If you know that life is basically going to be horrendously difficult, at best, and all but unlivable at worst, or possibly even unlivable, do you go on? And the choice to go on is the only thing that I think can be called hope. Because if hope isn't forced to encounter the worst possibility, then it's a lie.
Trying every day to tell the truth is hard. There are harder things, of course-arguably, living with lies and meaninglessness, living in despair is harder, but it's hardship disguised as luxury and easier perhaps to grow accustomed to, since truth is usually the enemy of custom. There are harder things than writing, being President Obama, for instance, and having to deal with House Republicans, or trying to fix the leak at the Fukushima reactor, these are harder, but writing is hard.
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if a thing can be said to be, to exist, then such is the nature of these expansive times that this thing which is must suffer to be touched. Ours is a time of connection; the private, and we must accept this, and it's a hard thing to accept, the private is gone. All must be touched. All touch corrupts. All must be corrupted. And if you're thinking how awful these sentiments are, you are perfectly correct, these are awful times, but you must remember as well that this has always been the chiefest characteristic of the Present, to everyone living through it; always, throughout history, and so far as I can see for all the days and years to come until the sun and the stars fall down and the clocks have all ground themselves to expiry and the future has long long shaded away into Time Immemorial: the Present is always an awful place to be.
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I never really feel that I'm stuck. I actually think that people are never stuck, there's no such thing as writers block, I think that theres terror that can silence you. But if you can think of it as a dynamic thing I mean a writers block, it's a paralysis an immobility and the thing that has immobilized you is a very powerful force. Immobility is itself an act, it's a choice. It can sometimes take as much energy to remain immobile as it does to be mobile. And if you think of it in a dynamic way then it'd freeze you from the sense that at some point your talent will simply abandon you and you're just a vacant shell with nothing to say, I don't think that ever really happens. But I think that terror, bad experience, trauma and so on can absolutely silence you.
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Harper: In your experience of the world. How do people change? Mormon Mother: Well it has something to do with God so it's not very nice. God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It's up to you to do the stitching. Harper: And then up you get. And walk around. Mormon Mother: Just mangled guts pretending. Harper: That's how people change.
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Belize: Hell or heaven? [Roy indicates "Heaven" through a glance] Belize: Like San Francisco. Roy Cohn: A city. Good. I was worried... it'd be a garden. I hate that shit. Belize: Mmmm. Big city. Overgrown with weeds, but flowering weeds. On every corner a wrecking crew and something new and crooked going up catty corner to that. Windows missing in every edifice like broken teeth, fierce gusts of gritty wind, and a gray high sky full of ravens. Roy Cohn: Isaiah. Belize: Prophet birds, Roy. Piles of trash, but lapidary like rubies and obsidian, and diamond-colored cowspit streamers in the wind. And voting booths. Roy Cohn: And a dragon atop a golden horde. Belize: And everyone in Balencia gowns with red corsages, and big dance palaces full of music and lights and racial impurity and gender confusion. And all the deities are creole, mulatto, brown as the mouths of rivers. Race, taste and history finally overcome. And you ain't there. Roy Cohn: And Heaven? Belize: That was Heaven, Roy.
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I just wondered what a thing it would be... if overnight everything you owe anything to, justice, or love, had really gone away. Free. It would be... heartless terror. Yes. Terrible, and... Very great. To shed your skin, every old skin, one by one and then walk away, unemcumbered, into the morning.
I had a book of Bible stories when I was a kid. There was a picture I'd look at twenty times every day: Jacob wrestles with the angel. I don't really remember the story, or why the wrestling -just the picture. Jacob is young and very strong. The angel is... a beautiful man, with golden hair and wings, of course. I still dream about it. Many nights. I'm... It's me. In that struggle. Fierce, and unfair. The angel is not human, and it holds nothing back, so how could anyone human win, what kind of a fight is that? It's not just. Losing means your soul thrown down in the dust, your heart torn out from God's. But you can't not lose.
