Elegy (2008) Script

We're not all descended from the Puritans.

No? There was another colony

30 miles from Plymouth, it's not on the maps today. Merry Mount.

All right, you mentioned in your book...

The colony where anything goes went.

There was booze. There was booze, there was fornication, there was music. They even...

You name it, you name it.

They even danced round the maypole once a month wearing masks, worshipping God knows what, whites and Indians together, all going for broke.

Who was responsible for all of this?

A character by the name of Thomas Morton.

Ah, the Hugh Hefner of the Puritans.

You could say that, yeah.

I'm gonna read you a quote of what the Puritans thought of Morton's followers.

"Debauched bacchanalians and atheists falling into great licentiousness and leading degenerate lives."

When I heard that, I packed my bags, I left Oxford, I came straight to America, America the licentious.

So what happened to all of those people? Well, the Puritans shut them down.

They sent in Myles Standish, leading the militia, he chopped down the maypole, cut down those colored ribbons, banners, everything, party was over. And we became a nation of straight-laced Puritans?

Well... Isn't that your point, though?

The Puritans won, they stamped out all things sexual...

How would you say? Sexual happiness. Happiness.

Exactly. Until the 1960s.

Until the 1960s when it all exploded again all over the place.

Right. Everyone was dancing around the maypole, then... make love not war.

If you remember, only a decade earlier, if you wanted to have sex, if you wanted to make love in the 1950s, you had to beg for it, you had to cop a feel...

Or get married.

As I did in the 1960s.

Any regrets?

Plenty. But that's our secret.

Don't tell anybody!

That's just between you and me.

I think it was Bette Davis who said, "Old age is not for cissies."

But it was Tolstoy who said, "The biggest surprise in a man's life is old age."

Old age sneaks up on you, and the next thing you know, you're asking yourself, I'm asking myself, "Why can't an old man act his real age?

How is it possible for me to still be involved in the carnal aspects of the human comedy?"

Because, in my head, nothing has changed.

Her name was Consuela Castillo, and she was my student.

This course is called practical criticism. So... let's go.

Right to the big question, shall we?

Does War And Peace become a different book because we read it?

Well, yes, of course. But why?

Because we bring something to the book.

We bring ourselves.

What's more, you read the book again in ten years, it'll change again because you've changed.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I've always been vulnerable to female beauty.

Miss Castillo was different. Her posture was perfect and she dress like a young associate of a prestigious law firm.

There was a sophistication that set her apart.

She knows she's beautiful but she's not yet sure what to do with her beauty.

At... No, don't take notes, because honestly, it's not worth it.

Really, don't... don't give it a thought.

So, a work of art reminds you of who you are now.

Since they posted the sexual harassment hotline number down the hall from my office, I never make private contact with any of my students until they've received their grades.

After which, I always throw a cocktail party for the class, and it's always a success.

Want something to drink?

Professor Kepesh, uh, we saw you on TV last night.

You were great. Oh, thank you.

Charlie Rose was pretty good too, wasn't he?

Well... yes, I guess!

No, it was really... great. You're very kind. Have a lovely evening.

Thank you.

It's the colossus of perspective.

It depends on who's observing, right, Professor Kepesh?

Westerners see Islamic integralists as primitive and dangerous while the Islamic integralists see Americans as depraved and corrupt.

Nothing's changed since the Crusades.

We need an alliance of civilizations.

Miss Castillo.

Hi, Professor.

Is this a real letter from Kafka? Yes.

It's one of the original letters he wrote to Milena. It was a gift from someone.

Someone close to you.

Someone who was close to me, Miss Castillo.

Consuela. We are not in class, we don't need to be so formal.


Do you play the piano? Yep.

Would you play for us? Too many people. I'd freeze.

You know there's something about you that invites a kind of formality.

What do you mean?

You have a kind of elegant austerity.

Austerity? Something like that.

Well, I guess I got that from my father.

He is austere, and proud.

Very Cuban. He's Cuban?

My whole family is Cuban. I was eleven years old when I came.

Did you go straight to college from high school?

No. I was a legal secretary in a law firm.

You were? I tried it but I didn't like it.

And my parents always hoped I would go to college, so...

I made up my mind and here I am.

May I show you something?

Here we are. Goya.

What's this one called? La Maja Vestida.


And? She resembles you.

You resemble her.


I think so.

What do you think? I don't know.

The eyes, maybe.

Why all this talk about Kafka, Goya, and her Cuban family?

Don't get me wrong, it's great that her family's Cuban and she enjoys my class but I go on yakking away mainly because I want to fuck her.

