Refreshing my readers and myself, the thesis I’m developing is that there was something unique and odd about how Americans adjusted to the new world that they entered in the 1970s, and one way to examine the changes that altered family dynamics, sexual behavior and social violence, while spawning political apathy, is to look at the movies of that era. Movies aren’t always a gateway into the behaviors of a decade, but in 1970s, movies became more personal and freed from restraints of traditional genres, making them ripe material for such an exploration.

To this end, Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film “Taxi Driver” is something of a philosopher’s stone to understanding 1970s movies and the era in general. You can perform a lot of critical alchemy around the margins of the 1970s, but without “Taxi Driver,” none of it fully comes together. It is in this movie where all of the pathologies of the era explode into one brilliant, inimitable mess of a movie.

I never would have used that word ‘mess’ to describe “Taxi Driver” after my first 10 billion (slight exaggeration) viewings of the movie, but watching it again yesterday, I now think the term fits. There is a “shaggy dog” quality to the movie that probably requires it seeping into your unconscious first before becoming obvious. The first way this manifests is in Robert DeNiro’s complete bizarre characterization of Travis Bickle.

I noticed maybe 10 viewings of “Taxi Driver” ago that there’s a strong disconnect between the Travis Bickle we hear in the voice-over narration and the one we see interacting with other characters. I chalked that up in previous viewings to an unreliable narrator, one who lies to his parents in a letter about a romantic relationship that does not exist and frequently starts and stops trains of thoughts to get the words just right. Bickle in his waking life doesn’t show so much hesitancy and, if anything, comes across as scrupulously honest. If we didn’t see Bickle sometimes write these words on a page, I might even assume that he isn’t the real narrator.

That opinion changed in my viewing yesterday. I now believe that the Bickle in narration is the authentic self expressing his moods, desires, disappointments and terrifying plans. The evidence for this comes in the moments where Bickle appears to step out of character and express himself differently, his voice suddenly matching that in the narration. It doesn’t happen often. I noticed it first when he exploded with rage in the Palantine campaign office, confronting Betsy about the way she’s ghosted him. It happens again when he sadly and softly tries to engage Wizard in a discussion about the “bad things” running through his head. Then we see it again when Bickle sits down with Iris in a coffee shop and tries to convince her to escape from her pimp-captor.

In between these rare moment of alignment between Bickle’s running monologue and his interactions with people, DeNiro turns in a performance that can almost be described as goofy. I have been disturbed for a number of years now by my initial reactions to “Taxi Driver” when I first saw it in my late teens and early 20s. At that time, I didn’t just empathize with Bickle, I nearly identified with him.

That isn’t to say I approved of his violence and embrace of gun culture — I always found those aspects repulsive — but I did find DeNiro’s characterization of him somewhat appealing. Bickle has an oddball sense of humor at times, like when he goofs with a Secret Service agent and then gives him a false name and address in New Jersey.

There is also a dark idealism to Bickle, which I believe is the feature that Betsy found appealing . Surrounded by all of these men entrenched in their ironic detachment, Betsy sees Travis walk through the door and notices a different type of man, one who has genuine passions, who can see the world around him, and who is willing to fight for what he believes in. In this sense, Betsy is viewing part of herself. She isn’t working for a political candidate because she’s on an ego trip road to power — she genuinely believes in the candidate and what he stands for. She has not surrendered to the political cynicism of the age and still believes that a democratically-elected leader can enact change for the better.

Still, it bothers me that I gave Bickle so many passes in my youth. The way he treats Betsy is extremely disturbing and happens relatively early in the film. Yes, I can empathize with Bickle for being so socially screwed up that he thought taking a woman to a porn theater on a first date is a good idea. And I can empathize with his cringe-worthy attempts at making amends (and the brilliant scene, as Bill Hader pointed out in a Criterion Channel commentary, where the camera seems to get embarrassed by Bickle’s failed wooing and turns to an empty hallway to avoid looking at him.)

What I can’t believe that I ever forgave were the stalking scenes that followed afterwards. Again, I can excuse his confusion and even anger at that time, but I can’t forgive the terrifying way he expressed those feelings. I also completely empathize with Bickle’s instinct to do something big and heroic as a way of conquering his feelings about Betsy — but for years I let myself gloss over the fact that this man was planning a political assassination and didn’t back out due to conscience, but out of fear that his attempt would fall short.

I also in my youth bought into the movie’s ending at face value, which I’m sure would have shocked and disappointed Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader. Bickle’s spasm of violence was misunderstood as heroism by the general public of the film, but I bought it as well as a dark act of good. Speaking of cringe-worthy moments where the camera turns away, in a film class in college, I even voiced the opinion that Bickle was doing an act of social good by going on his bloody rampage at the end of the film and murdering the “scum” who enslaved Iris.

There’s an element of decency in my youthful opinion, I was repulsed by the child prostitution in the film and accepted Bickle’s explanation that the police would do nothing about it. We get some support for that theory by how the bloody conclusion plays out, because it begins with a mafioso taking protection money from Sport (Harvey Keitel) then going inside the brothel.

