►Anyone else as sad as I am about the recent passing of Sydney Pollack? Pollack was, of course, a prominent director, skilled actor and savvy producer. While I'm no ace at deducing a film director's skill, his output alone was stunning. But what I adored most was his acting: the man had the chops to make a supporting character part come alive, embodying even a small role physically, psychologically, emotionally – every gesture, every bit of dialogue, every grunt and sigh, was pitch perfect. Not so unlike a consummate writer at work, chiseling a character mostly by deciding what small detail to put in, and a whole lot of what to leave out.
With Pollack's acting – and the performances he pulled from some unlikely stars -- there was never an unnecessary head shake, never a superfluous lip twitch. Everything had meaning, which reminds me of some very good advice I once got about writing: Make every word count. Every. Single. One. Even when barely anything else in a film was working – I'm thinking Eyes Wide Shut – a few moments of Pollack's character onscreen could undo a lot of cinematic damage and either get the story going again or tell a story all on its own. He made villains likable, in the sense that he made each one remind us of the humanity – and villainy – in all of us. Plus, he reminded me a little of my Dad. I'll miss the guy.
►Check out my new favorite word geek site. Well, I guess if you are also a junkie for journalism news like me, you'll love reading the rest of Poynteronline, too.
►Blaise Pascal once said, "I have made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter." Many other writers have amended the adage over the years, apologizing to editors for too-lengthy manuscripts, citing how long it takes to shorten, edit, pare. But just in case you're not convinced, I am officially challenging writer friends and blog readers to try crafting a Six Word Memoir for that ubiquitous book's forthcoming second volume.
►Though I don't write about sports that much anymore, I just subscribed to ESPN The Magazine, not only because my teenager and husband like it, but because my favorite sports columnist/essayist, Rick Reilly, whose Sports Illustrated column I read semi-religiously for years, starts his new gig there next month. Plus, even though I could be bright green with envy (OK, so I am green, and not in the earth-friendly way), I just love it when a writer – almost any kind of writer, but especially a magazine writer – can score a six-zero contract.
►I never thought of Las Vegas, where my parents retired in 1981 and where they tried, unsuccessfully, to convince me to live too, as a hot media town. In fact, on frequent visits, I derided the daily newspaper, and ridiculed the local news offerings on radio and television. But obviously the newly unemployed journalists from the Washington Post – otherwise known as reluctant volunteer buyout takers -- know something I don't.
►Most of us will never see the inside of Leno's or Letterman's green room, but we can all hang out at the Red Room, with some of our favorite writers.
In the middle of reading: The Best American Short Stories 1999. Why? When someone is awarded a big prize, or is generating a good bit of current buzz in the literary world, like Junot Diaz and Jhumpa Lahiri, I like to dig back a few years and read something he/she wrote before all the hoopla. The bonus was finding a really terrific short story, "The Piano Tuner," by a writer I had not read before, Tim Gautreaux. Don't you just love that? Who have you "discovered" recently?
- The Writers Circle (Northern NJ) Spring registration open. I'm teaching in Summit, Ridgewood, Montclair.
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