Tim Russell: And now Joyce James, the lotion that makes your skin young and impressionable, brings you THE LIVES OF THE WRITERS (W. FN ECHO). Tonight's episode: The Novel. How much of what they write is true? Let's look in on one writer as he works...
Garrison Keillor (TYPING): He stood beside her as she read his manuscript, tapping the yellow pencil lightly against her bare left arm, her lips slightly parted. "This is good. In fact, it's better than good," she said, removing her hornrim glasses. "Do you know Billy Collins?" "No!" He said sharply. Well this is way better than anything he ever wrote," she said, softly grasping his tie and pulling him close...
Sue Scott (OFF): Honey?
(A BEAT, SIGH)
GK: I'm right here.
SS: You still working on the book?
SS: You've been working on that for weeks now.
GK: Well, it's a novel. It's called "I Love You Catherine: Why Can't You See That?" And I want it to be good.
SS: Oh. The chapter I read, I thought the heroine was sort of -- I don't know -- made-up.
GK: Hey, it's fiction. It's made up--
SS: I know that. She just seemed completely unreal--
GK: She was a goddess. Goddesses are unreal, by definition-
SS: I mean, she just sort of threw herself at him.
GK: She was overcome by desire--
SS: Right, but for a guy that age? Why?
GK: Oh please. I'm kind of into this right now, okay? Do you mind?
SS: We're having dinner in half an hour.
GK: Right. Fine.
SS: You just go ahead and write. Don't let me get in the way.
GK (TYPING): "You've got something here," she said, reaching out to touch his knee. The warmth of her hand was intense, almost feverish. "But let me ask you something: are you married?" He shook his head. "Then how do you understand women so well? Your knowledge of us is simply -- unprecedented." He could feel her eyelashes flutter against his cheek and her breath against the side of his neck when she said, "unprecedented". Her perfume was musky and he had to grip the edge of the table to keep himself from kissing her.
TR (TEEN): Dad?
TR (TEEN): Oh, hey. You're in here.
GK: Yes, I'm working.
TR (TEEN): Just wondered if you'd seen my glove.
GK: Your glove?
TR (TEEN): You know, baseball glove? I've got a game today.
GK: Did you look in your room?
TR (TEEN): Yeah. I mean, I guess.
GK: You guess?
TR (TEEN): I looked, but there was a lot of stuff on the floor, so.
GK: You know you can clean your room anytime, Christopher. You don't have to wait for your mother or me to tell you.
TR (TEEN): Whatever. Hey--You want to come see the game? We're playing the Braves.
GK: I'm writing a book, Christopher. Daddy's a writer. Remember? This is what pays for the house, the car, the hamburgers...
TR (TEEN): Other dads come and see games. A whole bunch of them.
(GK DEEP SIGH)
GK: Would you like me to come to your game, or would you like to go to college? Don't answer that.
TR (TEEN): What are you writing anyway?
GK: A book. Don't worry about it.
TR (TEEN): Why do you have to be so weird? God. (DOOR OPENS, CLOSES)
(FANTASY MUSIC, TYPING)
GK: She slid into his lap. "Have you ever thought of having children?" she said. He shook his head. "I know that I like my life too much to want to sacrifice it to the infantile needs of another person." "How about the adult needs of another person," she asked, unbuttoning the top button of her blouse. He could see that she kept pencils tucked into her lace brassiere. He reached for one, a No. 2 soft lead pencil--
SS (OFF): Honey?
GK: (SIGH) Yes?
SS: Can I bring you coffee or anything?
GK: No, thanks--
SS: You want beans with the pork chops?
SS: For dinner. Or we could have Brussels sprouts.
GK: Whatever you like.
SS: Well we don't have Brussels sprouts, so if you want them I'll have to go to the store.
GK: Beans then.
SS: It's no problem. I could run to the store right now.
GK: I'm fine with beans. It's ok.
SS: You sure?
GK: I'm sure, yes.
SS: Boy, you sure are busy with that book.
GK: I'm trying, yes. If I could just get a few more minutes here.
SS: Dinner's in 15 minutes. Just so you know.
GK: Yes, I know.
SS: Ok. I'll just be in the kitchen if you need anything.
(FOOTSTEPS RETREAT) (GK SIGH, FANTASY MUSIC)
GK: She tossed her golden hair and said, "I think we have a huge best-seller here. Huge. I am so excited. I'm so excited my clothes suddenly feel restrictive. I'm going to go get into something comfortable," she whispered. She walked away, her high heels making a rat-a-tat sound like a drum solo in a song about irresistible love...
(DOOR OPENS, CLOSES, FOOTSTEPS)
Fred Newman: Hello? Is anybody home? Oh, hi, didn't see you there.
GK: Who are you?
FN: Your wife called for a plumber--something about a leak? What you writing? -- "Excuse me," she said, sliding off his lap. "Be right back." Hello! Whose lap is that?
GK: Don't read over my shoulder--
FN: Just curious. Don't freak out, man.
GK: It's a rough draft.
FN: I'll say.
GK: What's that supposed to mean?
FN: I'm a writer myself. I write romance for men.
GK: Don't tell me about it, okay? Just do your job.
FN: A lot of guys repair their own plumbing, you know--
GK: Well, I'm busy writing a book--
FN: Five weeks is a long time to spend on a book of that sort, if you ask me.
GK: Who told you that? Five weeks--
FN: Your wife.
GK: My wife told you that. My wife is telling the plumber about my life--
FN: She's got to have somebody to talk to. She's a person too, you know.
