This week I watched Working Girl. It’s been years since I last watched the movie, but the theme song, Let the River Run by Carly Simon, has been stuck in my head for about two months now. Listening to the song hadn’t cleared, so I watched the movie.
I enjoyed it. It has an excellent payoff. The writer’s understood the romance was the B story and made the final scene the payoff for the status story. Tess calls Cyn and tells asks her to guess where she is. We then shift to Cyn standing up and cheering. You don’t hear what she or Tess say afterward because Let the River Run plays over it. It is well written, well-executed, and something I’d be proud as a writer to create.
Yet, it isn’t what I’d consider the pinnacle of artistic success. Artistic success requires something like this:
We couldn’t imagine the emptiness of a creature who put a razor to her wrists and opened her veins, the emptiness, and the calm. And we had to smear our muzzles in their last traces, of mud marks on the floor, trunks kicked out from under them, we had to breathe forever the air of the rooms in which they killed themselves. It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree-house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, last paragraph
Perhaps, if my song writing takes off, artistic success will come like this:
It would seem like The Virgin Suicides, a literary novel about anonymous narrators decades later dealing with the horror of five sisters committing suicide 1, and Chess, a musical about love, chess, and the Cold War 2, In terms of content they do not.
In terms of effect, they are very similar. Each left me aching for more, for a chance to change the story. Both stories moved inexorably to their conclusions, which I want to be different. I want the boys who would grow to be the unknown narrators to save the Lisbon sisters. I want Florance to find a way to not be alone at the end, although if it is with Freddie or Anatoly remains variable.
In a word, these works haunt me. Writing about either, or even listening to Someone Else’s Story, is likely to bring tears. Both are extremely cathartic, which since the ancient Greek playwrights has been the mark of great drama.
So H is for haunting, the artistic pinnacle of the writer. It is a writer’s imperishable fame.
- this is not a spoiler; you know it from the first sentence
- I saw the US tour production, where this was the final song. That is why I choose that particular video even though better ones are available