Preserving a Man, Fixing a Shadow

Book Portraits of Paul Monette, by Gay Block

At the time of his death in February 1995, at the age of fifty, Paul Monette was the author of more than a dozen books, wide in range, from carefully-wrought poetry and sharp, insightful essays, to popular fiction and novelizations of several screenplays. The works for which he is best known, however, are the two autobiographical memoirs, Borrowed Time and Becoming a Man.
As Monette matured as a writer and as his subject matter came closer to echo his own life—the life of a gay man living in the time of AIDS—the photographs that appeared on his books shifted and changed to reflect his growing awareness of who he was and how he wanted his photographed image to express certain values that he held. The look of these various portraits is quite wide-ranging; nearly every book includes a different image.
Several years ago the photographer Gay Block and the writer Malka Drucker met Monette and his compan­ion Winston Wilde at an exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. From that meeting developed a friend­ship that included visits to Monette's house in Los Angeles and a trip to Italy. From that friendship also emerged the portrait by Block that appears on the jacket of Mouette’s collection of essays Last Watch of the Night.
In a note to the book Fifty Texas Artists (San Francisco: Chronicle. Books, 1986), for which she photo­graphed the artists represented. Block wrote that the intention was to “make pictures that would record my sub­jectsphysical beings and also, through physiognomy, relay some impression of their inner selves.” This certainly is what her portrait of Monette accom­plishes. It is an image that speaks of wisdom and experience, of sadness and pain, and of the knowledge that comes from both experience and study. It is also an image that shows fully the emotional depth of Block's friendship with Monette.
The following interview was sug­gested when I noticed how Monettc's image changed from onebook to another and how these changing images carried with them echoes of Renaissance vanitas portraits. It was conducted by Gay Block at Paul Monette’s West Hollywood home. Some editing has been done to elimi­nate personal references that do not bear on the central topic of the inter­view. —Ed Osowski
Paul Monette: It's beyond ironic that we're doing this when I am feeling so disfigured, so unphotographable. I think that the photographs that you took of me m February [for Last Watch of the Night] are sort of the last that I want to look at. And I'm sure I have a larger case of "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity," than I usually do in liferI am highly aware of how orchestrated the process always was, and how much input I always took in it.
There are, after all, many authors who just have a breezy picture taken, or don't want a picture at all. I really was possessedwith the notion of becoming a kind of Shelleyan poet figure. And then, as soon as I "came our," and 1 started to work on gay work, it was terribly important that I look good, that I look sexy.
After I came out, I knew exactly what I was going to show. I spent the first twenty years of my life thinking of myself as deeply pudgy and unat­tractive—"bodyless"—which is the word I used so often in Becoming a Man. I guess it was an attempt to freeze a moment in which my "bodylessness" would not lie the most important thing. I would conquer that feeling of "bodylessness” by present­ing a good picture. I might have been able topsychoanalyze some of that even at the time.
Gay Block: The self-image stuff, you mean, in terms of your past?