What can I say? The truth.

That the room is full of spies?

I... I do love opera, my grandfather takes me to the opera, and I adore the theatre.

I review plays for a magazine. Would you like to go with me sometime?

To the theatre.

Yes. Sorry.

Go to the theatre? Why don't you take her to the prom?

No, you don't get it. This girl is...

She's a throwback to a completely different time.

She has to be wooed.

I thought we were talking about sex, I...

You know, for a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, sometimes you display a remarkable lack of imagination.

That's why they gave me the fucking prize.

Don't tell me you've never been through the process, talking the talk?

That's why I have a family, for Christ's sake.

I talk to them. Maybe you should get married again.


Bifurcate your requirements.

You'll talk the talk with your wife, if you feel like it.

Go to the museums, look at all the Goyas that you want, but keep the sex part just for sex.

All right.

Do you really still talk to your wife, George?

Ohh... One-all.

I'm not hitting that.

Oh, sneaking off for a smoke!

You know you shouldn't smoke.

You tell me that in this bed every three weeks.

I'm under a lot of pressure.

I like to be consistent. Mm, so do I.

David, you've tried to get me to quit smoking for 20 years.

Since the first day of your class.

Oh, my God, your class made me smoke.

I'm under a lot of stress.

Oh, how was Chicago? Cleveland.

Er... Chicago was last week. Atlanta...

Atlanta is next week. You sound like Cary Grant in North By Northwest.


Just try being a woman running your own business.

I thought you liked being your own boss. I do. Oh, I do, I do.

I do.

But thank God for these little interludes, that's all I can say.

Aren't you gonna get that?

Only one person in the world would call me at two o'clock in the morning.

Leave a message.

Did you get my email? I really need to talk to you.


- I should have known better... Kenny. than to think you'd be home at this hour.

Or maybe you are home and you're listening to this all snug and smug and curled up.

35 years old, he still hates my guts.

Well, you ran out on him.

I ran out on a marriage that I got myself into out of youth and fear a million years ago.

That's the price you pay for liberation. No, that's the price he pays for being turned into the heroic defender of the abandoned mother.

I mean, there's only one of us could make it over the wall, he's still on my case.

I mean, isn't there some statute of limitations?

I've tried. Really, I've tried.

When he was 12 or 13 one time, he came to spend the summer with me, I took him to the Mets, he spent the next five innings throwing up in the men's room.

He's been throwing up ever since, that phone call was him throwing up.

And you know what's wild?

He's successful. Kenny Kepesh.

Well-respected doctor, my son the doctor.

He speaks passable French, he's married with children.

It's only with me that he regresses to what you just heard.

I'm sorry, he gets me going.

I thought you stopped reviewing plays.

Well, that one looked kind of interesting.

Too bad I'm gonna be in Atlanta. I'll go with George.

Religion, family, church, self-help books, men with teeth so white you think there's a flashlight in their mouths.

Love! Especially romantic love! Love!

Flowers, mini-malls.

There's nothing more depressing than mini-malls.

What do you think? Mini-malls!

Except perhaps your flaws, your vices, your mortgages, your... furtive looks to your sleeping BlackBerrys.


And this man who finds himself here, dandruff falling off my head...

That was wonderful.

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you.

Would you like to go somewhere for a drink?

We don't have to.

I'm just not used to being out with a celebrity.

Talking about literature on public television once a week and writing the occasional review for the New Yorker, doesn't make me much of a celebrity.

Mm, don't forget your risqué books.

The origins of American hedonism.

Look, if you don't like the idea of being stared at, we could go to my place, then the only person staring will be me.

If I go to your place, will you do something for me?

That was awful.

That was OK.

That was amazing. I wish I could play.

Take lessons. You'd enjoy playing.

If you knew more, you wouldn't have such a high opinion of my playing.

Now you're fishing for compliments.

Is this a metronome?

It's like a heartbeat.

Even great pianists have a problem that they call acceleration.

You are a very charming man.

You know that, don't you?

If this all for showing you a metronome, I swear I didn't invent it.

Can you find anyone that enchanting without sex?


What is this?

It's my darkroom.

I used to develop my own pictures.

So you don't anymore? No, no time.

I should go digital but I can't really understand that stuff.

Of course you can.

Thank you.

Something for this little princess because she's... she's the centre of the picture, not her parents.

The queen and the king, they're... just... ghostly reflections in the mirror.

Well, she must have been curious about going to bed with you.

