Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hollywood Weirdness

Living in Los Angeles, and Hollywood in particular, gives me a surreal feeling and sometimes an almost disbelief in my actual life versus various fictional lives I come across in movies and novels. I am a native Angeleno and I glamorized Hollywood with a purposeful naivete when I was a teenager – I knew that the corner of Hollywood and Vine was just a street corner with a heavy metal shop (or a liquor store or something – my memory fails me) and some poor people waiting for their bus on it, yet I loved that street corner anyway, and loved books and movies and songs and photos that built on the mythology of Hollywood, and I went there every weekend for awhile, a feeling of excitement on the bus ride there and usually a vague feeling of depression on the bus ride back but always wanting to live there when I grew up. I could go on forever on this part of my teens (Hollywood, Nirvana, Courtney Love, a book called Weetzie Bat, Guns N’ Roses and Riot Grrrl are the main themes that dominate my youth) and a few years ago I tried to write specifically about Hollywood but I find my attention span too short for all the non-fiction projects I start. Let me just sketch out a few more facts and then get to the Hollywood weirdness in particular that was distracting me as I drove to work this morning.
Facts: I loved Hollywood until my first band played its first show at a club in Hollywood and I was beaten up really bad there; then I wouldn’t go to Hollywood anymore, and started having panic attacks, and looked forward to moving out of the state for college. After college I moved back to L.A. and was appreciative of it and had the time of my life (not counting college) living in Hollywood. When me and my husband moved back to CA from Philly we lived in the San Bernardino mountains for awhile but when he started apartment scouting he told me he found the perfect place, and he ended up driving me to the same building I used to live in before, so I live where I used to live but now I’m a weird grown up going through an awkward early onset midlife crisis.
So that brings us up to date: I live in Hollywood and my midlife crisis consists of agoraphobia and a phobia they haven’t named yet, it’s an amorphous thing, it’s devastating but it lasts a whole life time sometimes, only white middle class girls seem to suffer from it and it’s characterized by not being entirely responsible with one’s tranquilizers sometimes and being a pretty flake and a bad housekeeper and an interesting person and an animal lover and a passionate crier and frightened and a wild gesticulator and a voracious reader. So the Hollywood weirdness that’s striking me lately is when I see it portrayed in movies or read about it in books. The examples that come to mind most readily are the movies “Heaven Can Wait”, “Greenburg” and “Funny People”, the A.M. Holmes’ novel This Book Will Save Your Life and the Joan Didion memoir The Year of Magical Thinking. I read or saw all of these works recently and in all of them there were appearances of places really close to where I live. In some cases even my street was named or shown. I don’t know how to end this post because this is just a ramble, not a fully formed thought. It just feels so weird to hardly be going out and to be going through this anxious phase full of fear and doubt and to see a version of my surroundings in works of fiction; when something is fictionalized it is given importance. It’s almost as though I’m watching or reading about my life, but my own life is so ___________ right now. That’s my current Hollywood weirdness.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

day late dollar short

One of my favorite books I've read in the past year is Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, who also wrote the amazing novels Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans.

I became anxious a few months ago when I heard that a film was being made of the novel, but I just learned that the film has already come and gone (in limited release), and while that information released me from the anxiety I feel at having someone ruin something I love for public consumption, I was also disappointed. here are a few pretty film stills.
xoxo robin

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cat Noir

I wrote a children’s story about a little boy whose cat dies, and for two months it was the best-selling book for children ages 5-7. Almost unanimously, the book critics who wrote about the book focused on the originality and bravery of the scene in which my protagonist, little Christopher, kneels beside his bed to say a prayer the night his cat Velvet has had to be put down, and finds he doesn’t know what to say. “Thank you my God for the day you have given me,” he begins, as his nightly prayers always begin, the way he was taught at Sunday School. But then he doesn’t know how to continue. “I feel very sad,” the prayer concludes. The book itself concludes with an illustration of Christopher smiling, sitting between his parents on an imprecise green watercolor brush-stroke of a couch. His mother and father each have an arm around his shoulder, and with their free hand, each parent holds the hand of Christopher that is closest to them. The words on this last page say: “They explained to him that there would be other sad days in life, but that the sadness would just make the happy days feel better. Christopher understood. ‘Thank you, Velvet,’ Christopher whispers. The End.”

The book made me enough money not to work in an office for awhile, and my husband was able to add me to his health insurance plan, so I took a year off from the life of work I’d been living. I was going to write another novel. None of the other ones ever went anywhere, but my agent assured me that, thanks to the success of “Christopher and Velvet,” I wouldn’t have any more difficulty getting published in the future. But, and this I couldn’t tell anyone, I’d already ruined the fragile balance of my well-being. I’d thought too much about Christopher and Velvet, before, during and since I’d written the book. “I feel very sad,” I often whispered to myself.
Instead of a novel, I started to write a memoir about myself and the cats in my life, a memoir that would prove so disturbing, by the time I finished the last sentence, I would have lost my capability to pretend that everything is all right. I would be a shaky, haunted-looking stray.