No Longer Fetching Enough To Turn To Porno

Yesterday was the Oscars.  I had zero interest in watching that long, bilious panegyric to Hollywood's mutual wankery.  Self-congratulation at it's most venal.  I didn't even check to see if it was being broadcasted on one of the four channels that my TV can adequately receive.

I go through cycles of movie watching.  There have been years when I see well over a hundred mainstream movies — and I'm talking new releases at the theaters.  And then there are years like 2006.  I just now glanced at all the titles of films nominated for the Academy Awards in all categories.  I managed to see five of them.  And two, I was able to see over the internet.  But as I attended about seven film festivals, and got out to quite a few other types on non-traditional screenings, I did indeed see quite a few new films in 2006.  But, apparently, not of Oscar-quality.

Tonight was the monthly free writers workshop put on by Gemini Ink.  I took one of the older pieces from my Fictional Bog site.  I felt kind of lame, not having brought something newer.  But there is one stipulation to those who show up.  You are limited to 4 pages, double-spaced.  And some of my recent work on the above-mentioned site is becoming longer than the first few, which were almost short enough to fall into that semi-genera of “flash fiction.”

I showed up with a 760 word piece, and really didn't get much in the way of constructive criticism.  The one thing that people mention about my fiction is that it has a strong voice.  Yeah.  That's the one thing I do well.  But occasionally, I'll get some helpful feedback.  I like to hear when people honestly tell that a particular passage confuses them.  A lack of clarity in fiction can get readers to turn away almost as quickly as flat dialog or an excess of cliche.

The group changes from month to month.  This time we had eight people reading.  I had seen four of them before.  Tonight, we had a new-comer who came across insightful and somewhat patronizing when commenting on the work of others, but when it came time for her to read, I found myself cringing.  Her anemic writing style was clearly “nourished” by a steady diet of bestseller hack work.

I think the reason I continue to show up is that one of the regulars, a guy in his late sixties, has clearly read a ton of brilliant literature and he has clearly been influenced by it all.  Trying to pin down his work is difficult.  It's dense, languid writing, with serpentine sentences that slither along for miles. There's a brittle wryness that makes me think of Cormac McCarthy, especially back when he was still a southern writer.  I see Faulkner all over the place.  And Thomas Wolfe.  John Fante.  Malcolm Lowry.  And enough of a whiff of of beats to make me think, for some reason, of Richard Farina.  He's either a genius, or a pretentious dilettante.  I need to sit down and read about a hundred pages of his stuff before I can figure it out.  The guy comes in with passages from at least two novels he's in the middle of.  They are both currently in the 300 to 400 page length.

After I told him, last month, that I was working on a novella that I wanted to then adapt to a screenplay, he wanted to know why I didn't just write a screenplay.  I tried to explain why I thought that the screenplay format was the express train to doggerel.  “It'll suck the poetry from your writing faster than huffing nail polish remover.”  He didn't understand me.  So when he asked if I planned to try and get the novella published as well as the screenplay produced, I said yes.  That seemed to make sense to him.  Tonight, he mentioned that since talking with me last month he had written a screenplay that would be perfect for Sally Fields.  “I saw her in a TV commercial,” he said.  “She's promoting some osteoporosis drug.”  “The kiss of death for an actor,” I replied, shaking my head.  “Pimping for the pharmaceutical companies is what an actor does when he or she is no longer fetching enough to turn to porno.”  “Oh, I think she's still got the fans.  And because, she's always complaining that there are no good roles for older women, I thought I'd write something just for her.”  Before he could go any further, the guy who runs the group called the name of the first reader.  So, I'll have to ask this guy, when I next see him, if he's serious.  Did he really hammer out a screenplay in a month?  I'm rather curious how prolific he might be.

Prolific?  Damn, I need to write more.  (Just not screenplays for washed up actresses.)  

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