a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

Posts tagged “John Grabowski

Replay Guest post: From the Front Porch – Interview with John Grabowski

John GrabowskiThis week’s guest for From the Front Porch: Creativity Interviews is John Grabowski. John has been following my blog since the early years (I started it in 2008!), and has been a frequent commenter. We developed an email friendship as he worked on his forthcoming novel, Entertaining Welsey Shaw. On his blog he has some really interesting things to say about the phenomenon of celebrity culture, which he addresses in his novel. John is one of the smartest and well-read people I know. Please welcome him to our Creativity Interviews.

Tell us a little about yourself. Perhaps what do you do for a living and where you live?

I live in Northern California and I’ve been a copywriter, a newswriter, and a novel writer. Right now I’m on the Marketing and Development Committees of the Peninsula Symphony as we are working to attract a broader and more affluent audience to this truly excellent orchestra.

When are you the most creative? (Who are you with? Where are you? What are you doing?)

I’m a night owl. That’s when I generally get most of my ideas and do my best writing. Doesn’t matter where, really, as long as I can get my fingers to a keyboard. I tend to like the “white noise” of coffee shops, however.

When are you the least creative? (Who are you with? Where are you? What are you doing?)

Mornings. I am not a morning person and never have been. Doesn’t matter how much sleep I get or when I go to bed.

What inspires you and why does it inspire you?

Other great art. Great ideas, different ways of looking at common things.

I don’t write fantasy or escapism. Everything I write is deeply-rooted in reality—often the most mundane reality that most people don’t pay attention to. So when someone can see that reality in a fresh and new way, I am inspired and want to do the same.

Share a favorite quote:

The great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. —Emerson

 What creative project are you working on now or do you hope to work on?

Getting dressed. Seriously, it’s 11am and I haven’t gotten away from the computer yet today.

 Share a photo of something you find beautiful:

My wifeJohn Grabowski's wife

Name one of more of your favorite books. What do you love about them? If they changed your life in any way tell us why.

Of course knowing me as you do you’d expect to see a title by Deborah Eisenberg here. But she writes short stories, though they’ve been collected into books, so we can just assume at least one of these would be one of her titles, probably one of her last two, All Around Atlantis or Twilight of the Superheroes. I think she is the most important fiction writer working today because she is doing things no one else is but at the same time she’s doing it with a vocabulary that wouldn’t stump a high school student and she has probed the fringes of consciousness without resorting to any trendy new writing styles. She shows that direct simplicity can also be complex.

I also enjoy many of Alice Munro’s stories, though I do think Eisenberg should have won the Nobel for her greater breadth and insight. And you, Susan Gabriel, have turned me on to Francine Prose!

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill is probably the best novel I’ve read that’s been written in the last ten years. I also enjoyed his follow-up The Dog, though the critics were pretty luke-warm on that one, for some reason

To The Lighthouse just blew my mind the first time I read it in the way it dealt with the most ordinary events with tremendous depth.

Richard Ford’s Bascombe Trilogy impressed me in similar ways. Or the first two novels did. I thought the third sputtered. There’s now a fourth Frank Bascombe book but I’m not sure if I’m going to read it. I think I’m sort of done with Frank.

Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road is an understated tour-de-force. And I love Milan Kundera, especially The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and José Saramago, especially The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis.

Name one or more of your favorite films and tell us what you love about it/them.

In literature I am drawn to realism—you might almost say mundane realism. Robert Altman’s films, or many of them, are of a similar nature. So are Ernst Lubitsch if you want to go really far back, especially the pre-Code ones.

Yet I also love the outsized aspects of Fellini, and 8 ½ and La Dolce Vita are two of my favorite films. They use fantasy to make a bigger point about realism.

So fantasy at the service of realism is fine. Fantasy for fantasy’s sake not so much, even if there’s a “moral” to the story. It’s usually a very simple moral.

Name one or more of your favorite pieces of art (painting, sculpture) and tell us what you love about it/them.

