August 26, 2009

MEN OF PRIVILEGE:

Blood, Sweat, and Words (Joseph Epstein, Septrember 2009, In Character)

I recently wrote a book about Fred Astaire, than whom no one worked harder at his craft. Astaire was a perfectionist, which is to say a great worrier. His only difficulty with the studios for which he worked was his constant demand for more and yet more rehearsal time before his dance numbers were finally filmed. He wanted everything he did to look effortless, which on film it indubitably does, and so he put in the maximum effort to ensure that it did. For Astaire all grit entailed was properly left in the studio rehearsal halls; the seemingly effortless, lilting, unforgettable beauty went into the movie.

I have never liked to suggest that writing is grinding, let alone brave work. H. L. Mencken used to say that any scribbler who found writing too arduous ought to take a week off to work on an assembly line, where he will discover what work is really like. The old boy, as they say, got that right. To be able to sit home and put words together in what one hopes are charming or otherwise striking sentences is, no matter how much tussle may be involved, lucky work, a privileged job. The only true grit connected with it ought to arrive when, thinking to complain about how hard it is to write, one is smart enough to shut up and silently grit one's teeth.


Posted by Orrin Judd at August 26, 2009 11:05 AM
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