Yeah, so she could tell her girlfriends what a man of our age, uh, is like close-up.

I'm a new experience for her. One of many to come.

She'll remember me as the old guy who gave her some culture on the way.

Well, that sounds about right, and you should chalk it up to the same thing, right?

Yeah... gotta stop worrying about growing old.

Worry about growing up.

Oh, thank your lucky stars for such a one-shot encounter.

It wasn't a one-shot encounter.

She came back for more?

You have the most beautiful breasts I've ever seen.

You like them?

I worship them.

And you have a beautiful face...

that I can't stop looking at.

You know something?

You're a work of art.

A work of art.

A real work of art.

Let's talk about you.

Have you had many women? Why?

More than 50, or less?


Who's counting?

How about you?

Not many.

How many?

Cincuenta y seis, cincuenta y siete, cincuenta y ocho...


Five boyfriends.

Five. Five.

I see.

So who were they? They were... They were young, right? Younger than me.

Of course they were younger.

They were boys.



You wanna know the most extreme thing I ever did?

Mm, what?

Once I went to bed with two guys together.

Two together?

They were my childhood friends, and... and that's how it ended up one night.

The three of us were drunk and we ended up in bed together.

All three of you?

But when you're 17, you know, you do a lot of things just to feel like you're moving.



My whole life was dedicated to independence, and at some cost I had achieved my goal.

Nevertheless, it was in that moment... that my terrible jealousy was born.

That is when I realized that I would never, ever, really possess her.

I feel anxious unless I speak to her on the phone every day and then I feel anxious after we've spoken.

I finished early. It went really well.

What are you wearing?

Where are you?

I knew it's only a matter of time before a young man found her and took her away.

I knew, because I was once that young man who would have done it.

Well, at least does it make you feel young?

It's like playing soccer with a bunch of 20-year-olds.

It doesn't make you feel 20 because you're playing with them.

You notice the difference every second of the game.

You have to leave her. Your hands will always be tied by this girl.

She's gonna leave you sooner or later anyway, so it's always better to keep one step ahead.

Take her to a nice romantic spot.

Tell her it's over.

That's what I'd do.

My parents talk about all these places they wanted to go to, and... they have all the money to go wherever they want to, but... leaving Cuba was their first and last trip.

I don't want my life to be like that.

Let me take you places.

What the hell are you saying? You brought her here to say goodbye.

Where would we go? Europe.

We could go to Paris this summer, or Rome, or Madrid.

We could visit Il Prado and see the real Velázquez, the real Goya.

Il Prado?

Do you mean it?

Course I mean it.

And we could finish our trip in Venice. You'd love Venice.


And you would ride a gondola with me.



Maybe, maybe, your favorite word.

I'll sing to you in a gondola.

We'll see.



What's this from, "They are making the beast with two backs"?

What's that from?

William Shakespeare!

Othello, the Moor of Venice.

And we're making the monster with four legs.

Where shall we have dinner? I can't, I'm going out tonight.

You are? With whom? With my brother.

We're gonna go dancing to that place, Kalimas.

Your brother?

You never mentioned a brother.

Well, there is a lot of things you don't know about me yet.

Thank you.

Here we are.

I really had a great time with you today.

Me too.

Thank you.



Are you really going out with your brother tonight?


That was a joke.


On the nights she isn't with me, I am deformed... thinking of where she might be.

And all this because this girl who will tell me a thousand times how much she adores me, and mean it...

this girl will never once tell me she yearns for my cock.

Calm down.

How are you?

What are you doing here?

I was on my way to see a friend who lives near here.

How's things?

What's the matter?

Did you come here to check on me? I told you.

I was down in the neighborhood and I saw this place.

Do you want to ruin everything?


So then you're gonna have to start trusting me.

I'll call you tomorrow.

No. I'll call you.

I never behaved like such an idiot even when I was her age.

You know, the good thing is, at least now it's finished.

She won't want to see me anymore. I'm not...

I understand her. I mean, even I wouldn't want to see me any more if I were her.

Yes, it's just as well. Just as well. Well, I...

Just as well.

Oh, man.

- Hello? David, it's Consuela.

During the last two days I've been thinking a bit about us.

Have you?


What were you thinking?

That it's all over.

What do you really want from me?

What do I really want from you?

You spend your whole life going through relationships without ever really... bonding with anyone, so...

at least I would like to know who I am for you.

The fact that you are jealous and possessive doesn't help me at all.

Even little kids are jealous of their toys until they get tired of them and want new ones, so... is that how it's gonna be between us two?

Have you ever imagined...

a future with me?