PM: The poems m this first book. The Carpenter at the Asylum, are just riddled with self-hatred, confusion and unhappiness, And the picture isn't, because I wanted to present the glam­orous, young, suffering poet. Can you see that there is a rose at the top of that picture? That's a silk rose that the girlfriend I was living with at the time brought hack from Paris for me. And that is such a studied pose. I am actu­ally sitting at my desk in Cambridge, and I have happy memories of that.
I was only teaching half-time, I had moved from Milton where the school was, to Cambridge, and spent twoyears living right near Harvard Square, and feeling that sense of excitement bohemian authenticity. I guess I think of that as my real education. I barely noticed my Yale education, andmy Andover education. Whereas those two years in Cambridge, going to poetry readings three and four times a week, and going to literary parries all the rime. Everything was about books and poems; it was a wonderful, won­derful time in my life.
GB: Do you remember Milts West, giving him some instruction of some kind?
PM: Yeah, he was a friend who actually worked at Little Brown, and he used that as a pseudonym. Because he designed the book as well, and he didn't want his name [Jeffrey Griswold] put on the phonograph as the designer's name.
Jeffrey has since died of AIDS, bur he was very willing for me to set it up and get it evactly the way I wanted it.
GB: And you told him you wanted to look successful?
PM: I wanted to look— Byronic, or Shelleyan, or Keatsian—I wanted to be the young romantic poet. He un­derstood that right away. It was years later that I talked in Richard Avedon about how [Marlene] Dietrich had controlled the photograph he took of her. And how lie just let it happen because she seemed to be very, very timed into what she wanted to look like.
I mean, I've done a lot of thinking in my life about how any of us as subjects of photographs control the process, whether that's good or had. I don't feel that Native American sense of "you steal my soul" when you take a picture of me. I don't feel that way. I guess I just feel a longing to orchestrate.
GB: Let me talk to you just a minute, because we are doing this together, I’ve had a few portraits made of my­self, too. And when we talked last night, you said, "I've been doing some thinking about this."
Today. I'm on my way over here, and I thought: "thinking"—it's almost something I deal do. I shouldn't say that. I do think now. But the things that I do don't come out of a thought process.
PM: And thinking is anathema, maybe to you.
GB: That's right. So, I've had people make portraits of me, and have done a few self-portraits, never thinking that I was going to look beautiful or sexy, but instead, wanting to look— as a person with depth— as a person who has had a life that has not been—all easy, nice, fine. Wanting to say—just because you know this or that, you don't know me. Here is who I am. There is depth, there is pain, there is stuff behind here that I want you to see. I think, that's where I've been with images I've had made of myself.
When I came to take your picture for Last Watch of the Night, I thought, OK, I’ve had some success as a portrait photographer. I’vehad a show at MoMA. I know how to do portraits. But still everytime I do a portrait, I'm nervous. Am I really going to do something here? And I walked in and Winston was in his t-shirt, and was getting ready to leave and do his workout at the gym. And I'm thinking, Oh, I would really love to have Winston somehow in the pic­ture. I love his arms, and his pecs, and his t-shirt.
But I didn’t say anything. I was shy about it, and this is not unusual. I won't say what I want. And we sit here and talk. Then Winston says. "OK, I'm going to work out now.” And he comes and kisses you good-bye and finally I say, to myself, Gay, open your mouth, are you crazy? "Winston, would you please stay for a few minutes?" [Laughter] And of course, it was fine.
And I really love that picture par­ticularly. But I also really like the one of his kissing you—just what happens, happens. You talk about the glamorous snap, sure that picture will be. as you called it, the last one that you might want to look at. We'll hope that's not so.

PM: We'll hope thats not so. And also, that one, definitely, not just to me, but to many people, is full of exactly what you mean, depth and experience, and maybe even wisdom.
GB: That's what I wanted—the depth of you, and with Winston in it. The fact that none of us is alone, and that is our backdrop, our background, our strength. So, it was very wonderful for me to be here to take that picture.
PM: And what do you think of a picture like this [the author's photo with the silk rose]? He's so young, he's so young!
GB: Oh. but it's lovely—and it's got a lot of those clues. No. I can tell this is not "you." It's sort of like the raised eyebrows—there is a sense of working at it, of "this is how I wanted to look." I can tell that there's a pose going on here.
PM: Because the irony is you can't take that pose and enter the world, with it. I mean, you would be stiff, you'd look like a clown. One is fluid, much more fluid than that. That always struck me as one of the danger waters of photographs, especially of me as a tubby teenager. And I'd look at these pictures, and [think] Oh my God! Look how many pimples I have!
[Editor’s Note: The discussion turns to his jacket portrait in Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll]

This photograph horrified my par­ents. It became part and pareel of their reading this novel, Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll, and saying, "You've destroyed your life. You'll never get a job, because you've 'come out' as gay, and we're going to have to sell our house and leave town."
And I said, "Well, it's a comic novel, and you'll just have to deal with it,” And my mother said, "And this picture!" Now, that picture—it was less composed by way of the details of tone's eyebrows. I wanted to show an altitude of being a young, gay man in an urban context.
And Roger Horwitz, [Paul’s partner who died of AIDS in 1986] took the photograph. And that shows me standing against a wall of the esplanade next to the Charles [River in Cambridge], which is where I spent really most of my time, and where our apartment faced. And Roger kept saying [comic voice] "Smile!" And I said, "No, no, no, I think I want brooding here." So, I think, that's why I ended up brooding rather than smiling. And there, I guess, I'm about 28 or 29. In other words, the first photograph [with the silk rose| shows me composing myself out of fictions, and not willing to admit that I'm gay. The second photograph [against the stone railing] may have me composing in the same way, but it's very much about being gay, and having that freedom. Thus, it's not surprising that it's outdoors, rather than indoors, that it’s in thrown-on clothes. And there ain't no silk roses in that picture.
GB: This is like, This is who I am, it's who I want [to be.] And of course, you are handsome. You're thin.

