I took a look yesterday at a list of the twelve top-grossing movies in North America. I’d heard of four of them: I read the novel on which Thank You for Smoking is based when it came out a few years ago, and I’ve seen posters for Phat Girlz, Failure to Launch, and She’s the Man while walking to and from the gym. The other eight weren’t even names to me, nor do I plan to seek them out. As I mentioned in this space a few weeks ago, I haven’t been to a movie theater since last October, and it’s been at least a year since I last saw a first-run episode of any TV series (not counting cooking shows, which I regard as a species of soft porn). As for pop music, the only new songs I hear are the ones that happen to be playing on the radios of the cabs that take me to and from the theater district.
I can’t remember when I’ve been so completely out of touch. Reviewing films for Crisis and writing my “Second City” column for the Washington Post used to keep me more or less aware of the buzz, but I gave those gigs up last fall, after which I hurled myself into a spasm of workaholism that came to an abrupt end when I checked into the hospital. Once I got out I pulled into my shell, and I’ve been there ever since. I now spend most of my time going to new plays, writing my Wall Street Journal and Commentary columns, and working on Hotter Than That: A Life of Louis Armstrong. From time to time I watch an old movie on TV that I haven’t seen: I tuned in Delbert Mann’s Mister Buddwing
the other night, but only because James Garner was in it. Otherwise I look at the art on my walls, listen to familiar pieces of music, and reread old standbys (I just pulled James Gould Cozzens’ Guard of Honor off the shelf for the umpteenth time). In recent weeks I haven’t even been keeping up with the blogosphere, at least not very closely.
I suspect I’ve entered a fallow period, a necessary time of recovery after the frenzied events of the second half of 2005. I nearly died, then I turned fifty: that’s enough to knock anybody off his pins, and I’d say I was well and truly knocked. The other day I had occasion to quote to a friend the Spanish proverb that figures frequently in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels, May no new thing arise. That’s for me. More than a few new things arose in my life in the past couple of years, and for the moment I’ve had enough.
This, too, shall pass, sooner or later. At some point I’m sure I’ll start to feel the tug of the new, bob to the surface, and start sniffing the air. I always have. But not just yet. I’m not quite ready to engage with the moment. I think I’ll stick to the tried and true for a little while longer. The world will have to take care of itself, for now.