October 14, 1981 [My Dinner with Andre]

In one hand I hold a small, spiral-bound memo pad that I keep with me to jot down notes--walking around, sitting on a bus, at the movies. That's Wally in My Dinner with Andre: the dependable object, a little worn but still out and about. In my other, a sperm whale tooth, purchased at the natural history museum gift shop. That's Andre: "outside over there," as Maurice Sendak's new book puts it, a not-unwelcome but puzzling, sometimes menacing, thing.

And as I watched the movie, listened to his engaging, insistent voice, his earnest face, Andre conspired like a goblin--or Yeats' faeries--to take me to "the waters and the wild," far from the world "full of weeping." But there, too, is something like tears--more of a growing, horrified conviction that, as Andre's friend in one of his stories might say, that little memo pad is a tally sheet for a concentration camp, one we've built ourselves--New York City, an office, a home--and we're proud of it, too proud, and afraid, to escape.

But as Wally takes his taxi ride home, passing objects turning into memories, I go with him, relieved that Andre stays behind--but he doesn't; I'm still in the trance, his voice still calmly detailing more than one post-hypnotic suggestion I must follow before I can return home safely.


  1. What a film!

    You would never expect that listening to two people talk for so long would be so entertaining...

  2. Years ago I read an article--in "TV Guide"?--by a screenwriter who asserted that the best writing was on TV--this may have been back in the '80s, but it might be even truer today. His argument was that budget restraints demanded dialogue-driven teleplays--conversations, essentially. Even "action" genres--crime, SF, military--were 80% conversation. Yes, plenty of plot exposition is also built in--but I could listen to Vincent D'Onofrio gnaw on a suspect on "L&O: Criminal Intent" all night long. "My Dinner with Andre" works, I think, in part because we've been trained to watch people talk. Make the talk interesting, and have good actors do the talking, and I'm all ears.

    By the way, this is the best argument against any form of "interactive" drama--video games, for instance. The pleasure of passive viewing/listening is too valuable.


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