The Milk Maid by Vermeer, though to understand why you’d have to see it in person. The best prints don’t capture the impact. That’s true of any Vermeer.

Rembrandt’s self-portraits, especially the late ones. Same story. They seem to have a history that began before you entered the room to look at them and continue after you leave.

What were you like as a child?

God knows.

Tell us about something you’re proud of having created, participated in, etc. (not your offspring, please! 😉

This is going to seem ridiculously esoteric, but I intuitively figured out the “Circle of Fifths” in music without ever having it explained to me. I also distrusted a scholarly discovery that claimed a section of Beethoven’s music had been edited incorrectly all these years and had to be revised. Turns out I was right—the copyist made the “corrections” and Beethoven considered them wrong—they are!—and put back his original. But for several years some Beethoven scholars thought the “wrong” way was right and it was even recorded this way. I was never fooled, because that’s not how Beethoven thinks; it has nothing to do with taste.

What are you grateful for? (Today or in general.)

My health. A number of friends have had brushes with cancer or other disease and I have nothing to complain about. I am in good shape overall.

From JL’s Uncle Jessie Meme:

A song/band/type of music you’d risk wreck & injury to turn off when it comes on the radio?  

Hip hop. But really most pop.

A favorite show on television?    

Don’t really have one.

If you could have anything put on a t-shirt what would it be?

The formula for the Unified Field Theory. I’d then win a Nobel in physics and be famous.

A favorite meal?

Sushi.

A talent you wish you had? 

Concert pianist.

What’s on your nightstand? 

Isn’t this a family blog?

What’s something about you that would surprise us?

Same answer.

Check out John’s blog here.

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Please take a moment to let John know what you appreciated about this interview. Be sure and check out the link to his blog, too. If you’re feeling too shy to comment, consider sharing this post with your friends on your favorite social media platform. Thanks! xo

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P.S. A quick note about the title of this series, From the Front Porch:

Here in the South, we love our front porches. They are where we get to know our neighbors and take a load off with our friends. Ideally, I would invite John here to my house, we’d sit with a glass of iced tea, and I’d interview him while a cool breeze moved through the oaks, accompanied by the sound of two rocking chairs squeaking on the floorboards. Instead, I’ll ask you to use your imaginations. I hope you enjoy the breeze!

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Susan Gabriel is the acclaimed southern author of The Secret Sense of Wildflower (named a Best Book of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews) and other southern novels, including Temple Secrets, Grace, Grits and Ghosts: Southern Short Stories and others. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina.


“One minute she’s surrounded by friends, the next she’s all on her own jetting across the world!”

gty_cara_delevingne_jc_160805_12x5_1600

I thought I was reading an interview with Welsey Shaw.

But I wasn’t. She’s Cara Delevingne, and I’m amazed I’d never heard of her before.

She’s a fashion model, and she belies all the stereotypes about such models: she’s smart, funny, curious, and a terribly articulate and searching.

And one of the things she keeps articulating is how lonely her life is, and that being famous and in the spotlight constantly doesn’t make you less alone. Just the opposite, in fact. Ms. Delevingne often says she feels terribly alone.

Like Welsey she’s had some explosive outbursts. Welsey goes off on everyone inside a Manhattan Starbucks. For Ms. Delevingne, a security search at a train station in Paris caused her to erupt and call the agents names. After being detained an hour she apologized, and was sent on her way.

No explanation why she went off. But people like her are under lots of pressure (not that that’s an excuse, but…) and often it’s the small things that do it, something Daniel Ferreira learns when he gets deeper and deeper into Welsey’s life. A casual brush could bruise a career, a slip on a late night talk show could end it. Friends become foes in the blink of an eye, people use you for who you are, and if you fail to please them you are labeled a “biiytch.” And through all this, you’re supposed to always, unfailingly smile.