Where I was completely wrongheaded, however, was my belief that Bickle had a flash of conscience that turned him away from the assassination and towards another violent act of good. It is pure happenstance that keeps Bickle from going through with the murder of Charles Palantine. It is also clear that Bickle seems to believe he was noticed while getting away and feels that he is in imminent danger. Believing that his end is near, he goes on a suicide mission to take out the prostitution ring and, again by dumb luck, happens to survive it.

So, I think I finally have put my head straight in regards to Bickle, but it took quite a bit of work because DeNiro’s performance fights against my ultimate conclusion every step of the way. He finds a way to make us feel for this monster. And I don’t use that word lightly, because even if I no longer directly empathize with Bickle as he exists within the borders of “Taxi Driver,” I do feel for him because of the path that took him to that dark place.

In the 1970s, as I’ve noted many times in this series, most Americans retreated to a place of ironic detachment from the world around them. They found ways to look past the decay, freeing them to become politically apathetic and powerfully self-centered. There were always people in this era, however, who never had the freedom to take that stance. Many of them, like Bickle, fought in Vietnam. Others were police officers — and it’s not hard to imagine Bickle taking up that line of work after being discharged from the Marines. Others were on the front lines in other ways. I give Schrader credit for seeing that a taxi driver is an excellent secular version of that front line personnel.

Some people in that world, such as the Wizard, develop their own coping mechanisms to create the distance they need to survive the work. The speech that Wizard gives Bickle when he asks for help with his “dark thoughts” sounds almost word for word with what I imagined the characters in “The Last Detail” might say to justify their amoral attitudes — punctuated with “we’re all basically fucked.” Bickle rejects the speech. He is too far immersed into the real world to accept finding hedonistic joy in it.

Therefore, I feel for Bickle and his transformation into a monster, because the culture basically demanded that a monster rise and lash out at the insanity taking place. Detachment and hedonism cannot win out forever, there will always be people who find loneliness in the detachment and emptiness in the hedonism. There is nothing inherently wrong with these feelings, they can even be healthy if properly channeled. But Travis never had a fair shot at channeling his thoughts and feelings in a healthy way.

I’ll have more to say about “Taxi Driver” in the days ahead — the movie is far too immense to cover in one essay. But I want to end this part with a return to Jung and Cervantes and two other recent series. While “Taxi Driver” is firmly rooted in the real world of the 1970s and fits comfortably with the contemporary dramas of that era, it is also a deeply archetypal movie. It’s based on John Ford’s classic “The Searchers” and has the same bone structure as that movie.

That means that “Taxi Driver” straddles the realist/new cinema style and the archetypal/mythic storytelling form. Bickle is on a very typical hero journey in the film. The story almost seems like it was summoned from the cultural unconscious of the era as a way of explaining the appeal of vigilantes. With only slight tweaks, I can imagine a remake of “Taxi Driver” in the form of “Batman” … well, actually, they made something of a “Taxi Driver” remake recently in “Joker.” Even though I’m not a fan of that film, I do appreciate the filmmakers recognizing that this was not as large a leap from story to story as you might expect. It’s also no surprise that I loved “Taxi Driver” in young adulthood because I loved “Batman” as a child.

Where Cervantes comes in is the object of Bickle’s quest. Just like the Knights Errant dedicated their acts of bravery to a maiden, Bickle dedicates his bloody missions to Betsy. As I noted at the conclusion of my Don Quixote cycle of essays, there is always something oppressive about these dedications, especially given that the maidens in question aren’t asking for these acts to be carried out, often aren’t aware that they are happening, and in general have a right to just be left alone and not be bothered by these questing dudes thinking they are earning a trophy via their bravery.

I’m not repulsed by much in “Taxi Driver,” but I strongly dislike the final scene. Betsy, to me, is the most genuinely heroic character of the film. Despite her intuitive misgivings about Travis, she gives him a chance when he first woos her, because she senses his ability to act passionately and take a stand for his beliefs. She has real insights into his character and agrees to go on a real date with Travis. And when that date turns out to be something genuinely disturbing, Betsy acts appropriately — she gets out and chastises him, then sticks to her ideals and doesn’t give Bickle a second chance.

I therefore find it sad that Schrader and Scorsese felt it necessary to bring Betsy back for one final scene where she second guesses herself and reaches out to Travis. This man put her in danger and will do so again. It’s fine that she admires his bravery and perhaps the way he protected this young woman, but the things she isn’t aware of — including his plans to murder her boss — would have horrified her. Betsy deserved to be left out of the ending and should not have become the story’s Dulcinea del Toboso.

I will have more to say on this subject tomorrow.

I don’t know if my visit to the 1970s world of movies is unearthing any insights, this film era has been examined to death at this point, but I am certainly enjoying the vacation. I love the movies of this era, especially for the variety of storytelling that was permitted. The 1970s gave us big budget disaster movies, gangster epics, menacing sharks, Superman and Star Wars, but it also gave us ambitious literary adaptations and tiny movies so personal that it seems amazing someone approved a budget for them.

