shroop (shroop) wrote,

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What it's really like...

The following is by Roger Ebert, from a review of a movie that's probably very worthy but that I'm not at all interested in watching called "Starting Out in the Evening."  The first two paragraphs I've included are to set the background.  The third is the one I love, because the last sentence really hits what writing is like.   (In my case poetry rather than novels, but it still rings true.)

Ebert writes:

"The story involves a 70-year-old novelist named Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella) and a 25-ish graduate student named Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose).  He wrote four books that were acclaimed as important and still are, although he's not much read anymore. He's been working on a fifth novel for a decade.  She plays a graduate student who wants to write her thesis about him and has hopes that she may inspire a revival of interest in his work, and maybe blast that fifth novel out of his grip.

"They are not alike. He puts on a coat and tie to sit down at his desk and write.  He speaks with care and reserve.  She is filled with all of the brashness and confidence of youth and believes she's just what the doctor ordered.  He almost recoils under her first onslaught, but she is bright and verbal and, let it be said, attractive, and he doesn't send her away.

"Soon she is discovering what every interviewer learns from every novelist:  He doesn't know what anything in his books "stands for," he doesn't know where he gets his ideas, he doesn't think anything is autobiographical, and he has no idea what his "message" is.  I am no novelist, but I am a professional writer, and I know two things that interviewers never believe:  (1) the Muse visits during, not before, the act of composition, and (2) the writer takes dictation from that place in his mind that knows what he should write next."
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