A future with you scares me.

It scares you? Yes.


Because... there's a 30-odd-year age difference between you and me, and... you have your whole life ahead of you, and... it's just a matter of time before you realize it too.

I didn't ask you what I was gonna do. I asked you what you wanted to do with me.

When you make love to a woman you get revenge for all the things that defeated you in life.

I spent my whole life jumping from one relationship to another because this made me believe that I was never alone and that time was not passing.

I've always surmised, for example, that D.H. Lawrence, when he was writing Lady Chatterley's Lover...

"Who am I for you?" she asked me one day.

I was too afraid to ask who I was for her.

How long could it have lasted?


I'm... You OK?


Let me... Wow!

Thank God for Caroline.

Loneliness comes to call And sometimes the sun doesn't shine for us all Always remember when twilight descends Loneliness ends with love Love needs a place to start And who knows...

Caroline is my only point of contact with the self-confident man I used to be.

Don't be afraid of the moon that is sent Loneliness ends with love

How was that play?

Which play?

The one you took George to.

Oh, unremarkable. Just...

Here I go. Oh, hit and run.

Mm, just the way we like it. Good thing you don't have pets.

Only you.

Which one was Carlos Alonso?

From high school. What was his thing?

What did he want you to do?

He liked to watch me menstruate.


He liked to watch me menstruate. I don't believe this.

The respectable Cuban-American girl, whose parents worship Ronald Reagan, who enforce an eight o'clock curfew on their daughter, in summertime no less, and there she is in high school, age 15...

16, 16. Oh, I'm so sorry!

That makes all the difference!

I think you're being ridiculous.

How did you manage it? David.

I'm really curious. What did you do?

You find yourself having your period, you pick up the phone, ask him to come over.

"Hey, Carlos, I'm starting."

And then he appears, all Cuban and respectable, and the pair of you retire to the bathroom where you have the ceremony of the pulling down of the tampon.

Yeah. You sound like you were there.

Just filling in the missing...

Just filling in the blanks.

Which blanks?

Five. Now we're down to three because of the two guys who you...

I have to go. Sorry.

What is this?

What? This.

You're fucking other women.

I had two husbands who fucked other women.

I didn't like it then, I don't like it now, least of all with you.

You have everything with me, David.

Pure fucking.

No... No hidden agendas, no icky entanglements.

How could you do this? There aren't many like me.

I actually understand you. I am one in a million.

How could you possibly... I don't know whose that is.

Why don't you put it on your bagel and eat it?

But I have a pretty good idea. I'm sure you do.

You know my friend George O'Hearn, the poet?

George uses tampons? Since when?

No, no, listen. George... has the keys to this apartment.

He gives poetry readings, he meets girls, he can't bring them home to his wife in New Rochelle, and... and since he's always short on funds and since some of them are married...

George fucks all these women in your bed?

Not all. Some. He uses the bed in the guest room. Oh, my God.

His marriage isn't paradise, probably a bit like mine, only he wasn't desperate enough to get out. Caroline...

I don't believe a fucking word you're saying, David.

Everything in your life is so meticulous, it's so orderly...

I don't know whose tampon this is.

You have to believe me.

You're all I'm holding on to.

In this at least I was telling the truth.

Of course, the whole situation was ridiculous.


Do I snore?

Do I?

It's worse.


Well, you drool.


You drool in... You drool in your sleep. No, I don't.

Beautiful women are invisible.

Invisible? What the hell does that mean?

Invisible? They jump out at you.

A beautiful woman, she stands out, she stands apart. You can't miss her.

But we never actually see the person.

We see the beautiful shell. We're blocked by the beauty barrier.

Look at you.


What did you say?

You're deaf, Mr. Kepesh. No. What?

Or maybe you don't want to hear.

Maybe that's the problem with you.

Yeah. We're so dazzled by the outside that we never make it inside.

Do you always work in black-and-white?


I like the theatricality.

Is that how you see the world?

Black and white? No.

That distinction belongs to my son.

You always speak of him with such bitterness.

In my family that would be so strange.

Take a look.

Beautiful picture.

Beautiful woman.

Look, my hands are huge.

I want you so much.


Your fridge is empty, so... if we are staying in... we have to go shopping.

Hace un dia precioso.

Excuse me, Professor, but your Spanish is awful.

Will you teach me? Yeah, I'll teach you.

I'll teach you mañana.


Isn’t that your poet friend?

Keep walking.

That woman's not his wife? That's right.

I find that disgusting. But it isn't our business.

