April 17th, 2011 / 5:00 pm
Blind Items

Youtube teaches me something about writing.

Above is video of the reaction of José Saramago to the filmed version of his book Blindness.

Said film got mixed, but mostly negative, reviews. Saramago reacts to it by wiping away tears.

“Didn’t he notice? Couldn’t he see what all the folks on Rotten Tomatoes saw? Did he have a blind spot for his own work? Did his ego throw a towel over the bad and only give him the ability to see the big budget, the marketing campaign, the big stars, the ‘serious Hollywood business’ that his book became?”

This feels cynical. Feels to me like the thing that is there in the greatest of artists is a surplus of gratitude. Like maybe we should all acknowledge all engagement made by anybody with the sort of gratitude that makes one tear up like that.

Like maybe when someone takes the time to make a movie of our work, good or bad or whatever, all we should feel is gratitude.

Like maybe when someone reviews our work, good or bad or whatever, all we should feel is gratitude.

Maybe if we were better people, we’d feel nothing but gratitude. Maybe if I was a better person, I’d feel nothing but gratitude.

I wish I was a better person. Youtube makes me wish I was a better person. I might be a better writer then, too.

Tags: ,


  1. rachel y.

      Perfect post. Thank you.

  2. Matthew Simmons

      Thanks, Rachel.

  3. deadgod

      Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics to a stage version of the Bergman movie Smiles of a Summer Night, called A Little Night Music. Some time after it opened on Broadway, Bergman wrote to Sondheim that he’d like, possibly, to collaborate with Sondheim on a filmed (musical) version of The Merry Widow. They agreed to meet in New York, but Sondheim wanted Bergman to see the play for himself before they actually talked shop together. The day after Bergman saw that still-running version, they first met:

      We met in his suite at the Sherry-Netherland hotel. I was seated by his assistant on a small sofa in the parlor and when he emerged from the bedroom and shook my hand with both of his, fixing me with a warm but probing eye and murmuring how pleased he was to meet me, I was hooked. His magnetism was so powerful that I would gladly have flung myself out the window and onto a Fifth Avenue bus if he had asked me. But business first. “Mr. Bergman, before we can even begin to talk about The Merry Widow, I have to know what you thought of the show, and please don’t hesitate to tell me whatever you feel, as I have a very thick skin and I know our version is lightweight and doesn’t begin to convey the depths of your movie and last night’s performance was a little slow and [one of the stars] had a cold and–” I’m sure I went babbling on a good deal longer, but he graciously cut me off, “No, no, Mr. Sondheim, please. I enjoyed the evening very much. Your piece has nothing to do with my movie, it merely has the same story.” I thought: only someone with that understanding and generosity would realize, much less say, such a thing. And then came the kicker. “After all,” he added, “we all eat from the same cake.” I may have paraphrased his earlier sentences, but that last one is memorable and exact.

      –Sondheim, Finishing the Hat

  4. stephen


  5. LHarkin

      I appreciate and respect your thoughts behind this post. I really like Saramango btw, but it seems being a better person as you put it would then amount to an acceptance of any acknowledgement as a positive thing. This seems like a turning of the other cheek so to speak. And then smiling, or crying. Surely we have realised by now that this sort of graceful acquiescence has it’s downfalls, there can be things that are good or bad and as such deserve to be judged as so.

      Gratitude is a positive feeling, a good one in all senses. But good is not always appropriate. Saramango appreciated the film’s existence for sure, i can only assume he liked what he saw too. But for me it seems that on no objective level can it be seen as an excellent film of an excellent novel, it is not an excellent adaption of a novel into film, it is not a story well told

      So essentially, as i said i appreciate your post, the writers ego is probably too prominent in this self reflexive post-post-post…-modern landscape, but, you seem to be venerating gratitude a little too much and having gratitude for gratitude when it isn’t necessarily due.

  6. Matthew Simmons

      To an extent I exaggerate for effect, probably.


      But let’s maybe exaggerate a little more: Why isn’t gratitude always due when someone engages with the art you create and then place in a public space?

      “I hate your stupid book!”

      “You read my book? Why, thank you!”

      “No, but I hate your stupid, stupid book.”

      “Well, maybe you’ll like the next one. Anyway, I appreciate that you spent some time with it.”

      I don’t know. Maybe?

      (Thank you for commenting on my post.)

  7. Matthew Simmons

      Let us all eat cake.

  8. LHarkin

      I don’t know man, all i think i know is i might going to listen to definitely maybe now.

  9. michael


  10. LHarkin

      I don’t know man, all i think i know is i might go and listen to definitely maybe now.

  11. Bingham Bryant

      ‘Cause you sound like a passive aggressive loon, that’s why.

  12. Matthew Simmons

      Pretty much willing to risk that, I guess.

  13. Matthew Simmons
  14. LHarkin

      much obliged

  15. herocious

      Several times it feels so good writing a novel. Good enough for tears, in my experience. If anybody creates anything because of your novel, it will make you cry again.