November 8, 2007

I had been back one day when I knew what I would tell the producer who’d tried to bully me into rewriting our contract for the screenplay I wrote. I told him that a) he should know better than to screw his friends and allies; and b) that he should know better than to pay lawyers to advise him how to screw his friends and allies; and c) that he would end up friendless and poor in an industry that requires friends and respects money. I told him if he was so unhappy with the arrangement, he could buy me out, because I would never work with him again. I named a price and sent off the email. His response, rife with insults, was that he’d never been happy with my script and that he was going to pay someone else to rewrite it. I didn’t bother to remind him he’d once been "proud" of it and had intended to go into production with it until just a few days earlier.

Still too tired to write, I spent the day reading. I finished Albert Camus’s The Plague, taken up at the instigation of my therapist, who felt my world-view might find some solace there. He thinks my complaints of living in a world that seems more and more to be lacking in meaning and any true sense of individual responsibility has its literary equivalents in Camus. He was right, I couldn’t agree more, though I’m anything but an Existentialist in outlook. I don’t believe the world lacks meaning, but I often find myself depressed at my inability to connect with others outside of writing, my recent experiences at the Authors’ Village notwithstanding. (When I described it he seemed to think it was a place I could move to, but I had to explain it was an event and as such was impermanent.)

What struck me about Camus’s book, however, was how tedious I found it after the first hundred pages. Camus’s story-telling ability, as he describes the approaching signs of the plague, is riveting, but a third of the way through the story he switches that off and begins to moralize about his characters’ attitudes to what’s going on. While I’m in total sympathy with what he’s saying, I don’t want a sermon in the middle of a good story. He redeemed himself (in my eyes, of course) by having that wonderful cathartic explosion in the last twenty or so pages, but it was a long haul getting there.

It made me think of another book I’d read recently, one I hadn’t expected to enjoy, but surprised myself by enjoying for its supremely well-crafted story: Stephen King’s The Mist. Both books were about the besieging of a small community by an all but invisible menace. Both had terrific characters and a great build-up, but King kept to story telling and let events comment on the people’s actions, while Camus preached. Surprisingly, I preferred King’s story for the shear entertainment value, despite the fact it didn’t reach the profound emotional depths Camus was able to evoke at the end of his book.

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