For Some of Us, Everything Is Material — Look Out!

Loved this frank admission from film director Nicole Holofcener, featured in The New York Times discussing her new film:

“I’ve been hearing a lot lately, ‘Don’t say that in front of Nicole,’ ” she said in a phone interview from her home in Venice, Calif. “And I’m going, ‘No, I won’t exploit you.’ But I probably will.”

It’s a real hazard for anyone who comes within range of a writer or painter or poet or musician. Anyone perpetually in search of new material, the raw clay of imagination we shape into whatever form we can sell into the marketplace.

With, and usually without, their permission, I’ve written about my mom, Dad, physical therapists, doctors, ex-husband, friends, colleagues, former colleagues, neighbors. And, as regulars here know, the sweetie, who I do ask permission to write about.

I’ve been written about, favorably and much less so, as well. It’s a little weird. When it’s really over the line, I’ll threaten to sue, and mean it, as I expect others to do.

Nora Ephron wrote about her marriage in her 1996 novel Heartburn, a snarl at her ex-husband, journalism legend Carl Bernstein.

I won my National Magazine Award for writing this essay about my divorce. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but what delicious revenge it is to cash those checks after reworking it into something sale-able.

Visual artists have done it for years. Visit any art museum and you’ll see portraits of the wives and mistresses and children of men (and some women) whose work we revere.

If you hang out out with someone creative, it’s entirely possible you’ll end up in their art somewhere. (Read the fantastic triple biography of Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell and Carole King, Sheila Weller’s “Girls Like Us” to find out who’s really being talked about it in some of the best songs ever written by women. “Car on A Hill” was Joni Mitchell awaiting her first date with Cat Stevens.)

Has it happened to you? What was it like?

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