WHO WAS THAT MASKED WRITER?
by Melodie Johnson Howe
It’s Sunday night. I’m writing this while watching the Academy Awards at the same time. Viewing this show must be done with a good friend, good food, and a lot of good wine; otherwise it’s hard to swallow.
I’m already confused. The actresses all look alike to me: tall, thin, busty, and hair straggling down their faces. Also they seem to be wearing the same evening gown. Since I can’t tell one from the other, I decide to focus on the one lone author in the audience: Cormac McCarthy. (At least I think it’s him.)
When they talk about the movie, “No Country for Old Men,” the camera focuses on Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, the Coen Brothers, and a patrician-looking man wearing a traditional tuxedo. His gray-white hair is neatly combed to the side, and he seems mildly surprised at finding himself in an audience of movie stars and grinning sharks. If this man is the author, he looks like he should be writing John Updike’s novels and not the fierce, poignant, hunt and chase of a book he did write. (Unless it is John Updike. But why would he be in the audience?)
No Country for Old Men is one of my favorite novels. I have not seen the movie so the images of Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem have not infiltrated my imagination and taken it over. In other words it’s still a book to me. John Le Carré said that he stopped writing about the old spymaster Smiley because Alec Guinness (the actor who played him) had completely taken over the character in his mind so that Smiley was no longer his own. Oh, the camera is back on the man I think is Cormac McCarthy!
“Do you think that’s Cormac McCarthy?” I ask my friend Lenore, who is visiting from Vermont.
“There.” I am now pointing at a blond stuffed into that same dress that they are all wearing.
“Oh, is that the author who is a stripper?”
“No. She’s the one with a tattoo. And she’s wearing leopard.”
“You’re kidding. So who’s the blonde?”
“I don’t know who she is…never mind. Oh, there he is.”
“Where? Who?” She leans forward squinting at the TV.
“Cormac McCarthy. Is that him?”
“How would I know? I’m still hoping to see Raquel Welch. Who are these women?”
Javier Bardem wins for Best Supporting Actor. He thanks everybody including his mother. The camera focuses on the adoring mother and then Cormac McCarthy.
“There! “ I yell. “Is that Cormac McCarthy?”
“That’s his mother.”
“Javier’s. Stop sloshing the wine down.”
I let out another deep sigh. Javier returns to his seat and we watch as he gives his a mother a big kiss. He doesn’t even look at Cormac. (If that is Cormac.)
We continue to watch John Stewart sneer, and listen to boring acceptance speeches. Then the Coen Brothers win for Best Director. The camera pans the audience; Javier is still kissing his mother. These crazy Latins.
“There! Is that Cormac McCarthy.”
“He’s gone. The camera’s off him.” I sigh.
Finally it’s Best Picture time. I pray. Let “Country for Old Men” win so I can see Cormac again. (If it is him.) The picture wins! The begrudging Coen Brothers and Scot Rudin make their way to the stage. They mention Cormac McCarthy’s name. The camera pans.
“That is him!” I yell.
“That man. The only one who is non-desperate.”
“That man who looks thoughtful and bemused at the same time. The one man in the audience who can write!”