Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

When Harlan Ellison met William Goldman

The work of William Goldman came up on the Harlan Ellison Dot Com main message board. Harlan had something to add:
- Friday, September 26 2008 15:39:36

...[after addressing another comment by reader Robert Ross:] That said, Robert, responding otherwhichway to your post:

I've been a William Goldman buff since the lovely Temple of Gold, read concurrently with Catcher In The Rye and I Am Owen Harrison Harding by the recently-deceased James Whitfield Ellison (no relation but, because of our shared monicker, two guys who sought each other out and became 3,000-miles-apart pals). Notably absent from your bookshelf list, was Goldman's longest novel--and I think certainly one of his best--Boys and Girls Together. I mention it because it contains the most powerful, however brilliantly brief, death scene I have ever read. It stands alone and unchallenged, even this many decades later, for its simple power...and the chops to send me into tears every time I go back and re-read it...a moment in the novel I will explicate no further, eschewing "spoiler alerts," save to say it is the moment in the old-time grocery store with the protagonist's grandfather.

As to Goldman himself, well, he has few peers as a scenarist. And yet, as Magic and even Marathon Man attest, he can do up a flawed crip of a script as easily as the rest of us, I guess.

But, just as a sidebar: Susan and I had dinner with Mr. Goldman one night, in Manhattan. Not that many years ago, less than ten, I think. Through the good offices of my friend Peter David, who had purchased at some sort of charity auction (if I'm recalling accurately), "dinner for four" with Wm. Goldman.

It was a pleasant enough evening, commencing in Goldman's huge and pretty much incredible Upper East Side mansion-apartment.

He seemed patrician and reserved, but gracious and urbane. It was by no means a rolled-up-sleeves 3-pro writers schmoozing interlude, and though he knew my name and a few of my credits, we were on one side of the social landscape, and Mr. Goldman, however unintentionally, was on the other. I mean none of the foregoing as opprobrium: he was a stalwart host. And it didn't diminish by even a minim my admiration for his writing.

Yet in nostalgic recall, I cannot say other than that it was a nice evening with a nice man. The Goldman of Princess Bride was not there; the Louis Auchincloss or John Updike of the W.A.S.P. world was. Not bad, but not what I was hoping for.

I have no idea what all of the preceding means, Robert. I just wanted to make some polite conversation with you.

Yr. Pal, Harlan
Reminds me: I need and want to read more of William Goldman's novels. I don't think I've read any of his Sixties' work, which is among the stuff Harlan referenced; I've read The Princess Bride, Marathon Man, its truly cracked-out sequel Brothers (but with a scene of a character inadvertantly saying exactly the right thing to finally make his fiancee comfortable with something; it's a moment I'm fond of), and his Hollywood non-fiction books Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell?

P.S. By the way, William Goldman is alive and well, but I keep looking back at this and it feels like I'm saying something different. I don't mean to. There. Disclaimer disclaimed.
Tags: harlan

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