A Lamp

In this excerpt from Rob Lowe’s autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends ©2011, a teenage Rob Lowe finds himself alone with Francis Ford Coppola and brings up the obvious:

“Francis, I’m sure you hear this a lot, but Godfather was on in the hotel and we all watched it for the hundredth time. What an unbelievable movie.”

“You know, Rob, to me The Godfather is like that lamp,” he says, pointing. “It exists. It’s right there. People have opinions about it,” he continues mildly. “The real Godfather, for me, is the experience I had making it.”

It would be many years and many projects before I fully understood what he meant. If you are fortunate enough to be part of a hit, particularly a transcendent one, all emotional ownership is transferred to the audience. They judge it and embrace it; project their own hopes, dreams, and fears onto it; take their personal meaning from its themes, and with those investments it becomes theirs. The significance of your participation pales in comparison to the significance the project has on their imaginations. And so, you are left outside the phenomenon. Just as Paul McCartney can never experience the Beatles, Francis Ford Coppola can never experience The Godfather. It becomes a lamp.

I like this book a lot more than I expected to.  I’m not a huge Rob Lowe fan, although I did enjoy him in Parks and Recreation, but it turns out you don’t have to be to enjoy his anecdotes and stories.

Here Comes The

In this excerpt from The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, translated by John Addington Symonds, Cellini has been imprisoned in a dark, damp jail cell for months:

To him (his Guardian Angel) I made but one request, and this I urged most earnestly, namely, that he would bring me where I could behold the sun. I told him that this was the sole desire I had, and that if I could but see the sun once only, I should die contented. All the disagreeable circumstances of my prison had become, as it were, to me friendly and companionable; not one of them gave me annoyance. Nevertheless, I ought to say that the castellan’s parasites, who were waiting for him to hang me from the battlement whence I had made my escape, when they saw that he had changed his mind to the exact opposite of what he previously threatened, were unable to endure the disappointment. Accordingly, they kept continually trying to inspire me with the fear of imminent death by means of various terrifying hints. But, as I have already said, I had become so well acquainted with troubles of this sort that I was incapable of fear, and nothing any longer could disturb me; only I had that one great longing to behold the sphere of the sun, if only in a dream.

It has been weeks since we’ve had a full day of sunshine here.  I understand.

(The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini is in the public domain and may be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg HERE.)

Changes

Excerpted from The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, translated by John Addington Symonds:

The Pope accordingly sent for him at once; and when the man arrived, he made us both appear before him, and commissioned each of us to furnish a design for mounting an unicorn’s horn, the finest which had ever been seen, and which had been sold for 17,000 ducats of the Camera. The Pope meant to give it to King Francis; but first he wished it richly set in gold, and ordered us to make sketches for this purpose.

In the 21st century, our first impulse would be to ask, “Is this really a unicorn horn?”

In the 16th century, the question never occurred to him.

This doesn’t make me feel superior at all.  This makes me wonder what the 26th century will think of us.

(The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini is in the public domain and may be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg HERE.)

Did I ever tell you about the time…

I am currently reading The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, translated by John Addington Symonds.

Cellini was a 16th century artist of some note, and- to hear him tell it- one of the most remarkable men who ever lived.  My feeling is that there may be a kernel of truth buried under the self-aggrandizement, but I’m taking this more as a work of fiction.  Remember Commander McBragg from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show?  It reads kind of like that, only with more duels and swordplay.

I got my copy for $2 at a charity sale, but it is in the public domain and may be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg.

Any Given Day

At the age of 81, Jessie Lee Brown-Foveaux, born in 1899, wrote her memoirs.  It was originally intended just for her family, but happily they realized what they had and published it so we could all enjoy it.

Below is an excerpt from Any Given Day, ©1979, in which she recounts her favorite Christmas memory.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

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