Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Frank Muller

Yesterday my family went out to Creedmoor to visit Frank Muller. Frank was the most recognized name in audiobook narrators for the last twenty years -- practically as long as there have even been audiobooks. On long trips to and from West Viriginia to see Richard Rose, Augie and I listened to countless books narrated by Frank: spy novels by John Le Carre, Westerns by Cormac McCarthy, and of course, the unending masterpiece ofMelville's Moby-Dick. Augie has worn out two copies of his Moby-Dick tapes, listening to the utter beauty of the work that Frank managed to evoke in every scene. (I know I would never have understood Moby-Dick without the benefit of Frank's narration.) We were fans, and found ourselves reading books we might never have picked up, simply for the fact that Frank was reading it. We cannot read Moby-Dick without hearing Frank's voice: "Call me Ishmael."

Frank suffered devastating injuries in a motorcycle accident in the fall of 2001. His career as a narrator ended. Many of the celebrity authors whose works had been graced by Frank's readings -- Stephen King, Pat Conroy, John Grisham -- sung his praises in fundraiser readings. I felt the awful sadness and shock of the loss, but heard little more about him.

Five years later, I got an email from Recorded Books, with a new plea for assistance from Frank's family. There was a picture of his wife and two children, and I read that he was in a treatment center in Creedmoor, no more than an hour away. I showed the email to Janet: "I didn't know he was so close." And Janet gasped: "Oh my God, that's Erika. And Morgan. And Diana." Janet had become friends with Frank Muller's family at the Emerson Waldorf School, and we had no idea.

So we finally went out to see Frank. Augie was thrilled to meet his hero, even in his diminished state. Augie told Frank that how much he loved Moby-Dick, and Frank responded: "Best book ever." There was light in his eyes when he said it; you could see that Frank was still there, obscurred though he was by a broken body and battered mind. Erika had to translate most of Frank's comments, holding his hand and looking into his face with the patient, full attention of familiarity and love. (Later Augie commented, "I think Erika is as remarkable as he is.") We talked about his many works, what we loved about them, how he got the accents right.

It is heartbreaking to see tragic circumstances: a master of words divide from his craft, and the very language he lived for. And even more heartbreaking to see love reach out, again and again, across the divide.


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