VAH: Jerome, if you had a super power, what and why that one?
JJG: Flight, no question, because the view’s spectacular from here. Sorry, I meant, from there.
What about this, what is your favorite, inspiring quote and why it works for you?
JJG: “The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong.” Philip Roth, American Pastoral
When I found this quote in context, it meant a lot to me, as I’d been trying to get some people I knew “right” for a piece of writing I was working on, and was failing. And I was failing to understand why I was failing. Reading these lines from Roth, and reading them in context, freed me to get them “wrong” and ultimately discard the entire project, one of most liberating actions I’ve ever taken as a writer.
I’d add this: my life in North Berkeley gives me many views of the body of water historically known as San Francisco Bay. For most of its long, geological existence, that body of water was not known by that particular name. In fact, the contours we now “know” so well, thanks to Google Maps and so forth, were not known by anyone, not even by the original inhabitants of the area. They hadn’t been explored. No one had gone out to see them, to look at them, to ponder them. But those contours existed, because that body of water exists and has existed a long time. It is already more enduring than anything we humans will ever make, any bridge, any boat, any software program. Getting that body of water “right,” therefore, is not the point, because we need darkness and fog and obscurity and the unknown to cross through or to wait out, however patiently or impatiently. In order to arrive, or fail to arrive. The body of water is utterly indifferent to all our efforts on its or our own behalf.
VAH: Tell me, what little known fact about you will amaze and or amuse Three by Five readers?
JJG: I’ve met and spoken with both Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston, the former at some length, and someone I once dated has worked professionally with both Justin Theroux and Angelina Jolie, so it’s just a matter of time before Brad Pitt, Chris Martin and I are best buds.
VAH: Ahh, fact with future aspiration.
Okay, how about three random non-writing related facts about you?
JJG: I am a great cook. I have a killer backhand. I live very, very modestly.
VAH: A great cook? Maybe I should fact check that. . What would your last meal be?
JJG: Kumamoto oysters on the half shell with mignonette sauce. The chilled golden tomato soup I once had at Zuni Café in San Francisco. A perfectly-done ribeye steak with top-quality French fries and truffle butter. An iceberg wedge with some ripe heirloom tomatoes and blue cheese dressing. And fresh pineapple sorbet. And I would prep and cook all of these things myself as part of their lastness.
These particular foods [for] my last meal, because these are the simple but delicious flavors, foods and textures that I loved in late adolescence and early adulthood. The circumstances that would make this my last meal? Because I have lived a life rich in love, laughter, learning, and joy and in experiences that generate those, a life that has been perfectly seasoned with other emotions and the experiences that generate them, like regret, grief, unfulfilled desire, and so forth. I would be eating that meal because I had accepted the fact that I was expected somewhere soon, somewhere unknown, and didn’t want to be late or hungry when I got there.
VAH: “I was expected somewhere soon, somewhere unknown, and didn’t want to be late or hungry when I got there.”
Read Introducing Jerome Joseph Gentes. Read Part I. Read Part II. Read Part III.