The vast majority of these movies I experienced after the fact like an archeologist trying to unearth artifacts of that confounding era. But there is one movie that I saw in its first release that still amuses me when I think of the 11 year old me reacting to it. It was May 1977, and I was six months into my complete assurance that “Rocky” was the greatest movie ever made. I was at a mall multiplex with my female cousin and sister, dropped off by my aunt to find a movie to see. I wanted to see some awful “Rocky” knockoff starring Muhammad Ali that some studio had rapidly cobbled together. But my cousin Laura wanted to see “Annie Hall,” and as the youngest of the group, I had no power to override her.

I didn’t expect much from it — I had a vague sense of disliking Woody Allen even though I’d never seen one of his movies and I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t a life changing experience — “Rocky” wasn’t dethroned and held onto its title for exactly one more month until “Star Wars” came out — but I laughed a lot and thought better of Woody Allen afterwards. The following April, I watched the Academy Awards, sure that “Star Wars” would clean up, and watched with amazement as “Annie Hall” walked off with the top prize.

I think I’ve seen “Annie Hall” at every stage of my life and the movie gets a bit sadder every time I see it. Today I watch it mostly in awe of Diane Keaton’s characterization of Annie, which is one of the great heroic romantic performances in movies. I call it heroic because Keaton/Hall is attempting something very new in this movie, the creation of a feminine-feminist archetype that both fully embraces the tenets of Romanticism while refusing to surrender the hard won gains of Sexual Revolution.

There a “Pygmalion” myth at the center of the movie. Alvy Singer discovers this extremely neurotic, oddly dressed woman at a tennis outing. He asks her out, and is sometimes amused by her quirkiness and sometimes just tolerates it. He proceeds to mold her into the type of woman he wants her to be — he convinces her to take adult education classes to make up for her lack of a college education, gets her to read gloomy books with the word ‘death’ in the title, introduces her to psychotherapy and, eventually, gives her the courage to get in front of an audience and sing.

I find Annie heroic because she identifies the implicit criticism in all of Alvy’s renovation schemes, voices her fears, but does them anyway. She not only goes along with them, actually, she crushes them. Annie makes real progress in her therapy, unlike Alvy who has spent decades in analysis and seems stuck in mud. She not only goes to her classes, she forms a bond with her instructor and becomes more open to other influences. She not only gets on stage to sing, she attracts the attention of a music producer who wants to help guide her career. In short, she accepts Alvy’s influence and finds the kindest possible interpretation of his meddling, assuming that he cares about her personal growth and openness to continued influence and social growth.

Alvy reacts badly to all of this. He becomes jealous of Annie’s new influences, criticizes her therapy and classes. They go to Los Angeles, where Annie takes another step forward in her career, and Alvy can do nothing but, hilariously, mock the fake culture all around them. The relationship feels doomed and the couple breaks up. Alvy’s feelings, however, get in the way. He begins to feel nostalgia for their bond and feels compelled to take one last shot at Annie’s affections.

In the old fashioned romantic comedy, Alvy flying out to his hated Hollywood to beg Annie to come back would be seen as a heroic gesture that must be rewarded. And that reward, naturally, would be her returning to his life. But Annie seizes the heroism from him and stands her ground, refusing to go back with Alvy. And old Hollywood, and perhaps cultural, view of American couples dies out with Alvy’s failure.

The 1970s put us in the in between space of old values dying before new ones could be created, so we were left to dwell in that bittersweet in between. But what if Alvy had listened to his emotions and decided to match Annie’s romantic heroism with his own form of courage? Imagine an alternative “Annie Hall” where Alvy doesn’t just ask Annie to begin again, but he also makes the enormous sacrifice of giving up the protective bubble that Manhattan had become for him and join Annie in Los Angeles?

You could argue that this would be inauthentic, that Woody/Alvy would be sacrificing his genuine self purely for Annie and that this would lead to resentment and failure. I would argue that, if Alvy genuinely loved Annie, he would be willing to take the same leap of faith that she did and would be willing to risk as much growth and change as she to be with her.

This ending did not happen, either in the movie or in the fake “happily ever after” play that Alvy later writes to soothe himself over Annie’s loss. The ethos carried forward from “Annie Hall” lives on. Most romantic comedies since then depend on the movie’s form — it’s impossible to imagine “When Harry Met Sally” without “Annie Hall,” and the same can be said of “Seinfeld.” The lonely, sad core of these new romantic comedies is the idea that we should always wait and look for that one person who requires us to change as little about ourselves as necessary to make it work, overlooking the possibility that it is just this kind of influence and openness to the new that makes love so indispensable and transformational.

It’s unfortunate that, like so many 1970s anti-heroes, Alvy Singer lacked the courage to listen to what his aching heart was trying to tell him, that the safety and comfort of his predictable life in New York wasn’t worth the loss of the woman he loved. She had changed for him, it was time for him to pay back her courageous growth. But in the end, he wimped out.

I’ve noticed a theme running through many of the films of the 1970s. Characters talk a lot about authenticity and consistently take actions on the margins that feel right for them, but they ultimately lack the power to do anything significant. These characters use authenticity as an adornment, something to make bad situations more tolerable. Sometimes they even feel in control, but ultimately, they are locked inside Max Weber’s Iron Cage.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in Hal Ashby’s 1973 film “The Last Detail” starring Jack Nicholson. Written by Robert Towne in 1970, the movie sat on the shelf for three years because the studio, Columbia Pictures, wanted the heavy profanity toned down, fearing the movie would receive an X rating. The filmmakers stood their ground and standards evolved pretty rapidly in three years, easing Columbia’s fears. At the time, “The Last Detail” held the record for the most uses of the word ‘fuck’ in a film, but it probably no longer ranks in the top 100 in that category.