PM: So thin, I know—a long-time-ago-thin. I don't like being thin any more. But the chubby child had, in fact, headed East. [Smiles]
GB: Which is your favorite [author] picture of all your books?
PM: Besides yours, my favorite pic­ture, I guess is me picture of me and Roger On [the cover of] Love Alone,because it's so accidental and so unposed and so—nearly lost.
GB: Is it the one in Italy?
PM: Yeah, right. In Tuscany. Yeah. I didn't find the roll of film until sever­al months after Roger died—a month after he died. And I went and had it done and suddenly there were these pictures from this monastery, including the one that the Brother had taken of the two of us. And certainly that would be the opposite of this composing a face for the faces one meets. It captures some tenderness and togetherness and joy that couldn't be composed.
GB: This is The Gold Diggers, What year is this?

PM: I think '79. That's by my friend, Star [Black.] She took probably three or four of the pictures that are on my books.And she was the sort of photographer who shot hundreds and hundreds of exposures, so I just didn't have any—I couldn't control one thing and another.
GB: But you could control it in the choise, is that [right]? [Author's photo of The Gold Diggers.]

PM: I think it looks slightly retarded, trying to look slightly tough.
GB: So, you were trying to look slightly tough here? Why?

PM: I guess, because my new pro­ject in life was to conquer Hollywood, and to see if I could write about Hollywood the way Proust wrote about Paris, to give you the most painful embarrassment about it. One likes to think that one is accurate in thinking that I Hannah Arendt never worried whether she combed her hair for her picture or nor—she didn't care what the cover looked like. Maybe she did. But one feels that she is so devoted to the body of the text, and to the primacy of the text, that there is no room for glamming it up or pre­tending it's something else.
GB: That's so interesting how this is a late '70s picture. More than the last one—Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll? The first one is a mid- '70s picture. It's like Roger's picture is more time­less, it feels to me.
PM: Maybe that's because of an attempt to create an image with this one, and the first one. The [author’s] image on [Taking Care of] Mrs. Carroll was just a little more natural, a little more real. And it's interesting to me that the second edition of The Gold Diggers is a much more natural picture as well. That was taken by Star in Taos, about a month and a half after Roger died. We went toNew Mexico where I wrote my big poem about Lawrence. And it was a very cold, snowy day, the opposite of Southern California.
Roger had died in October, and she [Star Black] came out to spend Christmas with me. and convinced me to go to New Mexico with her. And it was the first time I thought about going some place without Roger, or that we'd never been. And we stayed in Albuquerque for a night at her aunt's and then went to Santa Fe. But I was very eager to get to Taos and see the Lawrence grave. So, that [author photo] actually was taken in the plaza in Taos on a bright, bright snowy day. Gorgeous, gorgeous weather. Again, she took many, many pictures that day of me wearing that black-and-white wool thing. Partly the reason it didn't feel terribly posed was the exhilaration of the cold weather and all—it didn't give you the chance to be languid or to be self-conscious.
GB: If you had written this piece instead of our doing it in this form [videotape}, what do you think would have been your overall theme?
PM: Well. I think it would have been—what is chat marvelous phrase of Fox Talbot's capturing a shadow or catching a shadow?
GB: Fixing a shadow.
PM: Fixing a shadow. Right, Try to see what happened outside me, and outside the rime that has gone by. What was the shadow that was fixed Whatever I wanted it to be. What came through? I don't think, for instance, that my grief [at Roger's death] conies through that photograph on the second edition of The Gold Diggers, but my closed-offness does.
GB: Yes, I think that's right. Tire grief being too much.
PM: It's important to note that I then went for five years, basically, unpublished. I did a couple more novelizations, and fortunately had some good connections to be able to keep my income going, but it was not until Roger died—I mean, I turned in outlines and chapters and all kinds of things, but I was persona non gratain publishing— between 1981 and 1985 or 6. So, it's really with the AIDS work [Love Alone and Borrowed Time]that the [author's] pictures begin again.
GB: I guess I hadn’t remembered that Love Alone came out before Borrowed Time.
PM: Yeah, just a few months after it—March, '88.
GB: So, this is taken in the monastery.

PM: Yes, at Monte Oliveto in Tus­cany. And the last poem, "A Brother of the Mount of Olives" is about finding that photograph, and being at that monastery, and what it means. And still, when I give a reading where I want to do a few things from the past, I always use the last forty lines or so of that poem, because it so sweetly puts together the passion of our love and the kind of eternity of our love, against the ugliness of the Church.