Delevingne’s said she battled with depression during her school years but managed to turn her life around with the help of writing and yoga. But it hasn’t worked as well as she’d hoped, apparently. After a devastating breakup recently, she has told her family that she might end up walking away from fame. And friends say she is now depressed worse than they have ever seen before. As her mother observed, “One minute she’s surrounded by friends, the next she’s all on her own jetting across the world!”

I confess I once considered an ending for Entertaining Welsey Shaw where Welsey, miserable in her alone-ness, took her life. Just writing left an incredibly bad taste in my mouth. But a number of celebrities in the spotlight—particularly, for some reason, young women—have made this decision. I truly hope Ms. Delevingne finds her way out of her darkness, and rediscovers happiness soon. Perhaps a break from fame might have a therapeutic affect. It does for Welsey, in the ending I finally opted for for the novel.

 


The price of fame: Living your life in public

Britney & paparazzi

The paps, getting a piece of her.

She’s a wildly-famous blonde superstar who’s been in the spotlight since she was a teenager, and she nearly lost her mind because of the relentless scrutiny she found herself under.

But we’re not talking about Welsey Shaw.

Britney Spears could probably identify with my blonde heroine. No matter what you think of her talents, you have to admit she must have stamina to live her life with paparazzi camped outside her door and reporters following her every move.

She recently told the magazine Marie Claire UK that for many years she didn’t know who she was or what she was. She was living a life defined by other people, unable to form her own self.

I can’t justify the craziness of the public eye for Britney’s former irresponsible behavior. She endangered her children, of whom she lost custody (since re-won, at least on a 50/50 basis with her ex, dancer Kevin Federline) and did some truly wacked out things. Shrink-type people said she was crying out for help. Probably true. If she really were suicidal she’d have succeeded.

But I find it interesting how so many stars-since-they-were-children have their childhoods snatched away from them, and make up for it in overdrive later on. How what everyone thinks they would like—fame, fans, riches—can lead to madness, depression, desperation. Interestingly, one of her most well-known comeback songs is “Piece of Me,” and it’s from an album called Blackout.

Critics have criticized Spears’ art for not being deep. That may be true, but I have a feeling she’ll get deeper. When she was younger, she didn’t know much, because she wasn’t allowed to live a life. So she couldn’t have been deep. Her rebellion might have ultimately been the best thing to happen, artistically.

Something has to set childhood stars free. For Britney it was an unlikely bumpy series of events that, after a lot of loss and pain, liberated her—or at least so it seems. For Welsey Shaw, part of it was equally-unlikely, Daniel Ferreira in a Midtown Manhattan Starbucks who lets her discover what real conversation, real people, real experiences and opinions, feel like. The road through fame is filled with twists and turns, and it’s different lengths for everyone.


Gwyneth Paltrow’s second conscious uncoupling

Gwyneth Paltrow

No, she’s not getting another divorce, since she hasn’t remarried (though there are rumors of that on the horizon).

But Gwyneth Paltrow is saying goodbye to GOOP. (Should that be GOOPbye then?)

The 43-year-old lifestyle guru is separating from her brand to spend more time with her spa treatments, home redecorating parties and splurge vacations in Saint-Tropez.

Seriously, no reason was given for her change of strategy. Just a few months ago, in fact, she had stated that she’d basically retired from acting to make GOOP her full-time endeavor.

I’m not sure how this is possible. The website has her initials, or some strange variant thereof, said to be a nickname the actress likes. Then again, she named her daughter after a fruit. Or maybe it was her favorite laptop.

She really believes she got where she did the same way as, say, Claire Danes did. “[My father] said, you know, ‘You are completely on your own.’ He never gave me anything…So, the idea that I am spoiled or that I didn’t work for what I have is just not accurate.” I’m sure no one on the receiving end of her phone calls and auditions knew who her parents were. And the fact that her first substantial appearance to the world was in a film made by her godfather, who also happens to be Steven Spielberg, is complete coincidence.

