Really? Another tortured writer? (In which I pick a bone with ‘Treme’)


I know, I know. It’s heresy to event hint at flaws in David Simon’s work. Because, he is The Greatest Television Writer of all time and, I’d argue, one of the best writers, period. Love his characters and the dilemmas they face. Happily watch his shows over and over again.

But I’ve finally gotten around to Treme and while it’s just as brilliant as everything else he does, one aspect of the first season makes me just the tiniest bit queasy. (This is probably a good place to acknowledge the show’s need to underscore the lasting effects of Hurricane Katrina.) Still. This particular plotline features John Goodman as a Tulane English professor and novelist, and Melissa Leo as his wife, who pushes him to finish his novel as a way of reclaiming a career derailed by storm.

Pause for hysterical laughter. 

More to the point, Goodman spends an inordinate amount of time staring at the blank computer screen (so far, so par for the course), hitting the delete key after he does write something (I’m still with him), typing gobbledygook to look like he’s busy (Uh-oh. Verging into Jack Nicholson/ The Shining territory now) and generally falling apart from the Agony of It All.  


To which I say: Oh, please. I’m as tired of seeing writers portrayed as tortured souls who have a nervous breakdowns over every other word as I am of shows/movies depicting reporters as A) having offices, B) dressing well and C) sleeping with their sources.

Most writers I know go through plenty of agony. Here’s how they deal with it: They sit down and write. A day’s work feels like crap? Write it better the next day. Snarky comments from family/friends? Go write some more. Rather pull your fingernails out with pliers/have root canal/drink yourself into a stupor than write another damn word? Sit back down and write some more damn words.

Admittedly, that’s dull stuff. “Burdened with a craft that’s essentially uncinematic, writers in the movies are perennially blocked, broke, and insane, simultaneously romanticized and ridiculed for their excesses–from the wise-cracking drunks of Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle to the sticky sweetness of Shakespeare in Love, the self-regarding self-reflexivity of Adaptation, and the homicidal madness of  The Shining,” Jurgen Fauth and Marcy Dermansky wrote

I guess one reason the Goodman character particular rankles is that Simon’s wife, Laura Lippman, is a novelist of uncommon quality and productivity. If she let herself fall apart the way Goodman’s character does, she’d never turn out one award-winning novel after another.

Of course, by blogging I’m avoiding my own writing today. So I’m going to go back to it now – the better to achieve enough words on the blank screen so that I can justify watching another episode of Treme tonight.

Filed Under: Writers Writing

One response to “Really? Another tortured writer? (In which I pick a bone with ‘Treme’)”

  1. Beth says:

    You will like Chris Coy’s character in season 3 better. He’s a not-so-tortured writer. Did you know we watched an episode of Treme being filmed when we were in NOLA? Pretty cool.