Saturday, December 29, 2012

How She Became Adrianna

A long-time friend of mine asked me a question recently via email.

Due to the manner in which he asked it I had no idea what the question was and emailed him back telling him my problem.

He replied.

“I do tend to ramble.  So here’s the deal.  Watched Woody Allen flick last night with Owen Wilson where he goes back to the Paris of the 20s where Adrianna is mentioned as a kind of mental fixation for the painter, Damn, I cannot remember his name…the guy who went to Tahiti and had all the lovers and was a Hemingway type guy.  Anyway, very famous artist.  So his fixation and the fact she was brought up and played a fairly prominent part on the film made me think you had borrowed or took with you something from this damn artist.    He was an ass and an eccentric. Sorry I cannot come up with the name; one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century.”

That just set me off.

It had finally happened.

And it had happened with someone who is a dear friend.

After I got control of myself, here is what I replied.  And this is the the absolute, briefly recounted truth of the matter.

“Thanks.  Now I get it.  It was Gauguin. 

I love Midnight in Paris;  I frequently go up rue Mont St-Genevieve and sit on the steps of the Eglise St-Genevieve to see if an ancient Peugeot will come and take me away.  It has never once shown up, but I can keep hoping.

HOWEVER – loving the movie once having seen it (a number of times now) notwithstanding - I was really pissed when I first heard of the movie and that Woody had a character in it named Adrianna.  I knew that everyone would forever after draw the conclusions you have just enumerated. 

In fact the book was finished a year before the movie had ever been heard of let alone released. 

The name Adrianna is happenstance.  That name just stayed with the book because the start of it was – I had decided to write a novel and I needed to start somewhere – a fictionalized account of a young woman whom I never met, but whom I watched daily for the better part of a year from the vantage point of my dwelling which was across from her dwelling in Saigon.  She was a civilian employee of the military and she was beautiful and I wanted her. 

Somehow I found out what her name was: it was Adrian. 

I decided I liked Adrianna better for the book.

That’s it.  The story ended up being assembled into the novel over a winter six weeks on Lopez Island.

Bert and I were there alone together keeping the fire going.

The novel emerged over those six weeks from from a rag tag basket of fragments like the Adrianna in Saigon one and some of my blog posts from Four Months in Paris.

That fragment ended up appearing way late in the story as finally assembled and it took an act of extreme imagination and a lot of wine to figure out where I was going to put it, if I was going to use it at all.

As it happened, I love the way it made the story – for me at least. 

Bert is our cat.”

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