The plot of “The Last Detail” is simple — two Navy lifers, Billy Buddusky (Nicholson) and Mule Mughals (played by Otis Young) are assigned a shore patrol detail to escort Larry Meadows (played by Randy Quaid) from Norfolk Navy Yard to Portsmouth Naval Prison in Maine. They are enticed into the detail by a very generous per diem and a full week to complete the task.

Buddusky and Mughals originally plan to take Meadows up to Portsmouth as directly and quickly as possible, then use the time and money for a slow, fun filled trek back to Virginia. But when they get to meet Meadows and learn more about his outrageous eight year sentence for unsuccessfully attempting to steal $40 from a polio charity box, they begin to alter their plans.

The film is basically a picaresque journey up the east coast, introducing the sad, unlucky 19 year old to a little life before he begins his prison term. They get him drunk in Washington, D.C., try to visit his mom in Camden, N.J., come into contact with Buddhist chanters and hippie young women in New York City, then eventually seek out a prostitute for him in Boston.

The tone of the film is highly defiant and there’s are lots of little lessons that Nicholson’s ”Badass” passes on, attempting to shape the young sailor into a more authentic person. They pick a fight with a group of Marines for no good reason, just to introduce a little violence into the Anima Possessed Meadows. They shape him into a character who even tries to escape their guard in Boston, with no luck.

Meadows is a character doomed to suffer the consequences of a military commander making an example of him. Buddusky and Mulhall are chosen for this mission not for their rock solid commitment to following the rules, but because they are Navy lifers and will not do anything to jeopardize their careers. So they use the little power they have to carry out orders in the most roundabout, “authentic” manner that they know.

In the end, they still carry out their orders and Meadows isn’t even given a moment to leave the movie with some sense of accomplishment or wisdom, he’s just silently escorted up the stairs to a new life behind bars. There he will likely learn how to become a career criminal and likely a substance abuser, the life as he knew it very likely over.

“The Last Detail” was a box office bomb upon its original release, but Columbia repackaged it months later as a ribald comedy and the movie took off. Those who remember it fondly think of it as something of an “Animal House” for the Navy, glossing over the film’s offhand, but rather terrifying ending.

This is a glimpse at what was happening in the 1970s. Nixon’s “Law and Order” campaign had affected the culture deeply. Longer prison sentences were seen as a reasonable reaction to the rise in crime and the “lawlessness” all around. Never mind that Nixon used that word as a cudgel against war protestors and others fighting for social justice, lock them all up if that helped restore order.

Yet order was not restored, chaos was rampant. Crime rates weren’t being brought under control, they were spiraling higher. The criminal justice system was becoming systemically unjust, and the “crime” at the center of “The Last Detail” is a perfect example. Audiences at the time were numb to the movie’s central idea that, no matter how much playing around the rules Buddusky and Mulhall could do, they were essential pieces of an authority structure destroying a life.

The truth is that these men weren’t actually powerless. They could have conspired to lose Meadows in a crowd or helped him escape to Canada. They were free human beings who could have acted to thwart an injustice. In the end, their acts of authenticity were meaningless and the ultimate example of inauthenticity. They had become the caricatures that Nietzsche described as the Last Man.

Buddusky gives some tongue in cheek monologues to a woman during the NY party scenes where he waxes philosophic about life on the sea. Nietzsche would argue that one should not romanticize the sea, but try to become a sea that overcomes the evils of the world:

Everything superhuman appears to man as illness and madness. You have to be a sea to absorb a dirty stream without getting dirty.

My guess is that Robert Towne and Hal Ashby — maybe even Jack Nicholson — believe this Nietzschean ethos and intended the audience to see these characters as deficient failures. The audience, however, was ready for a different interpretation, one that cast them as 1970s anti-heroes who rejected justice as naive and fully embraced a nihilist ethos that we’re all fucked eventually, so we might as well have a good time on our way to hell.

A friend of mine who I have known for close to 40 years and who I haven’t communicated with in almost a year got back in touch with me yesterday. It was good to hear from him and I hope this means the fissure between us has closed. That gap actually put distance between me and a number of friends from the past, so an rapprochement is probably a good thing.

Still, something about it is bothering me. He got back in touch with me to give the news that there was a death in his family — his father-in-law, someone I didn’t know. He shared some thoughts about how close the departed was from his son and that he found it meaningful that he died on his son’s birthday. I thanked him for getting in touch and noted that it was my mother’s birthday as well.

He shared some more thoughts later and I was supportive. I don’t mind doing this for him or anyone, I believe in comforting people who have lost. What bothers me is that he reached out because he had that expectation of me. He thought of me as the one who eulogized a friend of ours several years back and someone who can share comforting words in hard times.

