Old Moon

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Blast from the Past

I find myself with a mentor. Suddenly an old schoolmate (from the graduating class behind mine in high school) phoned. I remembered his name, but not another thing about him. He was looking for some old yearbooks for a book he's writing. I had some of them. As they say, One thing led to another, and I found myself in long, intense, fascinating conversation with a man who is unable to talk without mentioning several famous (not just well-known) show business names in every sentence. This goes with the territory because he's the son of a famous actress and writer and stepson of a Broadway producer everyone has heard of.

Because he's working on a memoir, he asked me what I knew about a number of people from our school, many of whom I lost track of the minute I graduated, some of whom are no longer alive, and some of whom I happened to know about. In the latter group is a woman older than I whose life has repeatedly intersected with mine. She has led a remarkable life as basically a servant of humane causes--as a teacher. First in California, then in Nigeria, and finally in China. Her parents and mine were close friends. When I answered his question about her, I told him what I know, and he immediately said, "She became a saint. You have to write a poem about her."

After the phone call, I decided in an offhand, this-will-come-to nothing way, to try. I sent him the result. [He mistrusts the Internet, is a bit of a conspiracy nut, and has almost total recall. Hence all communication is via phone or snail  mail.] He called me the night he got the poem to demand I send him a signed copy.

He calls two or three times a week with advice, lists of required reading, and guidelines about what to do about writing. (He's reading Peripheral Vision now.) He insists on discussing the novel I'm trying so hard to find some entree for into the traditional publishing world. His behavior is like that of someone who has made me a protegee. It's a stimulating experience, and sends me to bed after a couple of hours (sic.) on the phone so wired I can hardly wait for another day to get started working in the light of the previous evening's talk.

We are diametric opposites politically (beginning with the fact that I'm not at all political and he is). Our artistic tastes are apparently not similar except in a few cases, but this man is unalterably opinionated, so I listen and glean. The point to all this is that I've discovered--or rediscovered--how stimulating it can be to have reaction to your work, but also how invigorating to have someone determined to direct you whose opinion you respect. I don't have to agree with everything he says, and the freedom to choose is liberating beyond anything I've experienced since graduate school days.

Would you believe I'm looking forward to the closing-in sense winter brings?

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