And that's the end of it? Well, let's not discuss it here.

Are you OK with that? Of course.

For all you know, he's just having a cup of coffee with a friend.

You're jumping to conclusions.

David, being younger than you doesn't make me a child.

In any event, it's not our business.

You keep saying that, but what do you think about it?

What I think is... that marriage... is a problematic institution at best.

Which is why you have no wife.

Which is why I don't cheat on one.

But you were married once. Yes, yes, yes!

Yes! Yes!

Yes! What do you want me to say?

I was married. It was a mistake.

Did you try? Did you really try?

Where I come from... I know, I know.

Where you come from the rules are different, but they're not.

You're such a cynic. I'm such a realist.

I think you're just infantile.

I'm sure you're right.

I hung in there for over a year. It was a real roller-coaster ride and like all rides sooner or later it has to end.

What are you doing a week from Sunday?

I don't know. Why?

Something to drink? Yeah, uh, two bellinis, please.


What's a week from Sunday?

My parents are throwing me a graduation party to celebrate my MFA.

I'd like you to come.

David, everyone knows about you.

For a whole year and a half they've been asking me about this mystery man I'm seeing.

They're gonna start thinking I'm with some drug dealer if you don't stop hiding.

I'm not hiding.

Well, you didn't come to my birthday.

Well, you didn't ask me.

I asked you to Christmas dinner with my parents. You had plans.

Then I invited you to Thanksgiving dinner, you couldn't come.

Well, Thanksgiving I really couldn't.

David. What?

I want you to meet my family... and I'm not going to insist, I just want you to say yes because you want to come.

There you go. Enjoy. Thanks.

Listen to me.

Listen to me.

When I come to your party, you have to promise to do something.


Don't take your eyes off me... when the Cuban aunties come stampeding towards me.

That's all?

That's all.


So... that means yes?

That means yes.


I'm happy.


And now the food.

Her parents will be there, her grandparents will be there.

Cuban relatives, all her childhood friends, and who knows, Carlos Alonso and the two guys who made her the meat of their sandwich.

And I'll be introduced as "the teacher who's on television".

What's wrong with that?

What's wrong is I'll be judged for my age. They'll say all the... horrible things they say in these cases, that I'm... she's with me because she wants something in return and I'm with her because I like young girls.

It's pathetic.

It's about time to face your situation, that's what I think.

Who is Carlos Alonso?

Some guy.

- Hello. Hi.

- Did I wake you up? No, I was reading.

I just wanted to say good night and tell you how happy I am that you're gonna come tomorrow... and how important it is for me.

For me too.


See you then. See you then.

- Good night. Good night.

- Consuela. David, where are you?

You won't believe what just happened. My...

I'm stuck on the George Washington Bridge.

My car's broken down.


I... called AAA.

They said they were going to be at least an hour, then... they're gonna have to, er, get me off the bridge, then tow me someplace, and...

I'll call you when I know more. OK?


Why are you doing this to me?



One new message.

First new message.

I saw you today on television, playing the wise old man who knows everything, the one who always knows better, the one who knows what's good culture and what people should read and they shouldn't read, and... all about music and all about art, and...

You know so many things.

But I'm here trying to celebrate this important moment of my life and I decided to have a party and I want to have you here.

No hay consuelo.

Because you mean everything to me.

You do.

But anyway, you are not here, and I just want you to know something.

I loved you.

Very much.

Very, very much.


It's me. Open up.

- Kenny. Come on, open up.


Why are all the lights off?

I'm having an affair.

Did you hear what I just said?


Is that all you have to say? Congratulations.

Congratulations? You're a riot, do you know that?

Sorry, I'm not sure what to say.

This is awful.

I'm coming apart! I thought you were happily married.

You always told me you were happily married.

I am. I am. Well... forgive me, but I can't see how that can be entirely true.

Anyway, you don't look terribly happy right now.


But you don't understand. Kenny, I'm trying to understand.

You're having an affair, so you come here because, what, I'm the expert? Jesus.

There is no one else to talk to.


What are you gonna do?

I don't know.

Would you like something to drink?

What have you got?

Glenfiddich, bourbon, vodka, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Armagnac.

Uh, Diet Coke.

Diet Coke it is.

This isn't just some kind of irresponsible fling.

I love Lisa, I really do, and the kids are my whole life.

Well, knowing you, it's probably simplest if you just break off the other...

Oh, I can't.

This woman is like no one else on earth.

I've never felt so alive, so full of energy.

And she's a great person.