GB: There is also an author photograph on the flap of this, again taken by Star.
PM:—surely the most unlikely author pho­tograph imaginable for that book [Love Alone.]
GB: This big smile.

PM: Big smile and wearing a sexy shirt. Michael Denehy, when I sent him some proofs to look at, zeroed in on this one immediately. I said, "Well, it's actual. I was there that day, and ihis was a picture she took. "I said, "Doesn't it seem a lit­tle incongruous for this book?” And Michael said, “Well, it’s different from the congruity of the picture we're using on the from [with Roger], but what's wrong with showing you alive?" And I thought that was actually pretty sen­sitive.
GB: It is, I think, incongruous for the poems, though. Obviously, pain is a part of fife. So, the poems are just painful. Maybe it is a book about your having survived. You are a sur­vivor. There's a picture on the front and a picture on the back, and then what's in the middle is what happened in the middle. So, alive again, an after the fact comment about this picture on the back, [author's photo for Love Alone,] What made you choose it?

I went with Michael who said, "What's wrong with doing something sexy?" I said, "There's nothing. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead." And probably not an accident given the significance of a natural photograph, that's what we went with on Borrowed Time as well.
GB: When is this picture from?
PM: I think that picture would have been taken sometime around November, a few months before Roger got sick—taken by a client of Roger's and somewhat friend of ours, Steve Hamby. He had a Christmas party which we went to, and he had photographs of all his friends as their Christmas present, and that was ours. And we were both delighted by it. And by Christmas, Roger really wasn't well. AIDS just overtook our lives at that point.
GB: So with this Steve Hamby pic­ture, it was just obviously appropriate to have Roger's picture on Borrowed Time.And you weren't necessarily needing to be conscious of your image.

PM: Its a wonderful picture of Roger and a less wonderful picture of me, but I didn't care. Because it was hard to capture his wonderness.
GB: Yes, but you're very boyish look­ing in that. How old were you there?

PM: Oh, I was surely thirty-eight or so.
GB: How about other authors pic­tures that you have seen? Is there anything about author's pictures that you have thinking about?
PM: I often think they're terribly self-conscious and self-indulgent at the same time. And I'm also very aware because there are different kinds. Author's pictures from the world of best sellers are much more nakedly commercial. I'll give you an example...often with authors, you get that musty picture of them in their study with books all around them. Of course, I don't know what the history of author's photographs is.
GB: What is your relationship, or association with Avedon?
PM: I've come to really rather like him as a photographer, especially in his New Yorker incarnation. I resisted the "slop-over” from his fashion photographs to his more serious political and personal photographs. I didn't somehow see how they went together. I had equal problems with Irving Penn, frankly, and in a way with Robert Mapplethorpe also. It seems to me there was a kind of composure that was at odds with another sort of thing they were doing. I don't feel that way about any of them any more.
It was useful for me to see that book of Diane Arbus's commercial work. Obviously, what appeals to me is the other.
GB: If you could have bad anyone photograph you—even if we say in 1978, in 1982—whatever years they may have been throughout time, living, dead—portrait photogra­phers. We're dealing now with just photographers, portrait artists. Who might you have chosen?

PM: Oh, a couple of things come to mind. Certainly Steichen comes to mind—because I just think they are such exquisite portraits, the ones he did for Vanity Fair, not the Hollywood ones. And if 1 really wanted to do a good romantic picture of myself, I could do worse than someone like Julia Margaret Cameron. But I would not be afraid in these days of my life to he photographed by a Diane Arbus. Because I think what moves me about her work is how terribly human it is, and how terribly unexploitative it is.
I wouldn't mind seeing what Avedon would say about me. It’s so fascinating to see him on people like Oliver Stone. I also think I've proba­bly grown in appreciation of him. And I think he's probably grown as a figure of photography. Who else would I choose?
GB: Mapplethorpe?