This wouldn’t bother me at all if he hadn’t created the wedge between us last year by calling me too sensitive, for taking what I perceived to be pretty rough personal attacks too much to heart. I’m aware of the somewhat feminized role that I play in that group of friends — the only liberal in the group, the one who can express emotions in times of grief, the one who won’t sit by quietly if something I perceive as racist or sexist is uttered.

I have another set of mixed feelings that I’m walking around with today. Periodically on this blog, I feel the compulsion to revisit something that has happened to me in therapy. Whenever I do this, I assume this will end up being me venting and everyone else either ignoring me or staying away. Then something odd happens — my readership takes a significant leap.

What’s that about? I honestly have no idea. Are people genuinely concerned about me when I raise some subjects and want to check in? If that’s the case, they never contact me after reading, so their concern can’t be too great. Is there a certain rubbernecking thrill in seeing these kinds of stories? Are the subjects of the stories dropping by on those days and, if so, how do they always seem to know when I’m writing about them but ignore the blog when I’m not?

My fantasy is that I have a collection of hate-readers who show up on those days to note their personal distaste for what I am doing and to make sure I don’t take it too far. And this just reconnects to those Oklahoma friends of mine who judge me for being too willing to express my emotions most days, but when they really need the support, they’re happy I’m there.

If I sound resentful about all this, it’s probably because I am. I’m feeling especially invisible these days. I feel like I’m there for people who need help, but even when given a rather vast opportunity to get to know me better via this blog, most of the people I know take a pass, then show up on days when they think the subject might turn to them.

All of this might be in my head … fair enough. Now it’s on a screen. Did you know this blog accepts comments? You can do it anonymously if you’d like, you know? Even the hate readers might want to try it once in awhile. I might appreciate knowing someone felt something from what I’ve created.

I was tempted today to write another really long piece about Warren Beatty and how his films of the 1970s exemplify the point I made yesterday about surrendering to escapism — as Beatty did with “Heaven Can Wait” in 1978, then trying bravely to recapture some political meaning in 1981 with “Reds,” although by then it was too late. But I’m not really up for going that deep today and will instead focus on just one movie, “The Parallax View” from 1974.

If you’re very strict about auteur theory, you wouldn’t call “The Parallax View” a Warren Beatty movie at all, because he’s listed only as an actor in the credits. You would call it an Alan J. Pakula film and fit it into his resume of films that included “Klute” and “All The President’s Men.” But the truth is, Beatty almost always took on a far bigger role in the creation of his movies than the credits would lead you to believe.

In this case, it was Beatty who discovered the 1970 novel by Loren Singer and pushed Paramount to make it. He also oversaw the screenplay’s various rewrites and brought in Robert Towne for an uncredited polish of the script before filming. During filming, Beatty was intimately involved in dialogue rewrites and it was he who made the ultimate decision to make his character a journalist. The original novel had no single protagonist, there were four characters who witnessed an assassination who trade off in the role.

There’s no other movie like “The Parallax View” — it is clearly the greatest paranoid political thriller ever made. It achieves this status through it’s absolute logic from beginning to end, there are no flights of fancy or Oliver Stone like outlandish theories in the movie. Everything in it makes complete sense, even the moments when you question if something is off in the film and wonder if you should be suspending disbelief. It turns out, no, you shouldn’t be suspending disbelief, that dissonance you felt was completely intentional.

In fact, the movie has such a Swiss-watch beauty to its construction that I don’t want to describe the plot at all. It needs to be experienced with as few expectations as possible. I say this even through I’ve seen the movie four times and am still surprised by aspects of it on each new viewing.

I bring up this movie in the context of the failed 1970s ethos for a few reasons. First, the movie is certainly an example of artistic vision and execution. If a decade were conscious and could be proud of the things achieved in it, the 1970s should be very proud of this movie for having a strong point of view and artistic vision and pulling it off completely.

It was also gutsy for not following the herd and making the conspiratorial villains someone other than politicians, mafioso or shadowy operators of the Deep State. The evil person at the heart of “The Parallax View” is the Parallax Corporation, an entity without motive, without defined purpose, without any identifiable leadership. Parallax simply is and why it does what it does isn’t the concern of the viewer, because this movie is about corporate power, not corporate ethics.

To think that a major corporate body like Paramount, owned at the time by the Gulf + Western conglomerate, would fund such a movie demonstrates Warren Beatty’s power in Hollywood and the co-optive ability of movie makers in that era to bite the hands that fed. But having said that, there’s another aspect of “The Parallax View” that I’d be remiss if I overlooked.

The movie speaks perfectly to that Shawn-Wallace argument in “My Dinner With Andre” about art that confirms the darkest fears of the audience and therefore sends them back into their slumber. This is a movie where the bad guys don’t just turn out on top at the end, they seem indomitable. That isn’t even the worst part of it. “The Parallax View” is arguably the most deeply irresponsible movie ever made.

It’s irresponsible because it takes all of the leftover nihilistic, defeatist fears about politics from the 1960s — that there are shadowy forces at play that will prevent progress, so don’t even try — and it doesn’t just confirm them, it spells out in detail just how easily it could happen without clearly defined motive. This isn’t a movie about raising consciousness about power and pointing a way for people to take it back. It’s saying that even our deepest fears about the state of our political-economy aren’t dark enough. We’re far more fucked than we ever imagined.