She, uh... She has degrees in chemistry and art history, she plays the oboe, for Christ's sakes.

And her kids are... fabulous.

She has children? Yeah, three.

She's got little Sean...

Hold on, Kenny, what are we talking about here?

Her children or your adultery? Don't call it that.

Well, what would you call it? See, you sound like Lisa.

You're trying to oversimplify a complicated situation. I...

I'm committed to this relationship, unlike you who's terrified of committing to anyone.

Dana is a real person, so don't equate what's happening to me with your serial tomcatting.

What have I got to do with it? Plenty.

Anyway, Dana isn't one of your little star-struck students.

If you want my advice, Lisa mustn't know a word of this until you've made up your mind...

Lisa already knows. Why on earth did you tell Lisa?

You expect me to lie to my wife? Now you can't retreat, even if you want to.


I don't know why I came here. I don't know what help I thought you could possibly be, except that maybe... maybe...

I hoped that you might relate to me... as a father, for just once. I don't know how to relate to you, Kenny.

You're so morally superior to me in every way, even our adulteries can't compare. Yours plays the oboe.

What have I got to put up against that?

She probably writes poetry in her spare time and her kids do too.

You're such a jerk. However, if you are, as you say, committed, then you're gonna have to end your marriage.

How can I? If I walk out on Lisa and the kids, if I do what you did, then I'll destroy them.

Why do you say that? You survived. Your mother survived.

Are you trying to tell me that you did the morally correct thing by walking out on us? It was honest.

God! I can't believe you.

I'm leaving. Well, there's the door.

Goodbye. Bye.

Consuela didn't call the next day.

And not even the day after.

She never called again.

You've got to eat something.

You gotta get out of this fucking bed.

I ruined everything, George. You didn't ruin anything.

It just came to its natural end.

You were her teacher, her big growing-up experience.

You called the whole thing from day one.

It was bound to end sooner or later. Eat.

I miss her.

Well, that's easy for you to say now that she's out of the picture.

I was in love with her, George. I've never felt anything like that in all my life.

Well, it's better late than never. Now, you gotta get back with your own life.

You're gonna be feeling better soon. Time heals all wounds.

Now, open wide, cos here it comes.

The train into the station.

Open wide. There you go.

Now, how does that taste?

I added a little oregano and some chives.

You're gonna make somebody very happy one day.

You know... after a lifetime of silence and betrayals, lately Amy and I have been finding each other again.

You and Amy your wife? Are you feeling OK?

Yes, I... I feel OK.

It's the most incredible thing I've heard you say in all the years I've known you.

You know, life always keeps back more surprises than we could ever imagine.


Dave, I need a favor. I gotta go give a poetry reading at NYU next month and they want somebody to introduce me.

George, I understand you wanting to distract me, but this is... it's transparent occupational therapy.

This is no joke. I want you to present me in the most embarrassing, flattering terms, to all those poetry-pandering puffs.

Present you? Who's going to present me? Forest Lawn?

George, you're a champ for asking, but I can't write anything now.

I'm finished. I may never teach another class.

Find someone else.

I have spent half of my life playing Horatio to your third-rate Hamlet, listening to your endless navel-gazing, your moaning about Kenny the father hater, the women who don't know when goodbye means goodbye, and for this you owe me big-time.

Now, I expect you to do this in the name of our friendship.

Now, would you fucking eat something?

The poetry of George O'Hearn...

makes no apology for himself.

As A.E. Housman wrote in his celebrated essay, "I don't know what poetry is, but I recognize it when I hear it."

There can be no question that this evening's guest writes what we all instantly recognize as poetry.

Since the publication 25 years ago of his first work in the New Yorker, George O'Hearn's vigorously masculine voice has become a fixture of the American poetic landscape.

Poetry which is at one and the same time the language of the street, potent, urban and impatient, but also the un-self-centered promptings of an unquiet heart.

In 1988, that unique combination of sensibilities earned George O'Hearn the Pulitzer Prize.

But rather than procrastinate further or damn him with praise he will inevitably consider faint, I will turn the proceedings over to New York's own, or should I say America's own, George O'Hearn.

George. George.

I'm gonna call somebody.

Hi, David.

He just woke up a little while ago.

Hi, David.


It's Kepesh.

I'm here, George. I'm here.


I owe you.

I wonder who he thought I was.

I think he knew perfectly well.

You're sweet.

You took him as he was. He so appreciated that.

He took me the same.

You're going where? I just told you. Florida.

To meet her parents. It's just for the weekend.

The girl's... Her name is Dana.

You're gonna meet her folks?

