April 30: Yesterday ex Detective Leuci took note of the announcement by Michelle Bachmann that she was quitting the House. As he said, life will be such less interesting without her. But let's remember that she was also a vote in favor of every stupid idea that was out there, and a vote against intelligence and progress every chance she got. She was also a beautiful, beautiful 55 year old mother of five (or however many it is), one of the few in the political world, matching in beauty and stupidity at least two other beautiful, political 55 year mothers of many, our own beloved Sarah Palin for one, and Segolene Royal, who five years ago ran for president of France and who, if she had been even a trifle less stupid, might have been elected. None of these woman had the intellectual capacity of a slab of cement, but they were beautiful. People liked looking at them. Do not discount beauty in women.
March 27: Re: gay marriage. It's a subject I just don't care about one way or the other, except insofar as it debauches the English language. I fear for the language. Marriage was always a beautiful and useful word. Suddenly it can mean something quite different and can't be used without attaching an adjective, which makes the language poorer, which annoys me."
March 25: A reader wrote to ask what were my own favorites among my books. I have them I suppose, though to focus on a few is a bit like disowning the others, which is hard to do. For many years I thought The Dangerous Edge the best of my novels but after that I tend to rate The Enemy of God, and The Innocents Within. Last night I woke in the night and scenes from Man With A Gun began running through my head. Explain that to me. That particular reader said he had just started on Pictures, and that is one that pleases me enormously even though it may seem less serious than some of the others. But I thought it came out a neat little story and I fell in love with the heroine I created. In non fiction Portraits of France and Target Blue because they are so personal.
Jan. 12: Went to see Zero Dark Thirty last night and was appalled by it. The first thirty minutes--perhaps it wasn't quite that long, it seemed even longer--show CIA administered torture with no moral comment at all, but with critical information successfully extracted. Bravo for the torturers. Bravo for us Americans. It's rotten storytelling for we know nothing about the characters involved, and it's morally sickening. Torture is everywhere and always wrong, there can not ever under any circumstances be any justification for it. Do you need a Jesuit education to see this? Is there something wrong with me? Don't give me any of those ticking bomb situations, or some other totally fraudulent argument. The whole film was, to me, badly constructed, artistically lame. The heroine, this CIA analyst, merely watches the 30 minutes of torture, which is as totally unconvincing as medieval battle scenes since movie directors cannot actually torture the actors, the heroine showing no shame or revulsion whatever; and the last 30 minutes is the Bin Ladin raid itself in which she does not take part. In between she is on screen a lot while others decide what to do, but we never learn the first thing about her, or are taught to have any understanding of her or sympathy for her. No no no. In drama you cannot do that. Best film of the year? No no no again. To me a disgusting film and experience.
Jan. 6: Went yesterday to the opera—the Met live in HD in a cinema in New Rochelle. These shows are all matinees, about dozen of them a season spaced two weeks apart. In France, given the six our time difference, they start at six or seven at night and afterwards we would all go out to dinner and talk about what we had just seen and heard. In New York they start at mid-day—yesterday’s at noon—and you don’t get any lunch. Somewhat inhuman, that. These are marvelous shows with, now, about three million viewers. You watch, meaning the cameras watch, from the best seats in the house, and the cameras go backstage during the intermissions. The singers, dripping sweat and relief, wrung out, come off the stage and get microphones stuffed in their faces and must submit to short interviews about themselves and the opera in progress—yesterday it was Les Troyens of Berlioz. The singers, being show business types, put on the show that is required of them. They are all smiling and cordial as if they enjoyed this intrusion, which they don’t. After that the cameras show you the scenery being changed. In the days when I was following certain singers around the world, hardly anyone ever got to talk to singers besides us, nor got back stage for the scenery changes, meaning that all the exclusivity which I sought all my professional life is gone now. Everyone in the cinemas in 30 countries can imagine themselves intimate with tenors, sopranos and the opera world. And in those old days, which were not so long ago, no singer would talk to anyone just before a performance or during intermissions. But we are living in modern times, and the world has changed. Great singers are human beings, by God, and everyone world wide gets to, in effect, talk to them.
Same thing with regard to every other intimacy journalists got to witness. I am still trying to cope with all this. A good journalist was someone who got inside locker rooms, went into theaters by the stage door, became intimate with stars, witnessed people and events no one else had ever got close to. He was, or at least thought himself, special and privileged both. Not anymore. I sometimes feel myself just another casualty of modern times, and I don’t like it very much.
Dec. 6: A reader who had just read Year of the Dragon was moved enough to write me a letter saying so and asking me questions about it. Particularly she wanted to know if its protagonist, an NYPD captain I called Arthur Powers, returned (recurred) in any of my other novels. I answered that Arthur Powers was modeled to some extent on a Captain Arthur Deutcsh whom I knew well when I was in the NYPD. After making captain Deutcsh went 11 years without a precinct of his own, as does the hero of Year of the Dragon. He later became chief of police in Birmingham, and I sometimes saw him there. I never used the Powers character, nor any other character from any of these novels a second time. If I had I might have had more success than I did, for people like continuing characters. But I have had success enough, and the idea never appealed to me. Everything I knew about Arthur Powers was in that one book, I had nothing left to say about him, and I didn't ever want to do the same book twice, or anything like the same book twice. I hope this makes sense to others besides me.