Saturday, February 4, 2017
When I sat down to write The Mutual Admiration Society it was with the same intent that I bring to all my stories. In this case, it was my desire to tell the tale of two young girls. Sisters. Kids, who only have each other, or perceive that to be the truth, on a journey that seems to be too much to deal with at such a tender age. The loss of their beloved father, and in many ways, much of their life as they knew it.
I wanted to write about how deeply resourceful children can be. How imaginative and flat-out funny, and loyal. I wanted the girls' story to feel authentic, symptomatic, and yes, out-of-the-box, because loss it like that. We all experience it to greater and lesser degrees, maybe at the same time, but not together. Grief is a solo trip. A deep sense of abandonment, I wanted to write about that, too, and the guilt one feels when we lose our dearest ones. And, of course, there needed to be a mystery, because dealing with death is so profound and hard, that often it feels unsolvable. In The Mutual Admiration Society there are many internal forces of darkness churning within narrator, Tessie, but the external force is personified by an evil next door neighbor. And a cemetery is always a wonderful setting, and a handy metaphor. And God . . . where is He in all this? I wondered.
I wanted to write this book. And I love it. I hoped others would love it as well, or else find within its pages something that resonated with them. And if they didn't, they'd continue searching for another story that does touch them. Turns out, there are those that don't really care for my new book, no, let's call a spade a spade. They say they despise it. One reader said that it "nauseated" her. This deep down hurts. Not because it makes me doubt my writing, myself, or the story and my intentions, but because the very idea that there are people whose only intention is to harm the sale of my book by eviscerating it in reviews stretches the limits of my imagination and my belief system beyond the bounce-back factor.
And the well-intentioned telling me,"Suck it up, buttercup," or "Hey, them's the breaks," and other equally silly cliches, does not cut the mustard. Maybe earlier in my life they would have inspired me in some odd way, but no longer. I have spent most of my working life in the public eye, fifty years of it anyway, which has always made the way I make my living a target, but never before has my acting or writing been subjected to the sheer intentional ugliness that appears to have become the norm these days. How sad that is. For me, sure, but mostly for those that believe the only way to feel good and powerful, even for just a little bit, is to spend their time crafting hate-filled reviews not only of my book, but other books, movies, television shows, art, restaurants, and other types of endeavors that require a profound commitment of heart and soul, many times without commensurate remuneration.
A believer in humor, knowing it's the only hope that I, or any of us, have to transcend pains, be they large or small, I'd usually stick a wry smile on my face, shrug, and make a joke right about now. But this morning . . . I got nothing. Which is the saddest bit of all.