And while I've been right here, I've been focusing on applying first edits to The Savior Worlds in order to be able to get the book out to the beta readers, and today, off it went! Whew.
So, what have you all been up to?
Memorial Day, for all its solemnity, has for me always been something of a distant holiday, because no one close to me has ever fallen in war, and in fact I have to look pretty far for relatives who have even served in wartime. Both of my grandfathers fought in World War I, but both had been dead for years when I was born. I know that an uncle of mine served during World War II, but I also know that he saw no action (not to belittle his service, but Memorial Day is generally set aside to remember those who paid the "last full price of devotion"). My father-in-law served in Viet Nam, but my own father did not (he had college deferments for the first half of the war, and was above draft age during the second). So there is little in my family history to personalize Memorial Day; for me, it really is a day to remember "all the men and women who have died in service to the United States".
One personal remembrance, though, does creep up for me each Memorial Day. It has nothing at all to do with my family; in fact, I have no connection with the young man in question.
When I was in grade school, during the fall and spring, when the weather was nice, we would have gym class outdoors, at the athletic field. On good days we'd play softball or flag football or soccer; on not-so-good days we'd run around the quarter-mile track. But the walk to the athletic field involved crossing the street in front of the school and walking a tenth of a mile or so down the street, past the town cemetery. I remember that at the corner of the cemetery we passed, behind the wrought-iron fence, the grave of a man named Larry Havers was visible. His stone was decorated with a photograph of him, in military uniform. I don't recall what branch in which he served, nor do I recall his date-of-birth as given on the stone, but I do recall the year of his death: 1967. I even think the stone specified the specific battle in which he was killed in action, but I'm not sure about that, either.
That's what I remember each Memorial Day: the grave of a man I never knew, who died four years before I was born in a place across the world to which I doubt I'll ever go. And in the absence of anyone from my own family, Mr. Havers's name will probably be the one I look for if I ever visit that memorial in Washington. I hope his family wouldn't mind.
Know, all who see these lines,
That this man, by his appetite for honor,
By his steadfastness,
By his love for his country,
By his courage,
Was one of the miracles of the God.
-- Guy Gavriel Kay
|From The Rise of Skywalker|
|From Attack of the Clones|
Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;
Titled gluttons dainties carving,
Genius in a garret starving.
Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;
Courtiers cringing and voracious;
Misers scarce the wretched heeding;
Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding.
Wives who laugh at passive spouses;
Theatres, and meeting-houses;
Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;
Hospitals, and groans of anguish.
Arts and sciences bewailing;
Commerce drooping, credit failing;
Placemen mocking subjects loyal;
Separations, weddings royal.
Authors who can’t earn a dinner;
Many a subtle rogue a winner;
Fugitives for shelter seeking;
Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking.
Taste and talents quite deserted;
All the laws of truth perverted;
Arrogance o’er merit soaring;
Merit silently deploring.
Ladies gambling night and morning;
Fools the works of genius scorning;
Ancient dames for girls mistaken,
Youthful damsels quite forsaken.
Some in luxury delighting;
More in talking than in fighting;
Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;
Lordlings empty and insipid.
Poets, painters, and musicians;
Lawyers, doctors, politicians:
Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,
Seeking fame by diff’rent roads.
Gallant souls with empty purses;
Gen’rals only fit for nurses;
School-boys, smit with martial spirit,
Taking place of vet’ran merit.
Honest men who can’t get places,
Knaves who shew unblushing faces;
Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;
Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.
Carol turned, uncharacteristically flustered. "Jim--!"
"Hello, Carol." He stopped. He wanted to say everything to her, or he wanted to say nothing. He wanted to make love with her, or he wanted never to see her again.
"Talk to you later," Dr. Eng said, and made a diplomatic exit.
"How are you feeling, Jim?"
He ignored the question. His heart beat hard. "It's wonderful to see you. I have to leave soon. Can we...I'd like to talk to you. Would you have a drink with me?"
"I don't feel like having a drink," she said. "But I will go for a walk with you."
Jim paused beside Gary, still hoping he might awaken. [That's Gary Mitchell, Kirk's best friend who was his First Office in the episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before," before his character died.] "Get well, my friend," Jim said, and left Ms. Chapel the note to give him when he regained consciousness.
