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.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


We tried to watch Dodsworth, a 1936 film based on the play by Sinclair Lewis. I say tried because the film violated our first premise of story-telling: we couldn’t find any characters we cared about within the first 20 minutes of the film. Sam Dodsworth was endearing in a buffoonish kind of way, but his wife Fran was such an image of shallowness that we didn’t think we could stand 140 minutes of her. Just as she was throwing herself at a “Count of no account,” we went to bed.

I was interested at how little the stereotypes of Americans and Europeans have changed in the last 70 years. The Americans, no matter how rich, are hayseeds: uncultured, hardworking, too loud, somewhat charming in their simplicity. I was especially struck by the comment from Sam’s friend: “You’re an American – you’re supposed to work until you drop.” The notion of enjoying one’s life seems quite foreign, even to people as well-to-do as them. The Europeans, by contrast, are worldly layabouts; their notions of good manners and elegance extends to the particulars of how to conduct an extramarital affair.

I myself am somewhat torn on the nature of my American-ness. I value industry and success as much as Sam Dodsworth; I have a similar disinterest in the effete snobbery of the cultural elite. But at the same time, I recognize that there is more to life than work, and find myself longing for a slower pace that allowed for leisurely meals, long conversations, and plenty of books. It’s hard to accept the trade-offs; would I accept the Parisian café if it meant putting up with public-servant strikes every other day?



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