WHITE LIGHTNING, GATOR

Movie reviews, commentary

I recommend these two movies. They are filmed in the South; nothing looks like a Hollywood set. Burt Reynolds, an ex-con, is out of prison so long as he helps Revenuers (IRS, State Taxes). Both stories involve moonshine, but Gator also includes gambling, protection, prostitution and drugs.

Each movie is a hardcore look at the facts and circumstances of happening and living in those worlds. Filming on location in the South lends a gritty authentication. Good characters die. It seems real, including car chases in White Lightning, and a spin around a lake in a boat to evade law enforcement in Gator.

At the end of Gator, Lauren Hutton, local TV news reporter, has a chance to leave and go to CBS in New York. Reynold’s character development in the film, watching women being slammed by southern culture, relents. Their newly minted relationship is at an end. He admits she would love New York work. He drives off into his world of the South.

This last point in movies today, leaving to fulfill professional aspirations is a throw-away point usually canned to become a politically correct: Go to New York. In Gator Reynolds has a nine year old daughter, who does not get much screen time. Yet at the end, the audience knows Reynolds will be sure his girl will grow into womanhood better prepared to face the world her father currently lives in.

I attribute the appearance of each movie to a low budget and to Burt Reynolds. Reynolds is a son of the South; he used the sets he had; he wasn’t making amendments to pretty things up for the camera. In the end he presented the South for what it was during the 1970s.

Portrait of a Showgirl

What might a 40 year-old Lesley Anne Warren movie happening in Vegas tell anyone about anything?

Before seeing the movie I did not know Warren trained professionally for the ballet; she’s 5’8″. She does her own stunts – she does all her own dancing well.

In the movie she’s from New York, and a bit standoffish for the Vegas crowd. Backstory: She came West to get out of a romance with a married man who has promised divorce from Wife One. He comes to Vegas and says he will get a divorce. He reappears saying divorce is filed. He wants her to sign a prenuptial agreement and marry. NO.

That backstory is she spent a lot of time on this guy, and lost everything: Time, emotions, getting on with life. She looks for anything out of the ordinary. A parking attendant went to Medical School (presumably in the Bay Area). They hook up. She urges him to finish his medical education; he agrees. She lends him her car to go to the Bay Area. (north and west of Vegas) He crashes the car in Arizona (south and east of Vegas).

In a Vegas hospital room she sees him and breaks it off with a sensible, mature view of male/female relations. He puerilely smiles seeking forgiveness.

WARREN (paraphrased): It’s over. You have to stop being a little boy, and I have to grow up and be a woman.

In other words Warren realizes more about herself than before. She can’t be this jerk’s mother; she’s not feeling sorry for his inexcusable mistakes; he has to accept responsibility and suffer the lumps for his own actions. If she’s going to get ahead in life, she has a responsibility to herself not to be swayed by a cute butt, the turn of a phrase or a big car.

Bitch. – Third Edition

IMG_0002-1

The purpose of my novel, Bitch., a period not a dot, a verb not a noun, puts the reader on the ground as a student at the University of California at Berkeley in September 1968 and carries through June 1973. It is 200,000 words.

There are loads of details – historical, fictional, contrived. First Edition, First printing was in 2000 – footnotes, bibliography, index and lexicon (words of the Sixties plus sources) e.g. “bummers” came from neither the Hells Angels nor the hippies. In 1864 the scavengers of Sherman’s Army on the March to the Sea through Georgia were known as bummers.

First Edtion, Second Printing is a reediting of the First Printing. Corrected are typos, less “majestically lawless.” In the First Printing one page has one word on it. The Second Printing has fewer obstacles to get to the purpose of the novel than the First Printing.

Before writing and during writing I did extensive research. I was dismayed when bookstores around the University closed in Berkeley: Seven in ten years. Some libraries closed and deprived me of sources. The Undergraduate Library was remodeled and its collection was reduced at least 50 percent. When I arrived to write, the campus had not changed much. I was able to write from memory, research and setting as they had been for decades.

The primary change between the First Printing and the Second was to the name of a character. I was using a pseudonym, Karl Rauh. In German “rauh” means abrupt, rude, sharp, and there was nothing about my writing that was polite, gentle or soft. Bitch. retains the edge of the attack. But I had named a character in the story, Karl Rauh, and a reader who believed she knew characters in the book, observed there was a problem with voices: author/character. I considered that point and took the quickest remedy: I changed the character’s name.

After the Second Printing was published, I was in the City of Berkeley Library Book Store. Someone had brought in loads of boxes filled with Sociology from the Sixties and Seventies. I realized I had a large source of books I had not seen. I bought and began reading, and more out of bookstores and from libraries, perhaps 1000 books. I had 50-100 pages of notes and additions to the text of Bitch.. For instance a little item: I met a woman who would only date on a Dutch treat basis. In a source I found a teenage girl who would only go Dutch treat because she didn’t like the feeling of being “rented” for the evening. That source is end-noted in the Third Edition.

Unprompted by me in 2009 the publisher of the Second Printing relinquished all rights to Bitch.. I was unhappy with the Second Printing because of the errors and its incomplete research and the many references I had overlooked and now made. Scanning the book into word processing would be a complete disservice to me as a writer and to the text which wasn’t perfect. The idea of retyping a manuscript of that length raises NOT the question, Do I want to read this again? Instead, the question becomes, Do I want to type this again? There were words, sentences and paragraphs to insert or move someplace else. Text to add and stuff to delete, and it was all possible because I read the text at 15-20 words a minute, my typing speed. Along the way I was able to reenter the book into my memory, and was able to play with it. I rounded out characters; I made paragraphs complete thoughts; I made the story full, inserting another 10-15,000 words. I added to endnote texts, and I added 90 note references.

[When one is writing about the Sixties and early Seventies, it is good to get facts, thoughts and impressions correct. Many memoirs and recountings are so highly edited to make the representations of those texts farcical and those texts wholly dishonest. Inserting the notes to sources and newspapers of those times at least tell the facts as they occurred. It is difficult for a once famous “personage” of those times to support his fantasies as he likes to remember them today and not as they happened. Many of those people like to write about their feelings. Hence the endnotes and the bibliography in Bitch..]

Under my name, michael ulin edwards, [I jettisoned the pseudonym],I received a copyright for the Third Edition of Bitch., iBookstore. It is the ghost edition. There are no graphics. There is an improved lexicon and bibliography but no index. Epublishing would not support the index. Unfortunately, there is no search function in Epublishing.

Editing a manuscript I believed once perfect was daunting and annoying, and in the end I was grateful. The text needed a sever reading. I learned how to do that. It is a much different mindset than writing, and different from proofreading. When a writer proofs, he accepts the text and makes small changes. But reediting – sentences, phrases, clauses, paragraphs – does not accept the text as it is. The mindset is to deconstruct. Reediting reinvents the text so words do their best work.

IMG

Just a note about writing Bitch.. The more words the more complicated the writing, the organization and the interactions and interface of stories, characters and settings. Before writing I determined there would be five major characters, the names are capitalized in each circle. One subsidiary character, “Ellen,” is mentioned. Not all the characters would have the same experiences, but like many young people during the Sixties and early Seventies, they had shared experiences. Those experiences were by direct participation or vicarious knowledge, because many occurrences during those years had a lot of fallout [unlike today where experiences tend to shut and tie-off]. Once I accepted this organization, the only diagram (“outline”) I made, the text was a matter of writing the stories of each character and how they mixed.

Always paramount was a driving theme found in Lee’s circle: Characters were looking for love in a loveless society.