Monday, February 3, 2014
I cut my reading teeth on Truman Capote. Not In Cold Blood, but earlier and more lyrical work -- A Christmas Memory, Other Voices Other Rooms, Breakfast at Tiffany's. And even though some of the more subtle points of plot and sexuality escaped me, I appreciated the clean prose of a natural storyteller. One perfect word after another. Reading early Capote was and is like listening to fine music; all rhythm and flow. Shielded from the heavy lifting of a thousand revisions.
Thanks partly to Capote, I learned to love reading, and believe in a particular narrative voice. One that doesn't pin you in a corner, shine a klieg light on the construction, illuminating nails and boards. Reading the greats, or my greats, you'll never hear hammers and drills, just the narrator as he or she holds your hand and whispers secrets in your ear.
It's a tightrope the artist walks, a balancing act between wonder and restraint.
But that takes a toll on the artist; people like me demand much of their artist. That we never witness all the hard falls they take on the way to perfection.
I think that's why so many artists, and not all, not by a long shot, but many have been drunks and drug addicts. Some artists enjoy the practice, the process. Eudora Welty belongs in this camp. She wrote and revised for the joy of it. But for others it's a fight and struggle, and they get terribly damaged along the way.
Maybe my appreciation of art is rather narrow, I require grace without effort. Natural, but a better natural than we find in natural life. Something unnaturally natural, I guess. Like, when I'm in a discussion or argument or moment of passion with someone quite real, often I'll think, maybe you could have stated that better, or, you really muffed that line.
Before this week, I had two favorite living actors, and now I have just one. I think it was the New Yorker's tribute that said Philip Seymour Hoffman was the actor you never purposefully went to see, but were always glad you did. They were wrong. I purposefully went to see all his movies. And he never disappointed; every word he said rang true.