Well, I think they should know that I'm just not some kind of pervert.

Kenny, you're nearly 40 years old, you don't need the approval of the parents of a girl who has three children of her own.

It... Does she want her parents' approval?

If you want my approval, fine, you've got it.

I just wanted you to understand, cos this doesn't mean that I don't love Lisa, I just need to... Kenny, what are you doing?

You're gonna escape from one prison and race headlong into another maximum-security facility.

Where did you get the idea that marriage is a prison?

From serving time.

Look, it wasn't about your mum, I just wasn't cut out for it.

Is this your version of approval?

Kenny, listen to me. I'm the only father you have.

I'm the only one you'll ever have.

What a comfort that is.

I know I've disappointed you, but you're not a child and you've got to get past this rage.

If you ever want there to be anything between us you've got to turn the page.

Excuse me, I have an appointment.

I'm not finished.

Hey. I really have to run.

What appointment? George's funeral.

George who? Your friend George? Yeah.

He died? Yeah. I really... I have to run.

We'll finish this later, OK?

I'm sorry.


No, I just... I happened to be in town, I saw the obit in the Times, and...

Two full columns.

Not bad for a poet, I guess.

How are you holding up?

Not so good, but I'll be OK.

How's everything?

Seattle's a great place to build a business.

I'm exhausted.

But I love it. I...

What are you thinking about, David?


We kept acting like teenagers all our life.

That's all.

Who's... Who's we? Me and you? Yes, you and I.

We spent our life...

chasing after what?

And the only time you got pregnant you had an abortion because the time wasn't right, and that was 15 years ago.

Did the right time ever come?

Nor the right person.

Remember that tampon you found in my bathroom?

That thing belonged to a young girl I was in love with.

What... kind of a chance did we have, she and I?


At best we'd have dragged it out a couple of years but in the end she'd have realized that there was little room in her life for a man 30-odd years older than she.

Nothing... ever should have happened between me and that girl.

It was just a mistake.

I'm getting old, David.

The way men look at me changes every day.

There are women my age, a lot of women, who are on these dating websites.

You're guaranteed a certain number of dates per year.

You pay for the silence and the...

And... and the same conversation every time.

I'll end up like them.

Is it possible that this is really the first time we talked to each other?


after 20 years of sleeping together, that's not bad.

I know a lot of people who never got that far in 40 years of marriage.

What time's your flight?


I'll take you.


Why start now?

I concentrated on my work.

I kept asking myself if it was right not to go to that fucked-up graduation party of hers.

It took two years but I finally got past the death of George, I even accepted the loss of Consuela.

I recovered my equilibrium and my independence.

Who am I kidding?

And then the paintings and the sculptures of the day would, literally and figuratively, absorb the energy.

They were almost a self-contained slice of life, if you will.

That... That you put beautifully in your opening chapter but also you... you're making a comment on the relationship between art and ownership.

That's exactly right.

The people who buy these paintings, they think that they own the pictures.

But in reality the pictures own them.

Pictures own them.

It'll outlive... It'll outlast them all.

They're merely custodians for a period of time.

They're free to admire it, they're free to worship it if they like.

In theory, you could purchase the great pyramid.

Take your point, but at the end of the day the pyramid would still be around and you'd be...

With the pharaohs.

My guest today is Susan Reese. Her novel is Blue Hyacinth.

This is Book Chat. I'm David Kepesh.

And that's it? That was lovely. Thank you.

Not too painful. Indeed.

Oh, a gentleman.

Thank you.

Oh! And happy New Year. Thank you and congratulations.

It really is a... a good read. Thank you.

One new message. Six saved messages.

First new message.

Hi, David, it's Consuela. How are you?

It's really strange to call you but...

I wanna talk to you. I wanna tell you something.

I wanna tell you myself before you hear it from someone else.

Please call when you can. My cell phone number is 555-0122.

Please call. Thanks. Bye.

Hi, David, it's Consuela...

I realized I lived all these years just to listen to these words.

I collapsed to the floor listening to her message again and again, fearing the worst.

She was in love, she was getting married.

Perhaps she even wanted my blessing.



Where are you?

I'm in the car. I was in front of your building when I left the message.

What are you doing driving round New York on New Year's Eve?

I don't know.

I don't know what I'm doing.

What's the matter, Consuela?

- I need to see you. Then come.

- Do you have time? Always.

- OK. I'm coming now. Yes.



So... how have you been?

That one's new.

Yeah, it's... Edward Weston.

I like your hair.

I cut a little each day.

