a little life

August 7, 2017



I don't usually post huge swaths of writing that aren't my own but I was reading this book on the subway yesterday and one of the pages hit me over the head like a brick.


I haven't been able to get it out my head and I keep wanting to talk about it with other people. To say how do you feel? What do you think? What does this mean to you?


The context of the writing is that it's coming from the point of view of a male actor, works in a restaurant, Ortolan, where half of the staff are career waiters who used to be actors and half of the staff are actors. His boss, Findlay, used to be an actor.


The rest needs no explanation.

This is about acting but I think if you have ever had a dream this applies to you.

Whatever that dream may be.

So read on and tell me what you think.



     "But at what point had Findlay decided he would give up acting, and how had it happened?  Was it simply age? He was, after all, old: forty-five, fifty, somewhere around there. How did you know it was time to give up? Was it when you were thirty-eight and still hadn't found an agent (as they suspected had happened to Joel)? Was it when you were forty and still had a roommate and were making more as a part-time waiter than you had made the year you decided to be a full-time actor (as they knew had happened to Kevin)?  Was it when you got fat, or bald, or got bad plastic surgery that couldn't disguise the fact that you were fat and bald? When did pursuing your ambitions cross the line from brave into foolhardy? How did you know when to stop? In earlier, more rigid, less encouraging (and ultimately, more helpful) decades, things would be much clearer: you would stop when you turned forty, or when you got married, or when you had kids, or after five years, or ten years, or fifteen. And then you would go get a real job, and acting and your dreams for a career in it would recede into the evening, a melting into history as quiet as a briquette of ice sliding into a warm bath.

     But these were days of self-fulfillment, where settling for something that was not quite your first choice of a life seemed weak-willed and ignoble. Somewhere, surrendering to what seemed to be your fate had changed from being dignified to being a sign of your own cowardice. There were times where the pressure to achieve happiness felt almost oppressive, as if happiness were something that everyone could and should attain, and that any sort of compromise in its pursuit was somehow your fault. Would Willem work for year upon year at Ortolan, catching the same train to auditions, reading again and again and again, one year maybe caterpillaring an inch or two forward, his progress so minute that it hardly counted as progress at all? Would he someday have the courage to give up, and would he be able to recognize that moment, or would he wake one day and look in the mirror and find himself an old man, still trying to call himself an actor because he was too scared to admit that he might not be, might never be?"



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