Canseco has been described as a charmer and a clown, but in fact he is a rogue, a genuine one, and genuine rogues are rare, inside baseball and out. It’s not enough to flout the law, to be a rogue–break promises, shirk responsibilities, cheat–you must also, at least some of the time, and with the same abandon, do your best, play by the rules, keep faith with your creditors and dependents, obey orders, throw out the runner at home plate with a dead strike from deep right field. Above all, you must do these things, as you do their opposites, for no particular reason, because you feel like it or do not, because nothing matters, and everything’s a joke, and nobody knows anything, and most of all, as Rhett Butler once codified for rogues everywhere, because you do not give a damn
We have no style, you and I; only people who don’t give a damn have style.
– “On Canseco” from Manhood For Amateurs by Michael Chabon
Really enjoyed this book. And Canseco would’ve made a good Godard character.
You should never just read for ‘enjoyment.’ Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior; or better yet, your own. Pick ‘hard books.’ Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for God’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, ‘I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.’ Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of ‘literature’? That means fiction, too, stupid.
At its best, my system gives me a smoother living experience. My days become dreamlike, no edges anywhere, none of the snags and snafus that life is so famous for. After days and days alone it gets silky to the point where I can’t even feel myself anymore, it’s as if I don’t exist.
– Miranda July from The First Bad Man
I really enjoyed this book. And this passage resonated with me as I sometimes drift into dreamlike days alone in my apartment in a kind of contented trance.
The theft of secret documents was the original MacGuffin. So the “MacGuffin” is the term we use to cover all that sort of thing: to steal plans or documents, or discover a secret, it doesn’t matter what it is. And the logicians are wrong in trying to figure out the truth of a MacGuffin, since it’s beside the point. The only thing that really matters is that in the picture the plans, documents, or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters. To me, the narrator, they’re of no importance whatever.
– Hitchcock in Hitchcock/Truffaut
I was relieved to read this the other day because I’m working on a script has an object of desire that sets off the action of the entire story, but I was worried that the object was too… unbelievable. Part of that unbelievability drives the humor, but I don’t want people reading/watching the movie and thinking “yeah, that was illogical.”
It reminds me of something an improv teacher (I can’t remember who) told me a long time ago about plausibility vs. believability: that plausibility, in the storytelling context, means “would this actually happen?” Believability means “given these circumstances, are things unfolding in a believable way.”
That’s why you can watch True Blood and be interested or entertained without tossing the whole thing out on the premise that vampires could never exist. Given that they do exist in this world, are things playing out in a believable way? OK, maybe True Blood isn’t the best example1 but the point remains.
Reading this book has made me realize how much I need to watch more Hitchcock.
One reason I stopped watching that show was that the world kept changing–just one you thought you knew what the rules were, they changed, often at the precise moment that the protagonist needed them to change ↩
I love books about writing. I think for me they serve as sort of a moral support to keep me going. I don’t know that they’re particularly informative or can really teach you to be a better writer, at least if you’re not writing a lot already.
Anyway, I’m reading On Writing by Stephen King now. Actually, I’m listening to the audiobook. It’s a really good read (listen?) even though it’s geared more towards novelists and it had a lot of his personal history, which I wasn’t really expecting. Part memoir, part discussion of the craft. And I haven’t read many of his books either.
Anyway, I’m not going to review the book or anything. But there was one passage that made me laugh, where he says something like “every writer remembers the first time they put a book down because they just can’t stand to read it.” And that reminded me of the first time I did that.
I was in a hostel in Lisbon, Portugal and somehow I had acquired a John Grisham novel. Not one of the more well-known ones. I have no idea which one it was, this was maybe 13 years ago. And I remember being hungover in this hostel and having absolutely nothing else to read and just trying to slog through it but the plot was so emotionally manipulative and the dialogue was so awful that it would make me anxious whenever someone was about to speak.
And I just had to stop reading it, even though it meant having nothing else to read except for the weird rantings on the side of my bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, which is not really a good read per se but can occupy your mind because the writing is so convoluted and hard to decipher.
I had read John Grisham in high school and remembered liking the stories so I thought maybe I just grew out of them? Or maybe this one was just a bad apple. I don’t know. Later on in the trip I stumbled upon The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy and boy was that good travel book because it sucked me in and was like 900 pages. And even though the writing wasn’t Dostoevsky or anything, it was good enough to not want to throw the book out the window and make it through.