I wouldn't be against it. No, I was trying to think would I want to choose somebody like Dorothea Lange or Walker Evans—people who I wor­ship. But they are not actually portrait-takers. I mean, they take wonderful pictures of people, hint I don't think of those great Southwest photographs of Dorothea l.ange as really portraits. I mean they are—like Greek tragedy or something. It's so much more than the individual—such heightened reality.
GB: Back to the pictures on your later books. Afterlife. What year?
PM: '89. '90.
GB: —by Star again. What do you think about this one? There is a pole in the middle of it off to the side.
PM: I was very excited about the political intensity of this novel, and for some reason I wanted to show myself as very energetic and on top of the world, I think that's what we tried lo capture, because the cover picture, which we fought for for a year, does the contemplative side so beautifully. I feel good about it. You talk about the survivorship of that picture in l.ove Alone. This is very much a survivor­ship picture, too Because the book is about survivorship, it's about three widowers, who have each lost their lover to AIDS.
A lot of it has to do with how com­fortable I ant with Star, and how seamless, in a way, we are as photographer and subject. I think that's the last picture she took of me.
GB: Yes, you really do look comfort­able with her in this picture—almost as if you're smiling at the photogra­pher. It's almost like we're there at a moment, it feels like a moment, less internal than it is shared.
PM: Very open, somehow, unlike that thing of me crossing my arms in Taos.
GB: The older we get the more of life there is to have, isn't there?
PM: Yeah, and bid good-bye to—
GB: Halfway Home. Look at that! This is by Tom Bianchi, art directed on the slant on the hack flap. And who is he?
PM: You can say I was looking at him, because that’s exactly true. He’s a photographer who has done three or four boos of erotic male photography, not very much to my taste, but he's very skillful. And there are some wonderful pictures. Michael Denehy, who publishes him, put us together. Oh, they picked awonderful picture.

GB: So, is Halfway Home the last book before Becoming a Man?
PM: Right. And Halfway Home is a happy book about being in love. And one of the reasons I'm terribly proud of it. And Iwas very glad that that picture showed me happy and being in love.
GB: [Shows small b&w head-shot of PM on cover of Becoming a Man with fist on cheek.] Everyone knows this picture on the cover.
PM: It's by a woman photographer named Tracy Litt, who's a lesbian photographer, I think it's the first pic­ture she's ever had published outside a gay rag. Her pictures, I think, are quite wonderful. I just happen to really like that picture that she took. I sent Hareourt Brace after it, and she was just thrilled.
GB: Yeah, it really is such a wonderful picture, and it’s how we became friends. Because this book had just come out when we saw you at the Frankel Gallery, and Malka recognized you because of that picture.
PM: Tracy lives in New York. They actually chose another photograph from that group for my book of poems, which just came out.
GB: What was the context of this sit­ting? Because that’s the same shirt I photographed you in?