Taken in this context, there’s a very dark reason why Gulf + Western would gleefully finance a movie like “The Parallax View.” It doesn’t call anyone to activism. It doesn’t raise fears about a possible future — it lays out the horror embedded in the status quo. It doesn’t even give the audience heroic politicians who might escape assassination and save the nation — just a series of bland, barely-partisan independent men mouthing platitudes whose banality still isn’t enough to placate the dark corporate overlords, whoever they are.

It’s a movie to scare the hell out of you and give you good reason to not volunteer to go door to door for your favorite candidate this fall. Just smoke a bong or try to join an orgy instead. What’s the point of caring when the world is so thoroughly fucked by forces you can’t even see or understand?

So, the movie is beautifully made and perfectly executed, but ends up reinforcing cynicism and nihilism. But it also includes a segment that I never paid much attention to until my last viewing that so defies explanation that I wonder why it hasn’t become an iconic moment in American film.

At the 55:12 mark of the movie, Beatty’s character Joseph Frady has gone undercover and is hoping to be hired by the Parallax Corporation as an assassin. As part of the job interview process, Frady is placed in a chair, his hands on sensors on both sides of the chair, and he is presented with a short film that the tester says “I hope you enjoy.”

What unspools in front of him is a montage of images, words and sounds, reminiscent both of the opening credits of Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona” and the brainwashing sequences of “A Clockwork Orange.” In this case, we have no idea of the intention of the images. Are they really testing the subject for reactions or are they a form of brainwashing? The movie never tells, which makes the segment even more compelling.

The sequence lasts for just under five minutes. In that time, Frady is presented with the words love, mother, father, me, home, country, God, enemy and happiness in a variety of different sequences. The images accompanying these words range from comforting to horrifying and they skip around between the words. The shape shifting is purely intentional and, together, it creates a horrifying pastiche of American life in 1974.

I could imagine a Trump campaign version of this montage, perhaps built around the words person, woman, man, camera, tv. I could say more about this sequence, but it’s best experienced for yourself — and you can do so via this YouTube clip.

I liked the way yesterday’s story about 1970s movies turned out, so I think I’m going to swim in these waters for awhile and see if it leads to anything interesting. I’m going to start by briefly examining two movies at the beginning and end of that era — “Harold and Maude” from 1971 and “My Dinner with Andre” from 1981. While Andre is a 1980s movie, it was written and about life in the 1970s, so I think it’s a solid bookend to Maude.

Harold, the protagonist of his film, begins the movie in a state of ironic nihilism. He is a boy (we never find out his actual age and it’s often hard to tell where in the range from 14 to 28 he occupies) who has no goals or aspirations beyond his affection for funerals and dark love of staged suicide scenes. His mother upsets this balance by asking him to consider a career in the military (where his uncle has some kind of undefined officer position attained by being Douglas McArthur’s “right hand man” — somewhat ironic, because he doesn’t have a right hand.) And then she declares that it is time for him to get married. She arranges three dates via a “computer dating service” to find him the right match, which is actually her right match, since she fills out his dating questionnaire.

Harold’s life is already due for a disruption when he runs into Maude at a funeral, and then is basically stalked by her at another. She too enjoys attending funerals, but we find out early in the film that while the pair has some common traits, they have wildly different worldviews. A traumatic incident happened to Harold in boarding school that led his mother to believe that he was dead … and Harold liked her outpouring of distant affection. He reacted by seeking a return to that state of shocked loss over and over through the staged suicides.

Maude, while fully aware of life’s tragic, temporal nature, sees the human condition as a call to fully embrace living, to ignore legal and moral boundaries, to seek out experiences and find a way to liberate yourself from the persona you’ve created to cope with life’s difficulties. This is a clear, full expression of Nietzsche’s philosophy. But Maude is more than that, she is also the personification of the 1970s cultural ethos — it’s as if the culture declare: we have taken the first and biggest steps towards political liberation, now it is time for personal liberation. The movie tells us that even a rich white straight male can and should be liberated.

This is an extremely hopeful movie, despite its numerous references to suicides (and Maude’s own suicide.) As the credits roll and “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” plays on, you feel that everyone can learn to love more openly, ignore family expectations, keep cultural institutions at an ironic distance, and become the authors of our stories.

I don’t believe “Harold and Maude” influenced the cultural much — it was a box office bomb in its initial release and took many years for it to catch on, buoyed in large part by midnight movies that turned it into a cult classic. It was, however, a perfect reflection of how the culture was adapting to the end of the 1960s. The final episode of “Mad Men” captured that mood as well — with Don Draper escaping New York for an EST retreat in California, then suddenly getting the idea for a Coke commercial that celebrated multicultural peace and togetherness by the mutual purchase of a fizzy, sugary beverage.

Given the state of the world in 1971, it might have seemed more appropriate to have Harold drive his hearse-guar over the cliff in the final scene. The world seemed to be unraveling. The Vietnam War didn’t just drag on, it had been expanded into Cambodia and Laos. War protesters were gunned down in Kent State, then turned to more radical alternatives afterwards, leading to a string of terror bombings across the nation. The Pentagon Papers were released, detailing how thoroughly Americans had been lied to throughout the war.