So when it disappears I won't miss it as much.

I'm sick.

I have... cancer, breast cancer.

I'm having surgery in two weeks.


This is...

Are you...

All right? No, not exactly. Well, that's not what I meant.

I meant...

What happened?

I was in the shower one morning and I felt this thing under my arm so I went to the doctor and he said it was probably nothing to worry about and I went to a second doctor and a third doctor and...

You know the story.

The third doctor said it was something to worry about.

And did you panic?

Yes, I panicked.

I've spent the whole month in pure fear.

Tonight I was gonna go to this party thinking...

Thinking that it would be better than staying by myself, but...


David, no. Don't cry.

Oh, don't cry.

Why didn't you...

Why didn't you call me? Why didn't you call me when this happened?

I couldn't tell you.

I couldn't tell you of all people.

You know what's funny?

I feel older than you now.

You promise me one thing.

If you should ever start to panic during the night or during the day or any time, you phone me.

What can I do? What can I do?

It's... Oh!

It's like... not being... able to get into a... comfortable position cos no matter which way you turn you're stuck.

I'm stuck inside myself.

When I think of all the things I used to think were so important, all the arguments I got into with my mum.

So stupid, all the time I wasted... sleeping... sleeping... sleeping my life away.


I need to ask you a favor.

Something I can only ask you.

Yeah. Anything. What is it?

After you...

I never had a boyfriend... who... who loved my body as much you did.

Oh, I find that hard to believe.

Were there many?


What about work? Nobody fall in love with you at work?

A few did. Well, of course they did.

I just wasn't interested.

I know you loved me.

And you loved my body.

So... before the doctors... ruin it... Stop.

Stop talking that way, stop thinking that way.

Consuela, no one's going to ruin you.


what is it you want me to do?

There's the Paris Opera House.

I missed you.

I missed all the places we never went.

Would you like to stay here tonight?


I have to go.

Would you like me to go with you when you go to the hospital?

Consuela... you can't do this alone.

Why do you say that? You do everything alone.

David. Poor man.

You are more scared than me.

Will you still wanna fuck me if I lose my breast?

Will you be up for that?

Will you?

I'm sorry, David.

I'm sorry.

I'm scared, David.

Five! Four! Three! Two! One!

Happy New Year!

I wanna wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year.

Peace and goodwill to everybody.

Happy New Year.

Dad. Hi.

What are you doing here?

I wondered if you could spare me a few minutes.

Uh... You know... It's important.

All right. Down here.

Yep, uh-huh.

Thanks. I owe you one. Bye.

She's in very good hands. I know her surgeon.

And? They're gonna operate tomorrow.

She told me in two weeks.

No. They're gonna do it tomorrow. What does that mean?

I'm not her doctor, so I don't know exactly, but it's probably not a good thing.

This is such... It's a nightmare.

Have you known her long? I haven't seen her for a couple of years.

She called me out of the blue on New Year's Eve with the news and...

I've got all her phone numbers but I don't... you know, I don't want to make the wrong move here.

She... When she left she told me she didn't want me to call her.

She was quite definite about that.



I know, I'm coming.

Look, sorry to have barged in on you like this. I know you're strapped for time.

I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help.

Stay strong. That's what you tell your patients, isn't it?

Must be really tough in college.

I was your son, I was prepared for it.

I'm glad to see you again. Yeah.

I'm sorry it was under such... You know. Me too.

How are things at home?

We're still together. Thanks for asking.

Glad to hear it.

So, Dad...

what are you gonna do?

Why did she have me take these photographs?

Did she want them for herself or...

did she intend for me to keep them?

Well, that makes sense. Did I ever tell you my theory about beautiful girls?

A million times. No one can see them. Well?

Did you ever see her?

I mean all of her.

I didn't understand what I saw.

Lawyer's answer. You're over-analyzing again.

Who would end a relationship... because I missed a graduation party?

She was this weird clutch of inconsistencies.

You're talking about her in the past tense.

So do you think they will let me in today?

She just got out of intensive care. You can go today.

- Kenny, thank you. You're welcome.

Time passes when you're not looking.

David. Yes?

They took the whole thing.

I didn't think you would come.


Why did you think that?

Because I'm no longer beautiful.

Yes, you are.

You know Hippolyta, the beautiful Amazonian queen?

She actually cut off her right breast so she could shoot her arrows faster and that Hippolyta, she was no slouch.

Will the book be different if we read it ten years later?

You remember my first class.

I remember everything.

Me too.

Every second.

I will miss you.

I'm here.