PM: They actually were taken during a publicity tour, and I was getting my picture taken quite a lot, yet I was so comfortable with myself at that time. Winston and I were together on the Becoming A Man tour in the spring of ’92, which was when this happened. And I felt more free, in myself, in my gayness, than I ever had, partly because I had told the story of it. I felt triumphant in talking about it. I had a real message I wanted to deliv­er to people, about how not to go that way in life, but to go with openness.
Those pictures capture what really the rest of the year kept showing. There was a seamlessness between my joy as an "out" person and my communication of it. I am much less con­cerned with how I look, in myself, anyway.
And there is percolating in me a level of altruism inwards others, and I suppose, a conscious attempt to take the role of role model. Somehow, all of those factors are part of what these pictures show. I mean, it's not an acci­dent that they are the pictures from Becoming a Man, and that that book tells my story as cleanly as I could.
And I also have a sense that if someone were following me around with a camera, the way my documentarians have when doing for the last couple of rears, that any snap of me taken off videotape would look like this during that year of Becoming a Man. It was really a time of great triumph for me.
GB: Were you sick here? Were you well? This was before ‘92, then?
PM: Yeah, because I was diag­nosed [with AIDS] in December of '92? [asks Winston] I don't think so.
GB: You’ve been diagnosed for less than two years?
PM: No, I'm coming up on three-years in December. That diagnosis happened, and the reaction to that drug that almost killed me happened six week after the National Book Award, and three weeks after the TodayShow, right?...New Year's ’91 is when I was diagnosed.
GB: So. other people photographed you. but did you not see the pictures, or you just didn't like them as well as this?
PM: Oh, it’s funny, because I even thought we might want to use that picture for the poems, but I think they decided it might tip the seriousness of it, or something, I'm glad they went with what they did. They did a beauti­ful job on the book.
GB: We have to deal with—Last Watch of the Nightthe only book we have left.
PM: I was a little afraid of how this photo would affect me because as soon as I saw it, I knew it was right. But I also knew—the first thing I thought was—I'm sick. And quite quickly, I began to understand that there was depth, and experience, and even a kind of wisdom in the direct' ness of it, and in the honesty of it. It's hard in a way for me to separate my pleasure at the rightness of it from my pleasure at the rightness of the choice of Greek sculpture on the cover. They both seem set in stone in a way.
If there is any significant theme in Last Watch of the Night, it is that even in the midst of dying, one must live. The necessary of examining one’s life is only more acute in the Aristotelian tense. And the command on the Temple at Delphi, “Know thyself,” went with me from beginning to end of this book. I think what makes me proudest of the photograph is that it’s a pictue of someone who knows himself.
Most of the seven months since you took that picture, I’ve been quite ill. And I don’t much like the way I know myself anymore. So, in a way, this is something to hold on to, because I can’t seem to write with the same kind of acuity—and I can’t seem to get past all of my symptoms.
Greek tragedy includes tragic knowledge. I prefer a kind of more grasped-for knowledge of consciousness, in a way. There is so little in my consciousness these days that has any joy or any sense of discovery. I mean, obviously, enduring is a full0time job. I don’t know where this dovetails with putting oneself out as a writer both in an author photograph or in a book, versus a sense of being paralyzed to know how to put myself out these days. I’ve said to Winston that I have to be better than this. I cannot go on like this, because it is twenty-four hours of misery and self-consciousness. All fight and no life. One struggles to preserve some kind of essential self, especially if you’re me, especially if you’ve spent so much time examining the self.
When I went in the hospital and broke those three bones in my spine, and picked up an infection from the hospital which they couldn’t cure for three and a half months —a coccus infectioin. I mean, really the whole year before this [GB’s photo] I was in very good shape, right? [To Winston] Remember that picture we took for the visas into Russia? I look like I’m a dead body. I don’t even look alive.
GB: But the self, regardless of how it might be physically pictured, the self is very strong…It’s almost as if the portraits mirror your life struggle. This is the life-and-death struggle that you’re living through, but this other was the life struggle.
PM: There is something so poignant in a way about every one of those photographs, because of how little the subject understands what’s going to be — three years down the line, or ten years down the line. It/s like all those pictures in the tower in the Holocaust Museum from that one town in Lithuania. Thousands of pictures of people who just don’t know what’s about to happen. We never do.
GB: You know, you can paint a por­trait obviously after death, after you know it all, but a photograph, you only know what's happened up to then.

PM: You know that wonderful picture by Duane Michaels of the man and woman on the bed sitting, and what's written underneath it is, "We were happy then. We were happy." You could see it. I love that picture. And clearly, they're not now—much has happened.
I've had more of it in place than most people do—in terms of the anchors: of my relationship, and my house, and my dories, and my work. I mean there is something to fight for. I think so terribly back on my friends who died of AIDS, who neverreally found love in life. Really life in a way missed them and they knew it. And the struggle just became quickly absurd.
GB: I have a friend in Houston whose 30-year-old son was just killed in an automobile accident. He didn’t have to struggle with death—it was instantaneous. But with him I had this sense of completion that none of us know how long life is supposed to be. And when you talk about how your life has been full, and some of these friends’ lives who died of AIDS did not have what they have had. But they could have lived to eighty—
PM: —and still not hid it. I'm so glad I had a chance to live in my for­ties all these years, because it's so different and so wonderful. And there is so much more self available to one. And that's why it pains me when people have to die at twenty-six or thirty-one. They didn't even have a clue how very much life can matter.
I remember this old French lady told me once. She said, “I hope you get to be as successful as you want to be, and you are awonderful writer. But I promise you, if you get to be fifty, or fifty-five, you're going to spend most of your time in the past." And she may have been saying this more about herself than about me. But she's right. You spend an awful lot of time in the past, trying not to be sad, trying just to be there.
I always say about Oedipus, if the Oracle at Delphi told you or the Sphinx told you you're going to kill your father and marry your mother, you ought to be very careful who you kill and who you marry. And he's not. He kills the king, because he gets pissed off at him in the road, because he's filling up the road. And he goes to Thebes and he marries this woman whom he doesn't know. Greek tragedy is not about people who are cautious because of what they know about love room] OK, I think I should lie down for a half hour. I have all this medical stuff to do.
GB: I think you should, too. I want to kiss you good-bye—for today…

Gay Block is an internationally exhibited photographer and a recipient of National Endowment for the Arts grants. Her book, Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage, 1992 with writer Malka Drucker coincided with the opening of Rescuers at MoMA.