“How coy a Figure”
BECAUSE I SENSE THAT THIS meditation might now and again veer into rarefaction, I want to stress its roots in the mundane. The quotidian, which is my turf. Although I now live near and sometimes walk across the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, many years ago, like a lot of Angelenos, I grew up in Kansas, enamored of Lost Horizon and The Wizard of Oz and other flights of fancy, and aspired to writing up different climes myself. But plus c
¸a change, and after all these decades and all these miles, I'm still plodding on, midwestern pedestrian as ever, even if this is Shangri-L. A., the City of Angles, El Lay itself. If this is where the Great Plains meet the Great Fancies, to adapt a phrase from James Merrill, I have evidently been cast as one of the former. It's not my role to invent other worlds after all. Still, there is one film script I can imagine imagining, and it would be based on the life of Andrew Marvell. Although his own origins were common, his doings were charmed, his travels and tastes were broad, his lyrics are wizard, and he would have understood the mercurial, cinematographic ethos of the later twentieth century in the United States better than most of his contemporaries, or indeed mine—or so I think, even though our knowledge of him is as thin in substance as it is thick in mundane fact (which combination itself is of course alluring to the faltering fabulist). I'll make my pitch brief.
After his mother's early death and the quick remarriage of his father, an Anglican minister, when Andrew was seventeen years old and perhaps