Joan Rivers, Gail Godwin, and Age, Invincible Age

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last night, in between bouts of fever-induced delirium, I watched the IFC documentary, "Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work."  It was, in a word, riveting—a blow by blow account of Rivers' 76th year, of months spent seeking work, seeking access, seeking acclaim, seeking relevance, seeking, above all else, respect in a world that honors youth.  She is relentless, Joan Rivers.  She is needy.  She is not afraid to show it.  She wants to squeeze every hour for what it can deliver unto her, and she wants you to show up—at her signings, her shows, her roasts, her Apprentice TV—so that she can be sure that she still matters.

This past weekend, in the New York Times Book Review, Gail Godwin, now 73, wrote a moving piece about what she, as a writer, still wants.  "You want to be taken seriously; that doesn’t change," she wrote.  "What has changed for me is the degree of compromise I am willing to inflict on my work in order to see it in print."

Godwin, unlike Rivers, is not making impossible demands on every hour.  She does, she tells us, "a lot of lying around."  She has accepted that her "supine dithering is fertile and far from a waste of time."  She has gained an "increased intolerance for the threadbare phrase."  She hopes "to do credit to the material that has been hers...."

Reading Godwin's essay and watching the Rivers documentary back to back is like being offered two utterly dichotomous versions of your future—the future in which you still trust time to give you time (and story) or the future in which you do battle with every second.  I hope I have the presence of mind to trust time, if I live to that age.  I hope that I do not need to be loved, but that I still have a talent for loving. 


Lilian Nattel said...

How interesting, Beth, and inspirational--I want to read Godwin's essay now.

Becca said...

I loved that article by Gail Godwin ( whose been a favorite of mine for 30 years), and most especially those passages you quoted. Looking forward to the next installment of her memoir.

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