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Harlan-1

         Harlan Ellison. I can tell you right off the bat I'm going to turn in a hell of a long essay this month, maybe the longest one I've done yet. I've got a lot to say about Mr. Harlan Ellison.
         I think I'm going to start this off with another quote from Raymond Chandler, and, again, I'm going to paraphrase. It's a fairly famous quote. Still, I can't remember exactly where it was I first saw it, so I'll just go for an approximation. (And I still wonder why I'm not a professional writer yet.)
         Chandler was using baseball as a metaphor, talking about the time when professional pitchers get old enough to no longer be able to throw, "the high, hard one," (and, no, he wasn't referring to sex.)
         "But they never give up," he said. "That's what makes them champions. They don't just sit back and accept the fact that their glory days are behind them. They throw something, and that something is usually their heart."
         You don't see baseball metaphors around much anymore these days outside of P.B.S. documentaries, but here I think it's perfect for a couple of reasons. One is that I like Chandler's description of what a champion is, how champions perhaps define themselves. I also like that metaphor because it alludes to Chandler's love of the players of the game, to a lifelong relationship between player and fan. Perhaps with no other major American sport would you find this to such a degree. Over a twenty year period, especially in those days, the thirties and early forties, you could live your favorite player's entire career with them as they went from rookie to up-and-comer to star player to seasoned veteran to has-been. Another human being could have a direct and profound effect on how you lived and how you perceived the world in which you lived, as profound and direct an effect as anyone in your life outside of your own immediate family perhaps, and that other human being wouldn't have the slightest awareness of your existence. Some media performers have had that effect on me, as well as some literary people. I hate the fact that Jack Nicholson's performances, for instance, have become so hammy and passionless lately. He used to have such a great edge. Now, what? Wolf? Hoffa? Give me a break. Why isn't he angling to get into the next Quentin Tarantino movie? Why hasn't he ever worked with either Robert Altman or Brian De Palma? Another great idol of mine has always been Pauline Kael. I wish she was feeling better so that she could write some more of her marvelous reviews. Truman Capote? I said my good-byes to him three or four years ago in an essay I did for the small press, and I'm not going to rehash it here. Suffice to say that it makes my stomach twist to remember how he pissed away his talent on drugs and "jet-setters" after In Cold Blood. He was a great writer, really fine.  

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