Saturday, January 12, 2008

Me and Jimmy Stewart

I recently read an essay in The New Yorker (January 14, 2008) about Otto Preminger, written by David Denby. He discusses Preminger's movies, focusing, in this instance, on "Anatomy of a Murder", which I have probably seen on TV in the long ago dim past but don't remember. Anyway, Jimmy Stewart, ". . . in one of his wonderful melancholy 'late' performances . . ." plays a former county prosecutor, who, apparently, hangs around with his buddies, not doing a whole lot of lawyering. The line Denby writes that stood out for me is, "The movie is leisurely, detailed, realistic, intensely companionable; you get a sense of how people exist at the margins of a profession without losing their dignity." [emphasis mine.]

I immediately identified with this description. At the margins of the profession, is, in fact, where I exist in the writing world. (I suspect lots of us do.) Realizing this, I actually felt good. I have been angsting for some time about not being a "successful" writer, but in truth I am always more comfortable at the edges of things. (A much better position from which to observe the goings on, for example, and from which, if necessary, to escape.) I had thought that getting published would deliver me to the center of SUCCESS, but a.) that hasn't happened, and b.) I'm not a center kind of person. So the trick for me, now, is the dignity part of Denby's sentence. I feel I have sometimes lost dignity in my floundering and in my wailing about floundering, but now I sense there is another way to engage with the writing life I actually have. This is tricky ground for me--I'm always up for a good angsty sob--but it's better to proceed into a country of a small but burnished pride than to stay in the ruined landscape where I've been, right?

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