Welcome back to the August installment of Three by Five. This month, poet and playwright Jerome Joseph Gentes is the subject.
VAH: Jerome, what’s a page turner for you that keeps you up at night because you just can’t put it away?
JJG: This is going to sound pretentious, but Robert Fagles version of The Odyssey was the most recent page turner for me. Of course, it’s all about the desire to move and obstacles to movement. I’m trying to find out if his Iliad has the same or its own corollary qualities. I couldn’t read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials fast enough, and feel the same way about George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. There are also many books I like to re-read again and again, like Pride and Prejudice and Brideshead Revisited and Dancer from the Dance, books that are great comforts, like textual teddy bears, for when I can’t sleep. And then there are books whose mere existence is likely to keep me up at night, like those “written” by Fox News anchors and such.
VAH: “Textual teddy bears,” I really like that concept! I’ve had a similar experience as you describe with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Some books just call out for re-experiencing.
If there was a movie about your life and times, who would play you? Whataobut the theme song?
JJG: I’ve been told I look like Tim Curry, Jon Cryer, Johnny Depp, and Fabio Viviani from Top Chef. Depp is way, way cooler than I will ever be, but because he’s so good at playing uncool, I’d have to go with him. The theme song would be “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George, because it’s begins with the words “I’ve nothing to say…” and ends with connecting to another through saying that, and not through saying something. And since Depp’s sung Sondheim before, it’s a perfect fit!
VAH: Maybe an independent will green light that!
When you read a book, must you finish once started or will you leave it if you don’t love (or like) it?
JJG: I am a finish-it-if-started guy, and am trying to break that habit, but sometimes finishing a book is just not worth it. For example, I think Life of Pi has, like other books and many other cultural artifacts and phenomenon, for that matter, been successful largely because it was published post-9/11. I probably should have read it when “everyone else was reading it” but I didn’t, because I’m also stubbornly iconoclastic. That window closed. The movie, which I actually enjoyed, didn’t help matters, because it was good enough to deliver Yann Mantel’s story in an entertaining way, and strong enough to make me realize I no longer wanted or needed to read it. It’s why I’m not watching Game of Thrones, incidentally. When I abandon a book I try not to feel guilty. I do think, “Oh, if I could return this, I would do so, and just pretend I never bought it.” Erase the purchase and the attempt Maybe an e-reader makes that possible. “Didn’t even start that one! Buh-bye!” Click, delete, done.
VAH: Gone! Here’s a riff on gone – The blank page stares back at you, what gets you over writer’s block?
JJG: Blank pages are not my problem; it’s the ones already filled with writing that are the problem—pulling them apart and trusting that doing so is in the best interest of the words therein.
VAH: That’s a great lead in for the final question for this installment given revision is the hard work most wanna be writers don’t consider. Let’s look at a brass tacks of the writing life question – what do you do in order to keep up with what you send out and results of your submissions?
JJG: Nothing. I either have so much out there I can’t track it, or so little I can’t track it.
VAH: There’s symmetry in that.
The final installment for Three by Five with Jerome Joseph Gentes is on the final day of the month. Till then, here is another sampling of Jerome’s work:
– Upon this Stone via Divinity School at the University of Chicago.
– for the uranian ptolemy via Literary Buffalo’s Artvoice
Find Jerome on the web: Twitter. Website. LinkedIn
Read Introducing Jerome Joseph Gentes. Read Part I. Read Part II.