They did not have to discuss where to go. Jim and Carol walked toward their park.
Without meaning to, exactly, Jim kept brushing against Carol. His shoulder touched her shoulder; his fingers touched the back of her hand. At first she moved aside.
"Oh--" Carol said impatiently the third time Jim touched her. She took his hand and held it. "We are still friends, I hope."
"I hope so too," Jim said. He tried to pretend the electric tingle of physical attraction no longer existed between them, but he found it impossible to deceive himself that much. Being near Carol made Jim feel as if a powerful current case a web over both of them, exchanging and intensifying every passion.
"Are you sleeping any better?" Carol said.
Jim hesitated between the truth and a lie. "I'm sleeping fine," he said.
Carol gave him a quizzical glance, and he knew he had hesitated too long. She had held him too many times, when the nightmare slapped him awake in the darkest hours of the morning.
"If you want to talk about it...." she said.
"No. I don't want to talk about it," he said in a clipped tone. [This all happens in the aftermath of a bad incident that left Kirk emotionally scarred.]..."No," he said again, more gently. "I don't want to talk about it."
Still holding hands, they reached the small park and set out along the path that circled the lake. Ducks swam alongside them, quacking for a handout.
"We always forget to bring them anything," Carol said. "How many times have we walked here--we always meant to bring them some bread, but we never did."
"We had...other things on our minds."
"Carol, there's got to be some way--!"
He cut off his words when he felt her tense.
"Such as what?" she said.
"We could--we could get married."
She looked at him; for a moment he thought she was going to burst out laughing.
"What?" she said.
"Let's get married. We could transport to Spacedock. Admiral Noguchi could perform the ceremony."
"But why marriage, for heaven's sake?"
"That's the way we do it in my family," Jim said stiffly.
"Not in mine," Carol said. "And anyway, it still wouldn't work."
"It's worked for quite a number of generations," Jim said, though in the case of his own parents the statement stretched the truth. "Carol, I love you. You love me. You're the person I'd most want to be with if I were stranded on a desert planet. We have fun together--remember when we went to the dock and snuck on board the Enterprise for our own private tour--" At her expression, he stopped. "It's true."
"Yes," she said. "It's true. And I've missed you. The house is awfully quiet without you."
"Then you'll do it?"
"No. We talked about this too many times. No matter what we do, it wouldn't make any difference. I can't be with you and you can't stay with me."
"But I could. I could transfer to headquarters--"
"Jim..." She turned to face him. She held both his hands and looked into his eyes. "I remember how you felt when you found out you're getting command of the Enterprise. Do you think anyone who loved you would want to take that away from you? Do you think you could love anyone who tried?"
"I love you," he said. "I don't want to lose you."
"I don't want to lose you, either. But I lost you before I ever met you. I can get used to the quiet. I can't get used to having you back for a few weeks at a time and losing you over and over and over again."
He kept seeking a different solution, but the pattern led him in circles and he could find no way out.
"I know you're right," he said, miserable. "I just..."
Tears silvered Carol's dark blue eyes.
They kissed each other, one last time. She held him. He laid his head on her shoulder with his face turned away, because he, too, was near tears.
"I love you too, Jim," she said. "But we don't live on a desert planet."
In addition to his vast output of German poetry, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) composed nearly 400 poems in French. His poems on roses struck me as especially charming, filled with gorgeous lyricism, deftly crafted and elegant in their imagery. These exquisite poems are primarily light, joyous and playful, and the musical settings are designed to enhance these characteristics and capture the delicate beauty and sensuousness of the poetry. Distinct melodic and harmonic materials recur throughout the cycle, especially between Rilke's poignant “Contre qui, rose” (set as a wistful nocturne) and his moving “La rose complète.” The final piece, “Dirait-on,” is composed as a tuneful chanson populaire, or folksong, that weaves together two melodic ideas first heard in fragmentary form in preceding movements.
THE ROSES (Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from French by Clarissa Aykroyd)
One rose alone is every rose,
one, but manifold meaning:
perfect and irreplaceable,
framed by words of being.
How could we ever speak
without the rose,
of sweet interludes in constant farewell,
or of our hopes?
