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Starting Out in the Evening

I had yesterday all planned – working at my desk, a class at the Y, more work, teaching. But then the phone rang at 10 a.m.  It was my beloved friend, writer Wayson Choy, back from Vancouver; he had just handed in the latest draft of his memoir, so now he was ready to play. “Let’s have lunch and see a movie,” he said.  I hesitated for a second or two – what about my work, my fitness regime?  Oh, to hell with it, nothing is more important than spending time with Wayson Choy.

I rented “Starting Out in the Evening,” a film I’d heard about and wanted to watch with him. Another of Wayson’s many girlfriends, Wendy the philosophy professor, came to watch with us. Wayson is a gay man surrounded by so many adoring couples, men, women and children, that he has a richer family life than many families.  
The film stars the mesmerising Frank Langella as an ageing novelist who cannot finish his last novel, and whose life is invaded by a perky graduate student writing a thesis about him.  It’s thoughtful and moving with an unforgettable central performance and a riveting central issue – how much of his life should an artist sacrifice for his art? Langella’s writer has sacrificed far too much; he has remained monastically dedicated to his writing to the detriment of his family and, ironically, his work: now he can’t write because he’s cut off, dry and lifeless.  And yet he is beautiful, a man of immense dignity.  Langella delivers a heart-rending performance of an artist locked in his brain and in his past.  
I thought afterwards – when Wayson called yesterday morning, I made the right decision.  For any artist, there is a constant struggle between the needs of the work and the life.  Too often, I veer toward life, which is why I have produced so little, and why I have such a glorious roster of friends.  How to balance?  Because there is a time when it’s vital to say no, I’m busy, I’m working, go away.  There’s the rub.  



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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