As part of the BookTrib blog tour for An American Family by Peter Lefcourt, I’m going to be posting an excerpt and short guest post. Enjoy and make sure you check out more of tour of the BookTrib website!
“But Nathan Perl gave money to Israel and to the B’nai Brith and could tell you exactly who was Jewish and who wasn’t on Stratford Drive.
He had gotten out of Poland years before the holocaust. His older brother had survived the Warsaw ghetto by joining the underground and then emigrated to Israel, where he taught math in high school and sent them a card every Jewish New Year showing suntanned young people working on a Kibbutz.
Nathan talked about visiting his brother Yidl in Israel but never went. I’ll go next year—when I have the time. The brothers hadn’t seen each other for thirty-five years, and, outside of the New Year’s card, and a few strained telephone conversations after the war, they’d had no contact.
Nathan’s uncle Meyer, a feisty little tailor who still lived on the lower eastside, was the only one in the family who was in the least way religious”
Scripts vs. Novels: Peter Lefcourt’s Take on the Similarities and Differences
The similarity pretty much begins and ends with the fact that both careers involve writing. But that’s about as far as it goes. As many other writers, I came to Los Angeles with the intention of making enough money to finance my lifestyle as a novelist. As it turned out, I found that television writing was not only lucrative but a good apprenticeship in the art of story-telling. You learn how to tell a story economically, which is an invaluable skill in fiction writing. And you learn how to write to a deadline. On the other hand, you soon learn that in Hollywood the writer is a fungible element in filmmaking, summarily replaced by another writer when he/she offers resistance to all the “creative” input from directors, studio execs, producers, and actors. You are, essentially, a hired gun, at the beck and call of others – a well-paid hired gun perhaps, to be sure, but one with very little control over the product.
Moreover, there is very little “voice” in screenwriting. In books it is often the way you tell a story and not the story itself that compels readers. I am drawn to language and voice; and with the possible exception of a facility for dialogue (a skill that is almost impossible to teach: I learned how people talk driving a cab in New York in the sixties – an education worth more, in my opinion, than a PHD in Creative Writing) — these elements are not valued in screenwriting.
Nevertheless, Hollywood has allowed me the wherewithal to travel a great deal, to perfect the craft of story telling and, ultimately, to reinvent myself as a novelist and have both careers mutually reinforce each other. I’m not sure I would have succeeded in one without the other.