James Schamus

James Schamus

A weeklong electronic journal.
Sept. 23 1997 3:30 AM

James Schamus

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If, as I age, I come to understand one true thing,
         it is that talk about the weather really is
interesting. Saturday, I pushed Djuna's stroller, and Djuna in it,
         through the hazy slog of upper Broadway in
something I grew up calling
         Indian Summer. The refrigerated air
of Barnes & Noble's was a grudgingly accepted
         relief. By Sunday morning
the north winds had blown in
         an autumnal clarity to everything.
Nona woke up and ran into our bedroom: "My
         grandma's mother died when she was
three." OK. She seems pretty
         matter-of-fact about it. "I'm cold." Then why did you take
all your clothes off?
         "Because I wanted my blanket."
Nancy has been up since six correcting the page proofs
         of her novel. "I'm taking out the transitions." Page
proofs: Zabelle exists, after six years, two children, a career,
         and me. By the time Adam and Nina arrive for breakfast
everyone is clothed. Our girls and
         their boys appear to be playing some kind of family game.
"Let's pretend we have a dog." An astonishingly small amount
         of screaming and discord--can this be America? Adam describes
the book he just reviewed for the TLS about pigs
         and Jews, the discursive function (not his phrase)
of pigs in the history of Western European anti-Semitism.
         I serve two kinds of lox: Norwegian (double-smoked)
and basic Nova. Speaking of Judaism, at the hotel last week in L.A.
         Ang's and my "bungalow" (bigger than my New York apartment! two floors! Hollywood!)
         came with a wide assortment of
magazines, from the usual semi-pornographic
         entertainment and fashion rags to, of all things, the New
Republic. I paced myself through NR's soundings on
         "Zionism at 100," kicked off by Martin "I'll Take Beirut" Peretz.
Everyone who contributed warned against "extremists,"
         and there was mucho wistful criticism/self-criticism about the old days when everyone in Zion was white and busy planting trees
         in the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest:
Suitable groaning from the table, just as long-lost Peter arrives. He is
         more interested
in which bungalow I stayed in. "Next time try to get
         number three. It has its own parking space."
Night falls. David phones in the grosses from The Myth of
         Fingerprints' opening weekend.
I grab five minutes on the phone with Ang about the
         next film: new budget ("how many horses?"), casting ("he means nothing to the studio"). There is a town on a flood plain in Missouri
         that FEMA has evacuated: "Bob says we might be able
to burn it all down." Cheaper than burning something we've built, but maybe
         not the right look? I unplug the phone and
prepare for tomorrow's class on Plato's
         Meno, and remember, or think I do, something from
Klein's book, about Socrates' "double seeing," the way an image
         both is and is not, or, rather,
can be and cannot be--if you know what he means
         by "being."

James Schamus runs the independent film-production company Good Machine with his partner, Ted Hope. He is an associate professor at Columbia University's School of the Arts, and has collaborated on all Ang Lee's films, including The Ice Storm, which opens the New York Film Festival this Friday. Schamus also wrote the screenplay for the film, which won an award for best script at Cannes last spring.