Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What if...

I had an odd thought hit me. What if I took the relationship building between Devlin and Reg and made  Underground Guy into a long dialogue taking place over one night? Drop the serial killer stuff. Drop the involvement of a Middle Eastern Prince who's sexually fluid. Instead, make it about a man who uses sexual violence to provide him with a form of control connecting with the heterosexual man he almost raped but didn't, and who shatters his walls without meaning to.

Talk about making it a completely different story; I'm not sure why I'm even considering this. I have probably ⅔ of the book written. There are some sections that need to be joined together, a couple of bridges to build, but that's it. Yet what I did the other night between Dev and Reg tangles gentle around me, like ghostly smoke from a candle.

Could this be me avoiding the reality of a book that's turning into a novel long enough to rival the Bible in length? Again. Am I trying to find a lazy way out? I dunno. Maybe. I'm not averse to avoidance.

Years and years ago, I saw My Dinner With Andre, which is just a conversation between Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, two men involved in theater and film as actors, writers, and producers. It was fascinating to sit in a theater and be entertained by two talking heads, but it was mainly on an intellectual level. I never even considered trying to do something like it.

But then I went through a period where I was heavy into Willem De Kooning's abstract-expressionist art while also loving the portraits work of John Singer Sargent...who is his polar opposite. I was living in Houston and had just pulled myself away from a hideous filmmaking experience, and I remembered MDWA and thought about working up a low-key project between a young reporter and a reclusive artist famous for his abstract expressionism but who had disavowed it. Something pure to remove the taint of what I'd been through and allowed to happen.

I was able to work up about 25 or 30 pages -- I think I still have them in one of my boxes, someplace -- where the artist agrees to be interviewed only if the journalist will model for him, naked. Only I couldn't get it to really go anywhere or become more visual, and I thought about the difficulty in working up the pieces of art that would be needed, so I dropped it. Looking back, I just wasn't that good a writer, yet.

Now I'm thinking of a long conversation in bed between two men who've made a connection after a violent confrontation, to the shock of both of them, and how they reveal aspects of themselves as they go along. That sounds like a film or play, not a book. In fact, that is basically what Weekend was about -- two gay men connecting one night and spending the next couple days together before one of them leaves for another country. I wonder if my affection for those two films is playing on this?

Thing is, it would work as either. I saw a production of Homebody, Kabul, a play by Tony Kushner, where the opening monologue was transfixing. Forty minutes of a woman sitting in a chair talking about her life and love of a country she's never been to. Breathtaking. The following act, which was more traditional and had more people, was nothing compared to it.

William Shawn opened MDWA with this comment -- The life of a playwright is tough. It's not easy as some people seem to think. You work hard writing plays and nobody puts them on. You take up other lines of work to try to make a living. I became an actor and people don't hire you. So, you just spend your days doing the errands of your trade.

I guess one of the errands of my trade is having thoughts buffet me about.

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