of my investment. On a hit show, for a while the biggest on Broadway. It could be that I don’t understand the financial process and that everything will be well. Generally the universe makes me pay for each hopeful anticipation.
Will probably finish Nimmo’s Quay today, based on notes I took for two concluding scenes while in the Racquet Club café. Each time a little bell of joy goes off at a really good line or a really profound shade of meaning, I remind myself that quality has been, by and large, irrelevant to my career as a writer, and perhaps to the art of literature as now practiced in America. Having done the best work means practically nothing. The odd thing is that when I gather the courage to say this publicly, people nod as if to say everybody but me knew this all along.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
August 7, 2017
The natural fall of these summer days is: bed late, sometimes after midnight; up early, often before 5, off to the gym, writing, errands, studio; heavy nap around noon. Up again at 3 PM, write until I can’t anymore, then some TV, then bed around midnight. Today it was the Racquet Club and then getting both cars inspected, then the making of eggplant chili. Stalled in the second act of Nimmo’s Quay. General frustration, like a kind of heavy lace collar, chaffing and ridiculous.