Sunday, May 18, 2008

Salman and George Clooney

God, it’s been a fortnight since I hit the blog but I have been writing words in other places of course. Sometimes amusing jobs come up on the radar that allow me to dip into other worlds and have a play. Most recently this involved putting together a Q&A with a singer for a magazine belonging to the beauty industry. I got to ask girlie questions and mine the fertile topic of hair care. It was a pleasant distraction.

The most serious people still need their pleasant distractions … as I realised whilst listening to Salman Rushdie be interviewed by Ramona Koval on The Book Show ( . I deliberately downloaded this podcast but, as I walked through the wintry streets last night and began listening to it, I was initially a bit cautious. Admittedly I’d had a weekend full of family obligations including five hours serving drinks and grinning maniacally so let’s say my tolerance levels were low. I occasionally get a little browned off though with high-falutin’ writers and intellects banging on from their ivory towers. Sometimes they seem so far from the day-to-day woes of normal Joes that it’s almost obscene. I put Rushdie squarely in the domain of someone who could enter that territory.

Nonetheless, whether he is mellowing with age or whether Ramona is just a gun of an interviewer, she really had him curling around like a kitten and being completely human and amusing. He was discussing his newest book, The Enchantress of Florence, and both of them agreed he was writing a lot more about sex than politics and that this was a GOOD thing. (I have Amazon winging the book to me as we speak naturally.) It would be completely understandable that the journey he’s been on would lead Salman to hanker for the sweeter side of life. And hanker he surely does. Seeking out some photos for this post I discovered he’s had a string (four at last count I think) of hottie wives. I don’t follow authors’ lives like a groupie so had no idea what a goddess lover he was. Good to know that when all hell was breaking loose around him (the Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses was murdered for God’s sake) Salman had somewhere sweet to lay his head.

Talking about sweet places to lay one’s head, I had to read the George Clooney article in Good Weekend last week. Tragic, I know! It led me to think of an idea for a script. What do we think? A 45-year-old film publicist gets the job of handling the itinerary of an aging Clooney type character (let’s say he’s a very well preserved 50-something-year-old) while he’s in Melbourne promoting a project. They have to spend a fair bit of time together, she proves to be a wise cracking, highly competent, unflustered gal who’s seen his type come and go before and has actually only been pulled in at the last minute to do this job because, Michael Corleone style, she’s been trying to get out (“Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in”) of the biz but she’s too good and people throw cash at her.

Circumstances throw the two together working late into the evening and they end up unwinding over a few drinks in the hotel. One thing leads to another in best schmalzy movie way and they get romantic. She has to travel to other States with him for the rest of the promotional tour and along the way a romantic friendship grows. He ends up asking her to hook up with him in Japan in a fortnight’s time where, after further promo work, he’s organised to have a week off exploring the culture/countryside. She goes.

Obviously there is much subterfuge required for anyone involved in this man’s life initially so that leads to things like chauffer driven limo picking her up at the airport where the Clooney type is hiding behind its tinted windows etc. I think we should throw in that the woman is recently divorced but has an 18-year-old daughter. When the relationship progresses this should make things interesting.
The progression towards the couple tooling around Japan in a luxury car and getting to really talk allows us to go further than normal famous person-unknown person love stories. Working around celebs for so long she understands some of the pitfalls and sometimes expresses sadness for him that, while she might pour out her heart willy-nilly or tell him true tales from her life he will find it hard to do the same with 99 per cent of the population because he can’t trust how they’ll use the info. I haven’t worked out how the rest of the story progresses but CLEARLY I am fleshing out a sad old fantasy that should be kept for those hours in bed when sleep evades me but, let’s face it, I could think of ten thousand middle aged women who would probably see the film. Hee hee!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

No country like this country

For Christmas this year I was given Cormac McCarthy’s book, No Country for Old Men. It came with a handwritten note from Mr M saying, “Read the book THEN see the film”. Hence it is May and, while the DVD sits in a tray in my office, it remains unscreened because I had to toe the line.

It was good that I received this book because McCarthy is one of those authors who I knew I had to read but I had, lazily, put it off. Before tackling No Country then, I decided to start off with the universally famous All the Pretty Horses. I decided I might as well tackle it and the entire Border Trilogy by this author. I read the first two in the trilogy (All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing) and then called it quits. It was a library book and I was getting emails from the good librarians saying other people had reserved this tome. By then I’d had enough McCarthy’s style for a while anyway – his men of few words and the harsh countryside that acts as a major character throughout.

Right from the get go with No Country I was hooked. How does a writer quietly take you by the throat from the first page and not lose his grip for 300 pages more? If I knew that I’d probably be farting through silk right now. McCarthy’s characters never say more than what is required. In his world chatterboxes or nervous space filler personalities don’t seem to exist. The character of Sheriff Bell is so seductive. He carries innate wisdom and seemingly no ego. Never before do I think I’ve seen the love between a husband and wife better expressed than in this novel. It is not done in any cotton candy, Mills & Boon way either. Predictably, it is done in few words but it is done through the simple reflections on the things that really make a long term relationship tick; a deep steadfast understanding and acceptance of another person’s flaws and the knowledge that they make you a better person just by loving you. I tell you, I unequivocally LOVED this book. I’d pop an exclamation mark in there but it would feel like I was insulting everything McCarthy stands for.

At one stage Bell is standing by a guardrail on a bridge looking down below. Someone who knows him drives past and, as a joke, yells out, “Don’t jump Sheriff. She ain’t worth it.” Bell says to himself, “Truth of the matter is, she is.”

There is nowhere near that amount of punctuation provided by McCarthy though. He doesn’t use quotation marks in this book when people speak and a word such as don’t will appear as dont.

And he loves tiny, bullet-like sentences … such as this:

A darkened room. Faint smell of rot. He stook until his eyes were accustomed to the dimness. A parlour.

Anyhoo I have to dash off to my own writing tasks today which are about as boring this Monday as one could possibly imagine. I will use the thought of viewing No Country for Old Men – the movie – as my reward.