Just When I Think I’ve Seen It All

Every once in a while I see or read or hear something that leaves me scratching my head. I’m going to be fifty-five later this year and just when I think I’ve seen it all …

As an aspiring playwright, I wrote the paragraph below about fifteen years ago. 

I used to think Romeo and Juliet was the greatest love story ever written. But now I know. Oh, Romeo certainly thinks he loves his Juliet. Driven by hormones, he unquestionably lusts for her. But if he loves her, it is a shallow love. Soon after meeting her for the first time, he realizes he forgot to ask her for her name. In the end, he finds no comfort in living out the remainder of his life within the paradigm of his love, at least keeping alive the memory of what they had briefly shared. Nor does he seek the reason for her lifelike appearance in death. Does he hold her in his arms one last time and feel the warmth of her blood still coursing through her veins? Does he pinch her to see if she might awaken? Does he hold a mirror to her nose to see if her breath fogs it? No. His alleged love is so superficial and so selfish that he seeks to escape the pain of loss by taking his own life. That’s not love, but infatuation. Had they wed―Juliet bearing many children, bonding, growing together, the masks of the star-struck teens they once were long ago cast away, basking in the love born of a lifetime together―and she died of natural causes, would Romeo have been so moved to take his own life, or would he have grieved properly for her loss and not just his own? 

Pizza, With Anchovies was the name of the play, and it has the honor of being turned down by the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Michigan. The Purple Rose is owned and operated by actor Jeff Daniels, who is himself a Michigander.

I have a copy of that play somewhere on my hard drive and when I was writing The Cobb Legacy about eighteen months ago, I decided to reuse this simple diatribe against Romeo and young love in general. I mean, I like it and no one likes pizza with anchovies but me, so I figured I’d use it as a sort of leftover.

In Cobb, Cagney Nowak, my protagonist, offers up this little gem about love during a therapy session with his shrink. No, Cobb is not yet published, and I’d forgotten I’d posted this excerpt to my Good Reads page as a favorite quote, I don’t know, a long time ago (just not in a galaxy far, far away). Apparently nineteen other people liked it there, too.

Google recently sent me an alert (they send me an email notice every time their Web crawler comes across my name somewhere out on the Information Highway) and I realized that this paragraph has taken on a life of its own. It’s been re-blogged here (with more than 350 notes) and here (with nearly 100 notes) and here as quote of the day (scroll down a  bit) and, well, you get the picture.

Fortunately at least my name appears with the quote so I’m getting some small word of mouth notice, except for the fact none of my book titles appear with my name.

Still, people continue to re-blog it or “like” it and I’m left with a warm and fuzzy feeling that something I wrote fifteen years ago has relevancy today.

I certainly feel I’ve written better prose than this, so maybe there’s hope yet that I can make a name for myself in the publishing industry.

J. Conrad Guest, Author of One Hot January and Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings

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Filed under musings, writing

5 responses to “Just When I Think I’ve Seen It All

  1. christinehusom

    That’s an amazing response on the web!

    And an interesting take on Romeo. Even as a teen, I thought his suicide was unbelievably impulsive. But Shakespeare’s poetic, flowing, emotion-packed writing made me the romantic in me want to believe. If he couldn’t have her in life, he would follow her in death. Yes, if Romeo had gone through more of his life, sharing joys and sorrows with Juliet, he likely would not have be so impulsive, and neither would she.

  2. I always thought the point of the R&J was to show how unbelievably stupid people can be… young and old. Romeo and Juliet die because they think they’re in love… their families are ridiculous. I always think about Act 1 Scene 1, where two of the characters are joking about swords and maidenheads. Yes, Shakespeare wasn’t afraid to use dirty jokes to get his audience involved… but if it were a serious story, he would have begun it seriously and saved the sex joke for later…. as in MacBeth and the drunken porter.

  3. Couldn’t agree more with your Romeo & Juliet thoughts–with a name like mine, I’ve had a lifetime to ponder it.

    And you certainly have the touch for broadcasting on the net–another series of thoughts which struck a chord far and wide. Good On You!

    And Onward fellow writer, Into the Fog!

  4. I can see why that quote has a life of its own — it has the spark of truth. R&J has to be one of the silliest unlove stories of all time.

  5. Thanks, Pat, Juliet, Mick and Christine for reading and commenting on my post. I take comfort in that I’m no alone!

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