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Night flight to San Francisco; chase the moon across America. God, it's been years since I was on a plane. When we hit 35, 000 feet we'll have reached the tropopause, the great belt of calm air, as close as I'll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening. But I saw something that only I could see because of my astonishing ability to see such things: Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them and was repaired. Nothing's lost forever. In this world, there's a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we've left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that's so.
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I hate America. I hate this country. It's just big ideas, and stories, and people dying, and people like you. The white cracker who wrote the national anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word 'free' to a note so high nobody can reach it. That was deliberate. Nothing on earth sounds less like freedom to me. You come to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean. I live in America, that's hard enough, I don't have to love it. You do that. Everybody's got to love something.
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I don't think you have to earn your income as an artist to be an artist. But if you are an artist, then art is what you do, whether or not you're paid for doing it; it is what you do, not what you are. I regard artist not as a description of temperament but as a category of profession, of vocation.
I could give you absolutely sterling advice on how to avoid writing, how when you run out of things to do other than going to your desk and writing, when every closet is reorganized and you've called your oldest living relative twice in one day to see what she's up to and there isn't an unanswered e-mail left on your computer or you simply can't bear to answer another one and there is no dignity, not a drop left, in any further evasion of the task at hand, namely writing, well, you can always ask your dentist for a root canal or have an accident in the bathtub instead.
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But I still read Shaw on a regular basis. What I love is the nakedness of the polemic and the irresistible good humour. For me, 'Major Barbara' is the greatest of all the plays in that it starts from the rational and proceeds to the ecstatic in a spectacular way, and leaves you very confused if you cling to Euclidean logic.
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I just wondered what a thing it would be...if overnight everything you owe anything to, justice, or love, had really gone away. Free. It would be...heartless terror. Yes. Terrible, and... Very great. To shed your skin, every old skin, one by one and then walk away, unemcumbered, into the morning.
Accuracy is paramount in every detail of a work of history. Here's my rule: Ask yourself, 'Did this thing happen?' If the answer is yes, then it's historical. Then ask, 'Did this thing happen precisely this way?' If the answer is yes, then it's history; if the answer is no, not precisely this way, then it's historical drama.
Imagination can't create anything new, can it? It only recycles bits and pieces from the world and reassembles them into visions... So when we thing we've escaped the unbearable ordinariness and, well, untruthfulness of our lives, it's really only the same old ordinariness and falseness rearranged into the appearance of novelty and truth. Nothing unknown is knowable. Don't you think it's depressing?
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I had a dream, in 1985, I believe, when a friend I'd gone to school with was sick - one of the first people I knew who'd gotten the AIDS virus. I had a dream of him in his bedroom with an angel crashing through the ceiling. I wrote a poem called 'Angels in America.' I've never looked at the poem since the day I wrote it.
What makes the voice pathetic is that it doesn't know what kind of people it's reaching. Us. No one hears it, except us. This Age wanted heroes. It got us instead: carefully constructed, but immobile. Subtle but, unfit to take up the burden of the times. It happens. A whole generation of washouts. History says stand up, and we totter and collapse, weeping, moved, but not sufficient.
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The general consensus among historians, among the ones who can handle the fact that 'Lincoln' is, in fact, historical fiction, is that we demonstrate enormous fidelity to history and that, beyond that, we've actually contributed a line of thinking about Lincoln's presidency that's somewhat original.
I'm happy that I feel a little less out of place in filmmaking than I once was - but it's almost impossible for a playwright in the U.S. to make a living. You can have a play, like I did with 'Angels,' and it still generates income for me, but it's not enough for me to live on and have health insurance.
I go into any movie that's historical fiction thinking, 'OK, I'm here to watch a work of art, something delivering a series of opinions, and if it's a good work of art, these opinions become so deeply embedded in complexity and richness that I won't even be bothered by the opinions. I'll make my own mind up.'
I'm going to start work on developing a series for HBO, because I'm naturally given to episodic stories of considerable length. And I won't have to listen to complaints about how wordy and long my work is if you can watch it on your telephone on the subway: You can make it conform to your day as if it were a book.