on writing. tidal waves. Eudora Welty

My son tells me a mega-Tsunami is expected to hit Manhattan and wipe it out entirely. Understandably, he finds this disconcerting. So do I. All chaos is disconcerting. The Egyptians, this same son has informed me, divided the world into order and chaos, instead of good and evil. Goodness is order, what we can predict. Evil is chaos. Eudora Welty, in her short story “June Recital” (in the collection The Golden Apples), which is, by the way, one of the greatest pieces of writing I have ever read, invokes two characters who have broken away from the order of their community, even though they still live there. She writes: “Both Miss Eckhart and Virgie Rainey were human beings terribly at large, roaming on the face of the earth. And there were others of them–human beings, roaming, like lost beasts.” I suppose in some way I have always been writing and making films about people who are lost in this way. Jack in the Ballad of Jack and Rose, even Rose herself, Paula in “Personal Velocity”. Chris, in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, and finally maybe Pippa. Walking on the edge of chaos, making themselves up as they go along.

Anyway it’s been very encouraging to read your comments and your encouragement. I think you are all right. I’ll just keep trundling along doing my own thing and I’ll be thankful that there are people out there who take the trouble to sniff out my work, and when they do, sometimes it moves them or makes them think. This morning when I finished the Eudora Welty story I was awed and just quiet for a long time. I didn’t want to talk. It was as if she had taken my soul, tossed it around like a rag doll, and then stuffed it back into my chest. I’ve had that feeling a few times over the years, films do it and books do it. “Opening Night” by John Cassavetes did it. The image of Gena Rowlands looking at her young self in that film inspired juxtaposing the younger and older Pippas in The Privates Lives of Pippa Lee. That’s what it’s like to get older. You see your younger self as a sort of stranger. If you’re lucky, you have affection for that person.

I’m writing a book now, that’s why I haven’t been blogging so much, but I will try to do it more.

10 Responses to “on writing. tidal waves. Eudora Welty”

  • Greetings! I chanced upon your blog via this post and I liked it enough to subscribe to your rss feed. Thanks for the great content!

  • Donna Atkins:

    Your work inspires me to write. It helps connect me with parts of myself I’ve put in compartments: child, teen, young mom. It helps me integrate those parts of me. Personal Velocity, Ballad of Jack and Rose and Private Lives of Pippa, all validate and connect me to my experiences as a writer, girl, woman, wife and mom. Your work reminds me I’m whole and my stories, our stories, are important. Thank you.

  • Donna Atkins:

    Also, Eudora Welty is my favorite writer. You are the writer/director who moves and inspires me most. Thank you, again.

  • Nan Narboe:

    I saw The Private Lives of Pippa Lee the other night and I’m still thinking about it and thinking about each of the characters. I have been psychotherapist for forty years. I know that daughters hate their mothers for denying themselves — it’s something I’ve worked with — but I have never before seen that hatred, or its resolution, depicted on film.

    Now I’m off to locate the Welty story and watch your previous films, in the firm expectation of seeing other familiar but heretofore missing “truths.”

    I look forward to you producing more art that reveals our lives.

  • pmarie:

    Decided to check in on your site following a lengthy absence and am delighted to see that you have a blog entry.
    Recently spent some time with a life long girlfriend. She said to me “I SAW Pippa Lee! I thought it was magnificent and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it!” She was genuinely excited and the film truly touched her.
    I always find it interesting to see my older self in the mirror when walking down the street. As many, my vision of my external self is about 25 years( or more) younger than the image that greets me when Ilook at my reflection in those giant store windows.
    Thank you for the recommendation of Welty’s story, I can’t wait to immerse myself in it and look forward to your next work in whatever medium it arrives!

  • Donna Atkins:

    I just read The Optimist’s Daughter for the third time and, when I got to the nugget of the story where I feel the source and depth of Laurel’s grief, I thought, “Oh, my God. I wish Rebecca Miller would adapt and direct this.”

  • Margaret Bates:

    Reminds me of a quote I read somewhere many moons ago that the price of free will is chaos. And yet isn’t chaos really a lot about our perception of it? I love it when apparently random acts and choices lead to outcomes and events that have the magic touch about them. I won’t say destiny because it isn’t quite that. It is something to do with intuition maybe even the universal unconscious that moves and connects people and histories.
    Anyway thank you for your work and for embracing and honouring your truth which always takes courage and is the noblest thing an artist can do.
    Thank you for bringing Pippa into the world in both forms!
    And have to say too Robyn Wright-Penn gave such a beautifully toned performance…

  • Johannah Henderson:

    I watched The ballad of Jack and Rose again this morning – just after I woke up. Last night – just before I went to bed – was the first time I had seen it.
    That feeling you mentioned – I know about it, and I had it after watching your film. I also had it with “Breaking the waves” by Lars Von Trier and “Pola X” by Leos Carax. Long silences, nothing to say. Watching the snow outside, afraid it will stop.
    Listening to “Desire” by Bob Dylan.
    I have a strange struggle that must look very funny to people that know me. For many years all I have wanted to do is write. I don’t know why – I just write.
    Somehow this struggle is lifted when I feel this feeling – the one you mentioned.
    I am breaking the silence now to say how much I appreciated your film for so many reasons. If I had to make a time capsule to capture beauty for future generations (or some situation like that) I would put your film in it. I think that is the best I can do at this moment to tell you what it meant to me.
    And now I will go back to silence. And I will write in my silence – because you have inspired me. Thankyou.

  • Beth Lake:

    I am thrilled that you’re writing a blog. I watched The Ballad of Jack and Rose the other day and loved it! I look forward to your future entries.

  • I want to share a new development. I’m adapting The Optimist’s Daughter myself. It’s moved me to a new place, and it has announced itself to me as my next project. The project now is called ‘Confluence.’ I’m also writing a screenplay bio of Eudora Welty’s life. I’d love to know you’d read the novel and what you think of it. Too, look forward to your next blog entry.

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