February 20, 2005


I mentioned a couple months ago that I was invited to my 20 year elementary school reunion. It was this weekend. I didn’t go. I am chickenshit. Also I was feeling a little sick, but I think that was my body making a reason not to go. I wasn’t in the mood to be assessed. One of the reasons I thought about going was so I could ask somebody for a job, which is absolutely not a good reason to go to your class reunion. My best friend in elementary school, who I haven’t seen in twenty years, is (last I heard) a head writer on "NYPD Blue."

Rented Woody Allen’s "Anything Else" this weekend. Wasn’t so great but I always like a Woody Allen movie. There may be no more romantic movies. The city looks like it’s always lit at sunset. Even the apartments are lit a burnt yellow. I used to believe that the people in Woody Allen movies existed somewhere and I could one day be part of them, where everyone’s sharp and self-aware, as if they know what every moment signifies--like a novel--which may be the greatest lie of fiction. I didn’t understand that the characters are all written in his own voice. I own a copy of "Manhattan" and I put it on every once in a while when I need to believe there are people out there who breathe sophistication. It’s been a while so I don’t know if it will still have the same effect. The main character in "Anything Else," played by Jason Biggs, seemed panicky and uptight to me, rather than smart and romantic. Incidentally, maybe, Jason Biggs looks like a member of my family.

The only time I’ve had an experience that felt like living inside a Woody Allen movie was going to film critic Pauline Kael’s 80th birthday party. There’s a group photo , taken on the roof, of me standing there with Paul Schrader (wrote "Taxi Driver," others) NYer critic David Denby and 100 other intellectually luminescent people. One of my father’s good friends is Marshall Brickman who co-wrote "Annie Hall," "Manhattan," with Woody Allen, and even his parties overlooking Central Park West didn’t feel like a Woody Allen movie. People usually seem to be very concerned, vaguely desperate, that their current conversation isn’t interesting enough, whether they’re 60 or 30.

This post might seem like I am very well-connected. I’ve been to Woody Allen’s writing partner’s apartment and Pauline Kael’s house. It’s not always about who you know. If it was, I would be far more successful. Just going to someone’s house doesn’t solve anything. There’s something else at work. Actually, this has more to do with my father, who’s also a struggling novelist. I haven’t written about it here, but part of the reason for my deep discouragement with the publishing industry is that my dad has had hard luck as well, at exactly the same time. It compounds the frustration.

Feeling good now though. I’m listening to Duke Ellington, Small Groups. No more romantic music. No more romantic instrument than the clarinet. Rain outside, jazz inside. Great literate romance hits me ever so often and it’s a beautiful thing. Both internal and external. This may just be my way of describing a good mood. I know I'm in a bad way when I can't listen to music. Yes, I am up and down, but part of a good mood is feeling what’s possible, the future--if only it lasted.


Empty Drum said...

Great post, Henry. I like it when your enthusiasms overtake your disappointments. You write better and your humanity really comes through. And for what it's worth, you have inspired me to start writing in public at my website. Take care.

Henry Baum said...

Great to see you back here, Empty. I am really looking forward to the Empty Drum Gazette. I meant it when I wrote that the last complainiac post was going to be a grand finale. Gotta focus on better things, but I can't exactly promise anything...That you're inspired is worth a lot.

tequilita said...

glad you're back henry...when you're on you're really really on. this post was inspirational.

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