Yet, on personal level, people were feeling a certain freedom in the early 70s that was unique, and in many respects extremely positive. Women were entering the workforce at a pace that even exceeded the early 40s when so many men were enlisted for World War 2. Many gay men and women finally felt safe coming out of the closet. Because of greater access to the birth control pill, young people didn’t feel the need to marry and start families so early. All of these were positive and unsurprising cultural shifts among young people.

What really drove the mass cultural change in the 1970s, however, was the generation older than the Baby Boomers, those who were already married and had small children, but also wanted in on the liberation. These young mothers had just as much right to careers as women younger than them. This was another positive outcome.

But then something in the culture shook loose and an avalanche started. In his book “Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution, An Unfettered History,” David Allyn described the rapid cultural shift that happened across generations this way:

During the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s people told the truth. They told the truth about their sexual histories. About their secret desires, About the ways they had been pretending to conform to societal norms. Not everyone told the truth all at once, of course. But when a few key people became authentic about their sexuality, others were inspired to follow suit. Eventually, more and more people told the truth about themselves, until there was a critical mass or “tipping point.” It turned out that “nice girls” were having sex before marriage, that teenagers were yearning to have homosexual relationships, that some married couples were interested in more than just monogamy. When enough people told the truth, the life of the nation was transformed.

What makes the term “sexual revolution” so confusing is that it has two meanings and inspired the adoption of two separate sets of ethos that pushed and pulled in tandem and against one another in that era. Allyn wrote:

Part of the reason that there is still so much confusion surrounding the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies is that the term “revolution” has two meanings: It can denote a calculated contest against the status quo (as in the “French Revolution”); or a sudden, unexpected period of social transformation (as in the “Industrial Revolution”). The sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies involved both elements. There were direct attempts to topple the legal and political pillars of the existing moral regime. There was also an unplanned reconfiguration of American culture, a result of demographic, economic, and technological changes that took many Americans by surprise. Sometimes these two aspects of the sexual revolution operated in tandem, forcefully pushing the nation along one path; sometimes they operated in opposition to each other, pulling the nation in two different directions at once.

It’s the social transformation part of that equation where “Harold and Maude” lives, even if the movie really has very little to say about sex. It’s possible to imagine an alternative 1970s where this drive towards individual transformation and growth retained some elements of the sexual mores of the previous era and focused instead on spiritual or artistic growth. However, in retrospect, maybe it’s too optimistic about humanity to think it can ever take advantage of its freedom, at a mass level, in a way that will lead to free expression and open minds without significantly changing the sexual behavior of people, at least in the short term.

Friederich Nietzsche was a bit naive in this respect as well. His conception of the ubermensch — or overman — wasn’t about a powerful political or business leader (as his work has been polluted and bastardized by the likes of the Nazis and Ayn Rand.) His ideal New Man, who will overcome our religion-poisoned past, is an artist. Nietzsche loved music and musicians most of all and probably felt his greatest personal failure was his mediocre musical talents. His books were intended to inspire creators to dream big and create works that can redefine our world. So, like Maude, Nietzsche envisions a world of free artists rewriting what it means to be human.

So when we arrive in the late 1970s in the world of “My Dinner With Andre,” we are actually sitting in on a conversation between two people that Nietzsche would consider the ideal form of a future human being — a playwright and a stage director in New York, two people who have devoted their lives to expression living in the cultural center of those productions.

And when we meet these people, they are exhausted and nearly defeated. The 1970s, this decade with so much hope for inner growth and expression, had turned out very badly for the type of people you might expect would get the most out of this new freedom.

Wallace Shawn, who in the 1980s would become something of a cultural icon because of his role in “The Princess Bride,” was best known in the 1970s as a writer of small, realist dramas that were mostly staged Off-Broadway. He had a decent number of hits in the 1970s, but by the time this movie was made, his creativity was stilted and he was finding it difficult to get his work produced.

Andre Gregory was a stage director who had a number of successes in the 1970s, but at a certain point lost all faith in his work and decided to quit the profession. His epiphany brings to mind Liv Ullman’s character Elisabet Vogler in “Persona,” who one day onstage is overcome with disgust at the artifice of her work, rendering her mute and unable to perform anymore. But instead of retreating into silence, Gregory goes on a very 1970s kind of quest in search of theater-like experience around the world that evoke the kinds of emotions he used to be able to create on the New York stage.

One of the difficulties in watching “My Dinner With Andre” is making it through the first half of the movie, which is a nearly unbroken monologue by Gregory about these bizarre experiences. Shawn makes no effort to engage him in a dialogue about these adventures, he just coaxes him to keep talking about his weird group frolics in the forests of Poland, his trek to the Sahara Desert with a Japanese yogi, trying to figure out how to stage “The Little Prince” and several other sojourns that I don’t remember off hand.

In the second half, however, we do get a bit of a culture clash and we also start to see that Gregory himself is conflicted about the value of his excursions. He recognizes the privilege at the heart of them and accepts Shawn’s criticism that there’s a dangerous cult-like nature to the way the people behave in these circumstances.

