Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil


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The One Thousand Yard Stare of a Writer

Robin Williams as T.S. Garp in "The World According to Garp" (Warner Bros)

Robin Williams as T.S. Garp in “The World According to Garp” (Warner Bros)

Perhaps the screenshot above is another obsessive motion on my love for Robin Williams. But as my previous post states, I re-watched the film “The World According to Garp” over the weekend, and was reminded of the strange wonderment of this unique story.

The photo above is a moment in the film when Garp is staring into the Long Island Sound. He has just said goodbye to his mother for what turns out to be the last time.  Although he didn’t know she would be shot dead by a crazed assassin, he knew something was going to go wrong. Yet, intermixed with this far away thought, is the far away stare of a writer, who longs to capture the emotions and veracity of the moment.

Much like the anger and frustration T.S. Garp felt when his books didn’t match cultural phenomenon proportions like his mother’s publication, “Sexual Suspect”, the futility of writing pervades the mind of an author, especially one who is about to debut their first book – their first self published book. Yikes!

Today, we writers look at J.K. Rowling, or E.L James who started off as unknowns with a great idea for a book that somehow hits the imagination of a populace.  And we hope, as we write our dreamy little dreamy stories, we’ll find the same success. Yet, our rational brains tend to tell us to calm the “f” down. Be detached from the results of your work. Start the next project wishing and blessing the soon-to-be-published work the best. Onward, upward.  And you know what? I think that works well.

So, today, as rain hits southern California, I have the long stare of Garp, looking into the abyss, sensing that something could go wrong, but knowing that everything will be alright.


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Be Careful of the Under Toad!

Screenshot 2014-11-30 18.15.10

‘The World According to Garp’

Something extremely rare is happening here in Los Angeles. It’s raining. For the first time since moving into my current home (over two years ago), I’ve sat in on a dark, cloudy, raining Sunday watching a film. And that film was “The World According to Garp” – a viewing I haven’t had since it came out 30 years ago.  The beaucolic feel of the rain outside while watching a film that was shot in towns near my home town made me feel like I was back in New York. Then, the painful realization of the passage of time hit me, and I’ve been melancholy ever since the end credits rolled.

I remember reading ‘Garp’ long before the film came out and found it astonishing, quirky and amazing.  The film left me with the same sickly sweet feeling over the adult themes and the churning emotions, the sexual questioning, the anger of maimed woman and the infidelities of people testing their boundaries within the course of life.  No one else could portray these characters other than this cast.

Life is one long adventure. That’s what Jennie Fields told her grandson by the Long Island Sound – where I learned to swim as a child over on the Rye side and where my parents’ ashes where spread decades later.  And I believed it then as a teenager when this film came out. I was looking ahead at life as a wild open field, ready to fly like Garp. But I never realized that in living life and soaring over buildings, subways and oceans,  I would constantly be looking to find home again.  Home – the same place I started before leaping off into the wilderness.

The movie was filmed in the spring and summer of 1981 (released in 1982) when I was still living in Ardsley New York – a small town in Westchester County, NY – very close to the Eastchester filming location for ‘Garp’. I don’t remember hearing about a movie being made with Robin Williams back then, but I do remember being on the AHS Girl Track team and hating the girls over on the Eastchester High School squad. I remember loving The Police, and running track and cross country and daydreaming on rainy autumn Sundays about being with Jimmy Oxley, my Freshman crush. And there are moments in this film that gripped me, like when Garp discovers his sexual awakening, when he falls in love with Helen, when he plays with his children, or when he angrily takes them out of the house on a rainy night after finding out his wife was cheating on him –  or the horrific circumstances that lead to the death of  their child.

Yet, with all this powerful adult stuff happening, just viewing T.S. Garp and Helen growing their family in their “pre-disastered” home, made me feel like I was back home – my real home – Ardsley. The early spring leaves and the lighting captured cinematically transported me back to the cosy world of my childhood, where everything was safe, and my daydreams flourished. Back to a place and a feeling that I’ve longed to find again, struggled to re-live, yet despite the long road and different homes and cities traveled to or lived in throughout the years – just cannot find again. As hard as I try.

And the saddest part is that I stand here today, thirty years after this film was made, 3000 miles away from home. My parents gone. My field still open, but longing to close in on another road. And no more Robin Williams. I wish he could have stayed with us a bit longer. He was so beautiful in this role.