Ready for the read-through, July 20, 2014
July 21, 1904, the Trans-Siberian Railway was officially completed – ‘officially’ in the sense that some parts of the 5,772 mile (9,289 km) stretch of rail from Moscow to Vladisvostok were already in use while others would take years to complete. Begun in 1891 and built by thousands of laborers across the steppes, over rivers, through forests and swamps and permafrost, the Trans-Siberian was one of the most ambitious engineering projects of all time. The trip today takes about a week.
July 21, 1985 Alvah Bessie (born Jun 4, 1904) died. Bessie was one of the Hollywood Ten writers who appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947 and refused to testify. Like the other Ten (Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Adrian Scott, Ring Lardner, Jr., Samuel Ornitz, Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Lester Cole and Edward Dmytryk) Bessie was fined, spent a year in prison and when released was black-listed in Hollywood. He went to San Francisco where he found work as a stage manager and wrote novels, including “Inquisition in Eden,” about his experiences with the HUAC.
Everything takes time and you will face obstacles. Permafrost and politics, for example, or worse. The point is, you don’t stop. Even when they say you are officially complete, you keep working. Even if you are black-listed, either officially or by your own personal demons, you keep working.
Yesterday a very nice group of people came by for a reading of something I’ve been working on. Hearing your work read aloud can be such an unsettling experience. Characters you’ve only imagined are suddenly speaking words you wrote; they have bodies and voices and gestures and are in your living room and not in your head or in your dreams. People conjured out of thin air, from nothing more substantial than memory and thought, are seemingly without warning living and breathing right in front of you, bigger than life. How can you not believe in magic after that?
And very kind too. Someone makes a frittata, brings a coffee urn; someone else tidies up the kitchen after. People have nice things to say, they are supportive and thoughtful and encouraging. It is an extraordinary experience.
There is adversity in the world, no question; building a railroad is not all fun and games. Neither is writing. Neither is anything that requires an audience and the participation of other people. But I must tell you, there is also great kindness in the world. There are people out there who want to be helpful. Don’t ever doubt that.