An observation
April 30 , 2008

Every time I try to write literary fiction, I think of that old Barbra Streisand movie, The Owl and the Pussycat, from back in her still-Brooklyn phase when she was less Important and still hilarious.  

I don't know if the movie holds up any more because I saw it a lifetime ago, but one of the characters is an unpublished writer named Felix (played by George Segal) who has been writing the same novel for years, never trying anything else because he's struggling to "make it right." I'm not saying literary writers are all like this, but Felix is Very Serious About His Art, and feels Very Misunderstood. Thinking of Felix helps me avoid certain pitfalls of the writing life—and frankly, to be proud that I'm a genre whore. 

In the movie, after much cajoling, Felix finally agrees to read his masterpiece to Streisand's character, Doris, an actress and occasional prostitute. He never gets beyond the opening line, to much hilarity all the way around. Her acting out of that opening line for him so he can visualize the metaphor, and his reaction to it, has stayed with me since forever.    

It's all about living inside your head, taking yourself too seriously, lacking perspective. The movie is also about accepting yourself for who you really are and not being ashamed of that, which is a good thing. But there's a subtext that also makes me cringe and has also stayed with me since forever: "If you've tried to live out your dream and it goes nowhere, give up."  

I think about that one a lot, too, and to this day I'm not sure if it's ever right to give up on your dreams. You may be that geriatric dreamer out there still plugging away, but as long as you're still trying, you're still living. You may never get the golden ring, you may not wind up on the top of the heap, or even stuck in the middle or squashed on the bottom. You may have to modify your dreams, "modestify" them into some form you can live with, but giving them up entirely seems a bit like saying, "That part of my soul looks a little tawdry. I think I'll cut it out and throw it away. No one will notice I've patched it with naugahyde." 

Live your dreams. They are who you truly are.

Copyright © 2010 P.J. Thompson