Hollywood on the Potomac
“I wanted to be an artist before I knew what it was,” author, artist Bill Dunlap told Hollywood on the Potomac at a book party in his honor at the home of journalist, author Myra MacPherson. “My family, to their ever-lasting credit, didn’t discourage me, just got me the materials. I’m a victim or a product of the public schools of Mississippi so was not threatened by art courses. I just drew and painted and looked. I don’t know if there’s a visual equivalent to perfect pitch or not, but if there is I know my sight always overrode everything else.”
“I’m driving down the road, little eyes come right over the backseat of the car. I’d just look out into the woods and imagine myself floating out into it,” he said recalling his early childhood. “I saw everything. I looked. I was thought to be afflicted because I didn’t speak till I was 3 or 4 years old. Hell, I didn’t have anything to say! Once I learned to, I haven’t shut up.”
We can vouch for that. Dunlap had plenty to say, beginning with his new book: Short Mean Fiction. “What’s going on here is this book is having a life of its own. I say all that needs to be said in the introduction, about where these stories came from. What the introduction says is: ‘Artists keep sketchbooks. Mine, more than four decades worth, are filled with visual short-hand. There are drawings and ideas for things, sculptures and installations, along with phone numbers, grocery lists and things to do. And, of course, mindless doodles. I find critiques of my work sometimes harsh. Alongside welcome fragments of dialogue, next to drafts and outlines for fiction, these hybrid sketchbooks/journals have recently, as if of their own volition, come down from a high shelf in my studio to a table within easy reach. From time to time, out of curiosity, I open one. The working drawings are viable, the rants at times amusing, but it’s the vein of narrative that rushes up from the page like a charged found object that interests me most. When asked, I call what I do ‘hypothetical realism’. The places and things I paint are not real, but they could be. The same holds true for Short Mean Fiction. None of what I’ve written really happened, but it could have. Like tales from the Old Testament, these stories are mean, rampant with sex, violence, and death. They are all figments of an active, if not fertile imagination, and brevity may be their greatest joy. They are fictions through and through, and so the disclaimer be needed, consider it made. The drawings scattered throughout the volume are not illustrations but live in the same place, the sketchbooks, where I first wrote the stories, forgot them, and then found them again. To my mind, that’s what can be twisted. As with painting, I feel a little proud of authorship and make no literary claims for Short Mean Fiction.’ For what it’s worth, for better or for worse and to my utter of surprise, there are many, many more where these goddamned things came from.”
By guest contributor Michael Stack
Last Tuesday, Ford’s Theatre hosted a very special performance of Come From Away for veterans and their families. Sponsored by The Home Depot and Washingtonian, more than 400 veterans, service organizations, and Members of Congress were treated to an inspiring musical based on the true story of a small Canadian town that cared for more than 6,500 stranded airline passengers in the week of September 11, 2001.
Ford’s Theatre director Paul R. Tetreault welcomed veterans and introduced Sen. Johnny Isakson for brief remarks. Veterans Administration Secretary Robert McDonald also addressed the crowd and expressed his gratitude to our men and women who serve.
We weren’t expecting to run into Jay Carney, former White House Press Secretary to President Obama, at the Amazon Red Carpet for Transparent at The US Naval Memorial auditorium in downtown Washington, DC last week. His wife Claire Shipman (co-author of The Confidence Code) was simultaneously being honored at the Japanese Residence by Nobuko Sasae for her third forum on women, a dialogue that seeks to empower young professional women. However, since Jay is the senior vice president for global corporate affairs for Amazon, he was at the screening. “We’re two working parents,” Carney told Hollywood on the Potomac. “It’s hard. I wish I were getting to see her event.”
We asked Carney what it was like to transition from the White House to corporate. “When I left the White House, I was lucky enough to be able to take some time to try to figure out what I really wanted to do. If you had told me as I was leaving that I was going to go work for a company, just one company, I probably would have said, ‘I doubt it.’ I thought I wanted to be more independent doing a variety of things, but after a while I realized that one of the things I liked the most about my White House experiences is they’re different from my journalism experiences. I was on a team and part of something that had nothing to do with me. It was much bigger than me and much bigger than any one person. You can’t replicate the White House experience, there’s nothing like it, but the thing I really like about Amazon is the diversity of what we do.”