Une rose seule, c'est toutes les roses
et celle-ci: l'irremplaçable,
le parfait, le souple vocable
encadré par le texte des choses.
Comment jamais dire sans elle
ce que furent nos espérances,
et les tendres intermittences
dans la partance continuelle.
Momus, God Of Laughter
Though with the gods the world is cumbered,
Gods unnamed, and gods unnumbered,
Never god was known to be
Who had not his devotee.
So I dedicate to mine,
Here in verse, my temple-shrine.
'Tis not Ares - mighty Mars,
Who can give success in wars;
'Tis not Morpheus, who doth keep
Guard above us while we sleep;
'Tis not Venus, she whose duty
'Tis to give us love and beauty.
Hail to these, and others, after
Momus, gleesome god of laughter.
Quirinus would guard my health,
Plutus would insure me wealth;
Mercury looks after trade,
Hera smiles on youth and maid.
All are kind, I own their worth,
After Momus, god of mirth.
Though Apollo, out of spite,
Hides away his face of light,
Though Minerva looks askance,
Deigning me no smiling glance,
Kings and queens may envy me
While I claim the god of glee.
Wisdom wearies, Love has wings --
Wealth makes burdens, Pleasure stings,
Glory proves a thorny crown --
So all gifts the gods throw down
Bring their pains and troubles after;
All save Momus, god of laughter.
He alone gives constant joy,
Hail to Momus, happy boy!
Last Olivier story.
He and Roy Scheider were rehearsing a scene. In the story they are very close to voilence, but both are still trying to figure out what the other one knows. The dialog went like this:
OLIVIER: We must talk. Truthfully. Are you to be trusted?--
OLIVIER: --Was that the truth? Or are you trying to upset me?--
SCHEIDER: --I know why you’re here—and I know that sooner or later you’re going to go to the bank--
OLIVIER: --perhaps I have already been.
Schlesinger [director John Schlesinger] interrupted them. He said, “Larry, that’s supposed to go fast, and after Roy says the line about the bank, you’re taking a pause before ‘Perhaps I have already been.’ Don’t take the pause.”
Olivier said “Of course,” and they started into the dialog again. And then he stopped. “I have a problem about not taking the pause.”
“I’m trying to find out information. Roy says, ‘I know why you’re here.’ And I need to find out what that means. Then Roy says, “I know...” And I’m listening. Then he says, ‘I know that sooner or later...’ And I’m still listening. Now he says, ‘I know that sooner or later you’re going to go...’ And I’m still listening. Finally he says, ‘I know that sooner or later you’re going to go to the bank.’ That pause I’m taking is to give me time to register the information about the bank.”
“I understand,” Schlesinger said, “But we’ve got to get rid of the pause.”
Olivier turned to me, then. “Bill,” he said, “could I suggest an alteration in the line? Would it be all right if I changed it so that the line went, ‘I know that you’re going to go to the bank sooner or later?’ You see, then I could register the word bank while he was saying ‘sooner or later’ and I wouldn’t need the pause.”
Obviously it was fine with me and the line was altered and we went on without the pause. And probably this two minutes of rehearsal explained at length doesn’t seem like much put down in black and white.
But that moment—when the actor of the century asked me would I mind if he switched six words around—is the most memorable incident of my movie career. Olivier. Calling me “Bill.” Olivier. Asking me would I mind.
That’s high cotton….
Andre would never come out and say that wrestling might not be legit. He fought 300 plus times a year for about 20 years, and all he ever admitted was that he didn’t like being in the ring with someone he thought might be on drugs. When he was in his prime, men who weighed 250 or 300 pounds would hurl themselves on him from the top rope and he would catch them and not budge.
But even seven years ago his body was beginning to betray him. There is a scene at the end of The Princess Bride where Robin Wright—and yes she is that beautiful—jumped out of a castle window, and Andre was to catch her at the bottom.
The shot was set up for Roin to be lifted just above camera range and then dropped in Andre’s arms. Maybe a foot. Maybe two. But not much and Robin was never that heavy.
The first take, she was dropped and he caught her—and gasped, suddenly white like paper, and almost fell to his knees. His back was bad. And getting worse, and soon there would be surgery.
Andre once said to Billy Crystal, “We do not live long, the big and the small.”