To me her “lifestyle” choices largely have the ring of celebrity New Age hedonism. Not that that isn’t very popular—everyone today wants to be famous—but she sometimes acts like her website’s mission is to save the world. But she has more followers than I do, so maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.

There’s nothing wrong with splurges. But when GOOP calls a woodburning backyard pizza oven or a facial that costs more than most house payments a “splurge,” when its holiday gift guide would make even George Soros blink at his credit card statement, you have to wonder what world this chick lives in.

The Gwynnie who says she’s got it tougher than most people, and that other moms can keep themselves in the flawless shape she does if they really work at it appears to be rather tone-deaf to the very people who made her rich and famous, spending their weekend crusts to see her Miramax movies at cineplexes in suburban cities she probably despises. Not to say there aren’t media outlets that are very sympathetic to this sort of lifestyle. Their readership is exactly the demo that goes for such very blonde, very New England-y inhabitants as those who seem to come to GP’s soirées. Most such rich people just enjoy this lifestyle quietly, however, and don’t feel the compulsion to rub others’ noses in it.

As for GOOP, “My dream is that one day no one will remember that I had anything to do with it,” she recently said. Amen. But perhaps it wasn’t her dream. Perhaps it was the dream of others, business partners who came on board and possibly suggested the uncoupling. I have no idea if that actually happened, but the about-face stance seems very sudden and, to me, very un-Gwyneth. What’s she going to do with all her free time, Shakespeare in Love 2: Viola Returns from Virginia? (Actually, that could be pretty good.)

I am sad that now I won’t know where to get the best colon-cleanse, but I guess I’ll just have to use Yelp or ask my tony friends.

Meanwhile, join me in saying goodbye to GOOP as we know it.

 


She’s good for it, certainly…

Adele

Seems that even superstars get their credit cards declined.

Pop singer Adele was shopping in San Jose, California the other day when an H&M store would not accept her credit card.

How embarrassing!

But in a way it wasn’t. Reports are that nobody even recognized that it was the pop singer proffering the plastic.

Somehow a celebrity who attracts thousands of screaming fans in concerts and millions of them at home can shop in San Jose and not even be noticed.

Yes, it happens all the time. You could bump elbows with celebrities anywhere and not know it. They are the masters of disguises. After all, they have to get out and about just like the rest of us, and while some of them have “people” who go about their chores for them…well, everybody likes to go into the world and do some shopping themselves sometime.

And that’s exactly what they know how to do…and do in such a way that you won’t even notice.

The takeaway from it to me is how celebrities are, at heart, just people like anyone else. But if you put an ordinary person up on stage in fancy clothes, people don’t get all excited. Why is that? And is it possible to do so?

On second thought, that may be what reality shows have been trying to do…with mixed success.

It’s also interesting that many can avoid the paparazzi even when they pretend they’re being bombarded. True Adele, for as recognized as she is, isn’t, say, in the same league as Jennifer Aniston. But she is certainly a big deal, yet she slipped out of fame’s spotlight surprisingly easily. Makes you wonder if all those “famous people” getting nailed by TMZ every night don’t, well, maybe have their publicists call the photog to tell them their client will be in a certain place at a certain time.

Adele says that although no one knew who she was, she was nonetheless “mortified.”

And she adds that she’d been able to use the card at other stores that day, implying it was all H&M’s fault, a software glitch or something.

But people were surely standing around her in line as this happened—and never knew it was she.

The opening scene in Entertaining Welsey Shaw is like this, with Welsey in line with civilians in a Manhattan Starbucks. I wondered as I wrote it how believable it was that no one else would recognize her, even though she’s hidden behind sunglasses and drab clothes.

Since then I’ve learned it happens every day. Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban once came into the coffee shop where I have written much of Entertaining Welsey Shaw. Ironically, that was one of the rare days I wasn’t there. I had to hear about it second-hand from staff. (And all the while I was home I kept thinking, I should head over today; I feel like I’m missing something.)

Back to Adele—maybe try your AmEx at Nordie’s?

They tend to have nicer stuff anyway.