GK: I can't believe this.
FN: Neither can she. She's having a lot of doubts--
GK: You know what? I don't need this.
FN: That's exactly what she said.
GK: If you're looking for the kitchen, it's that way. Okay?
(FANTASY MUSIC, TYPING)
GK: I'm going to go get into something comfortable," she whispered. She walked away, her high heels making a rat-a-tat sound like a drum solo in a song about irresistible love...
Billy Collins: Or a rat-a-tat sound like a firing squad in the prison courtyard.
GK: Who are you?
BC: He said, looking up at the elegant figure in the doorway. "Collins is the name. Billy Collins," the man said quietly.
GK: What's going on here?
BC: Keillor cried in dismay, although in his heart he knew very well what was going on. "Catherine asked me to come back and get her lotion. Oh. Here it is, on the desk," he said, picking up the little white bottle. "After all, poets have intensely intimate relationships with their readers. Each and every one of them in my case."
BC: Collins placed his hand reassuringly on Keillor's uncertain shoulder. "Don't rip out your heart, pal," he said. "You'll probably find a publisher. That sort of stuff you write -- there's always going to be an audience for it. And if necessary you could always self-publish."
BC: The older writer stepped back as if he'd been stabbed with a dinner fork. Collins grabbed his arm and kept him from jumping out the window. "Midwestern nostalgia -- you could maybe find a seed corn company to publish it."
GK: She was in love with me, Collins. And she's still in love with me. She just left the room for a moment and when she comes back, it'll be just like it was.
BC: You think so? Why don't you call her, big boy? Go ahead.
BC: The heavyset man's voice rang out, pitifully, like the voice of a small child--
GK: Catherine, where are you?
BC: He looked toward the door which his Muse had disappeared through and from which the dapper poet had just emerged.
GK: Keillor pulled out a gun and aimed it at the poet's yellowish white shirt, the fourth button. "The door's right over there, pal. This is a novel. This is the heavyweight division. Too many words for you. Too much real-life stuff. Beat it."
BC: "Guess you didn't notice I'm wearing a brand-new pullover shirt, mister. And that isn't a gun, it's a banana. Guess you forgot: I'm here. We're in the land of surrealism now."
GK: Just then there was the sound of footsteps in the hall.
BC: Or so it seemed, but in fact it was the terrified pounding of Keillor's heart.
GK: The poet's heart, as he felt his pants drop to the floor.
BC: Just as they had many times in the past, to universal acclaim--
GK: Which revealed his undershorts which had red raspberries on them, which--
BC: Which, if you looked closely, said "Ha ha, made you look."
GK: The novelist kept the gun--
GK: -- trained on the poet's tattered shirt--
BC: Brand-new pullover.
GK: And he spoke in a soft, but commanding voice. "Poetry is for teenage girls. You know it and I know it. The novel is for grownups. Poetry is about navelgazing and lolling around in a meadow and having an epiphany every time a leaf falls. Novels are about the real lives of men and women."
BC: O bellybutton, I could spend hours looking at you, and your lint-- and now a leaf has fallen -- and suddenly I realize -- I am alive, it is now, we are here -- I am writing this poem --
SS (OFF): Honey!
BC: Who's that?
GK: He said, pulling his shirt down. Confusion was writ large on his face, he, who moments before had been celebrating life -- now he stared at the novelist's pistol.
GK: I'm in here!
BC: --the novelist cried, as the poet pulled up his trousers. Two horses stood under an oak tree, one black, one white--
GK: There are no horses here. We're in a house.
BC: I decided to put a couple of horses in. Women love horses.
SS (OFF): Honey!!!--
BC: I brought two just in case she wants to come along.
GK: She doesn't ride horses.
BC: I could have her riding a horse in no time, fella.
SS: Honey, do you have a checkbook? I need to pay the plumber.
GK: Of course.
SS: Was someone just here?
GK: No, I was just reading out loud.
SS: Oh. Well that's weird.
BC (OFF): Heeyaw -- (WHOOPS, HORSE WHINNY, GALLOPING OFF)
SS: There's a man on a black horse. Riding down the street.
GK: There isn't a second horse?
SS: No, just the black one.
SS: How you coming on the book?
SS: Oh. Great. (READING): She came back in the room in a black negligee, the galley proofs in her hand, and said, "I think we've got something here."
GK: Don't read over my shoulder, okay?
FN: Hey, got that toilet all fixed for you. Somebody tried to flush paper down it. Isn't that something?
SS: Toilet paper?
FN: Nope. Big wads of paper with writing on them-- got em right here--
GK: I'll take those. Thanks.
FN: I've got em.
GK: Just give it over. Now scram.
FN: You finish that novel of yours?
GK: All done and off to the publisher. I'll send you a copy.
FN: Don't bother.
SS: Why don't you stay for dinner? We're having pork chops and beans.
GK: Yeah, I don't think so.
FN: I'm out of here. You guys can work it out.
(FOOTSTEPS, DOOR OPENS, CLOSES)
SS: Well, it's just us now, honey.
BC: I'm still here. In your head.
GK: Oh, shut up!
SS: What did you say?
GK: Talking to myself.
BC: You know that plumber is working on a memoir. It's called Eats, Flushes, and Leaves. I smell a National Book Award.
GK: Thanks a lot.
SS: Thanks for what?
TR (ANNC): The Lives of the Writers...was brought to you by Joyce James, the name to trust when it comes to skin care.