I think there’s a wave of talent rising now. Thousands upon thousands of young men and women who literally love film. I realize this is a book about Hollywood, so obviously there has to be a happy ending. Only I’m not tacking this on. I believe that wave is upon us and that it’s not going to be stopped. And to all that talent, let me say, where the hell have you been and I wish you joy…
...and may you ignore the critics when they attack you, and pay no attention to their praise…
...and may you please remember when your scenes are sludge, that screenplays are structure…
...and may you have peers as willing to improve your project as you must be; treat them kindly, for they will save your ass many times over…
...and may you always remember “it’s only a movie” but never forget that there are lots worse things than movies—like politicians…
...and may you be lucky enough and skilled enough to make some glorious moments for all those people sitting out there in the dark, as earlier craftsmen created such moments for you…
...and finally and most of all…
...may all your scars
be little ones….
The one thing I think all writers like to talk about is their work habits. When do you write? For how long? Where? Endless questions. So I want to spend a minute now on the basic problem facing us all: doing it.
When I began, at twenty-four, the work always came out in a burst. The Temple of Gold took less than three weeks. A year later, Your Turn to Curtsy, My Turn to Bow, less than two. And in between, nothing much happened that bettered the human condition, just going to the movies, a double feature a day, sometimes two, everything on 42nd Street or the Thalia on West 95th. Two years basically wasted until the next book, which was Soldier in the Rain.
I was having a career, God yes. Three novels published by age twenty-eight, two of them million-copy sellers in paperback, the third into a movie.
What I wasn’t having was a life.
I never had a real job so whenever I wanted to write, I could. Morning, night, all night if I watned—and I suspect it I had continued that way, I was heading for disaster.
There is no wrong when it comes to work habits. It doesn’t matter if you use a Mac or a quill pen. There is no best way to go about storytelling. Bergman writes from ten to three and in ten weeks, he’s got a screenplay. Graham Greene, another hero, counted words. Yes, you read that right, he counted each and every word until he reached his magic number—three hundred. And when he got there, guess what, he quit for the day, in the middle of a sentence or not.
They had the one thing writers need most: discipline.
My great editor, Hiram Haydn, was a very busy man. He started or ran publishing houses, had a wife and a bunch of kids, was editor of The American Scholar.
And wrote novels.
He was my editor from Soldier in the Rain through The Princess Bride, was a wondrous father figure for me. Once we were talking about a novel of his, The Hands of Esau, that he was so close to finishing, and I asked him how long since he began it and he said probably eight years.
How do you stay the same person for that long, I wondered?
You just do the best you can, he replied. You hope.
When do you write?
Sunday morning, he said. Every Sunday morning.
That was the only time available to him. The rest of his life was kids and work and family and commuting and meetings and dealing with crazy writers; Sunday morning was all he could carve out, so he played it as it laid.
You have to protect your writing time, he said then.
That’s the best basic advice I can give to any writer. You have to protect your writing time. You have to protect it to the death.
I think it should always be the same time. Each day, each night, each whatever. Can be half an hour, more when you’re on a roll, probably shouldn’t be less. I know a brilliant young writer who has zero problem writing. Her problem is sitting. Her computer is surrounded by a mine field and she will come up with the most amazing reasons not to try to cross it. And no, she is neither crazy nor along in her problem--
because the easiest thing to do on earth is not write.
The need for a schedule is simple: You’ll have hours, days, when you just sit there, but eventually, you come to know that your writing time is not and things begin to happen as you sit there.
And if you manage to suck it up, if you decide you must get your stories down, then there is one other thing that’s crucial: don’t talk about it. Tell no one.
Once others know, they will look at you strangely, they will question you, they will ask you terrible questions--
--how’s it coming?
--is it fun?
--when is it going to be finished?
--I bet it’s fun
--when can I see it?
You don’t need those words buzzing around your ears. So keep the start of your career secret. Keep the time sacred.
Remember: nobody made you be a writer.
THE KID: Grandpa?
The Old Man stops, turns.
THE KID: Maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow.
GRANDFATHER: (a beat) As you wish.
And his smile is enough. As The Grandfather steps out the
door, tipping his hat--
FINAL FADE OUT.