Last night, in a trip down memory lane – I cleaned two pairs of shoes
before I went to bed – actually just after supper, so the emollients could sink in. I felt about 12. So much cheaper than Botox ! In the girls’ comic I used to read, it was announced that smiling took something like 21 muscles to frowning’s 150. And then, train of thought, I remembered the Reader’s Digest.
Years later I learned about its political and social standing. At the time I couldn’t have cared less. It introduced me to words and stories and jokes, and I once found myself interviewing a woman whose memoir about diabetes I had encountered there. When I was a girl (Oh I have been dying to write that !) information was entertainment.
We had a class at school on General Knowledge, we had GK workbooks. Of course we chattered and swapped beads – we all had bead tins – or buttons, mostly beads.
Just because they were pretty. Remember, this is the 1950s. We had just come through the biggest war in the world and there wasn’t much of anything. I read yesterday in the obituary of a Czech Jewish historian, working out of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, that he had written “… beauty is inescapable”. I rang Wal to tell him. He agonises about the death of beauty.
Buns (friend with sweet tooth) sent me a link to the promotion we did for Talk Radio years ago when we were all young and fair, and it was a radio station. I think sometimes energy is its own beauty. He had just had the first part of the vaccine and said that his eyes filled because, he realised, he had been afraid for a year.
And then (“real readers are re-readers” Nabokov) I read some more of The Manchurian Candidate – and noticed I had marked two words I still haven’t looked up. Every so often, if you are a reader, you read something you wish you’d written because of the sheer accomplishment of it – and that’s another kind of beauty. What arts writers describe as the arc pulls everything into the right place for this particular reader and makes you want to stand on a chair and shout hooray.
And affection and respect makes you want to shout hooray even louder. I made a decision last week and as it might affect other people, I wrote to them and they wrote back, carats of care and understanding,
beyond the wildest dreams of diamonds. ”You will keep those emails won’t you ?” asked a friend with whom I had shared some of them. You betcha. Untaxable and indestructible.
I pushed a film called Gifted until my son said “What is it about this film ?” And I said “It’s about love, and being a father and you don’t have to be a parent to act like a parent.” Just listen to Ian Wright talking about Mr. Pigden, the teacher who rescued him from illiteracy and punishing loneliness.
When my son was put into my arms, I thought how wonderful to have a child sized child – I had known so many taller ones, so many in pain. Family is indeed a wonderful thing when it’s wonderful and when it’s not, it is an instrument for destruction. Takes a lot of fighting to survive. And how you fight and where you fight is a deeply personal matter.
And you can earn and be admired and praised and do a great deal of good, incidentally and with intention – and still be in what we might call deep spiritual doodoo. The media will not resolve this, they will only feast on it – under lights, with hair and makeup. Is there some atavistic belief that the bigger the lamp, the brighter the corner, and that when all is revealed, it will be well ? It risks taking a lot of people down.
I have never been convinced of the elision between the talking therapies and the personal interview, a confusion deeply seductive and deeply dangerous. And I have interviewed and been interviewed. The camera is not neutral. Better stick to candles, understanding is better than the plea to be understood.