The movie, however, serves as a fitting conclusion to the 1970s cultural ethos, because it perfectly describes the state of exhaustion that existed in the country after this decade of liberation had played itself out. Gregory and Shawn agree that by the end of the 1970s, people seem to be asleep. They can’t see the world around them anymore, they have retreated into nostalgic escapism — or worse, desired a regression to simpler times with simpler life choices.

For an artist, this is the worst possible atmosphere. People go to the theater (or to a movie) in hope of being put further asleep, so they can more fully escape the reality around them. Gregory tells Shawn that it isn’t even worth trying to stage a realistic play that attempts to wake people up, because all it will do is reinforce the misery all around them — the murders, the left-behind — and even this will push them deeper into their slumbers.

The movie ends with two choices about how the culture could move forward out of this state. To Gregory, the answer is somewhat akin to what the 1970s started to do, but ended up getting sidetracked into sex and drugs escapism — seek out consciousness-changing experiences that force you to see the world around you. He likens this to going to Mt. Everest, taking in the awesome beauty of nature and having a shared experience of something bigger than ourselves.

Shawn mocks this idea — saying its privileged and impractical to tell people to visit Mt. Everest. Why not tell everyone to pay attention to the cigar shop next door? Get to know the life inside that shop and your consciousness might be woken up.

Gregory believes that humanity is too far gone to see that cigar shop, that capitalism has taken hold of us and put us on a conveyor belt towards robot status. He even pleads with Shawn to get rid of his electric blanket, that it gives him too much comfort and keeps him from sharing essential parts of humanity that must touch discomfort and a shared sense of what it is like to be cold.

That argument really offends Shawn, who loves his electric blanket and generally thinks there’s nothing wrong with comforts. And if people aren’t woken up by his plays? That’s ok too, as long as he’s allowed to keep writing them and earn a living to support the life he has chosen, filled with moments of little joy.

As the movie ends, the characters allow us the option of retrying the 70s again, hoping to catch the right experiences this time, or moving on to the 80s, pursuing comforts, trying to cut our own bargain with the material world.

Shawn ends the movie riding home in a taxi, noting all the shops in Manhattan along the way and the personal meaning each one of them hold for him. This tells us that he took something important away from the dinner and sees more clearly now.

Watching the movie nearly 40 years later, however, we know that both Gregory and Shawn failed. The door to the 1970s was shut and bolted very quickly. But the hope that we could strike a bargain with the material world barreling down on us was naive as well. Those shops Shawn viewed are all gone now, replaced by chain retailers aimed at high end consumers.

Even worse, people like Shawn don’t live in Manhattan anymore. The successful ones may live in Brooklyn, but more likely Hoboken or Jersey City. The slightly less successful are writing plays as one of three or four gigs, trying to do meaningful work while paying the bills with a freelance article here, a few weeks of Uber driving there. Most people like Gregory and Shawn gave up trying to make a living as artists a couple decades ago and are entrenched in corporate jobs, pretending their quarterly internal comms shows are just as meaningful as that play they’ve been hoping to write.

As it turns out, Gregory was exactly right — capitalism has put all of us to sleep. And now it’s made the world sick, and we are holed up in our houses, trying our best to keep working to keep paying the bills and keep pretending everything is normal while the stock market again approaches all time highs and billionaires are gobbling up the remaining assets middle class people have to unload to stay afloat. They’re competing to build rockets to Mars while we have kitchen table debates weighing whether it’s worse to risk having your children infected with a deadly disease or fall farther behind in their education.

Sadly, the great promise of the 1970s failed. We did not achieve personal liberation in large part because we walked away from political liberation and thought we’d done enough for now. The rich and the powerful took advantage of this inward turn, started recapturing money and power and haven’t looked back since.

I’ll be writing about some more 1970s movies in the days ahead to examine how and why this happened.

I have been watching a lot of movies made in the 1970s recently, which isn’t a chore, that decade might have been the artistic apex of American moviemaking. But what made for great movies also made for a very strange time to be alive, especially if you were a child.

In this context “That 70s Show” is either the stupidest or most brilliant TV show ever devised. The argument for its stupidity is that it had nothing to do with how life was actually lived in that decade, other than the fashions and haircuts. The way people behave on the show is purely a mix of the 1950s and the 1980s.

That is the argument for the show’s brilliance, because there was this tension in the 1970s between what was going on and what it wished itself to be. No decade has ever been more nostalgic for another as the 1970s were for the 1950s. There was “American Graffiti,” “Happy Days,” “Laverne and Shirley,” “Grease,” and whatever the hell Sha-Na-Na was. While the artistic output of movies remained strong throughout, there was a major turn at the half decade mark towards escapism that started with “Jaws” and gained rocket fuel with “Star Wars.”

Despite all of the nostalgia and escapism, movies of the 1970s did an incredible job of documenting the massive cultural shifts that were taking place at that time, even in the form of movies set in other times. “Cabaret,” for example, was about pre-Nazi Berlin, but its celebration of the artistic and sexual experimentation of that era was a clear warning to 1970s audiences — don’t get too cozy with all the new freedom you are experiencing, there are dark forces behind it. We should have listened to that message more closely.

Darkness oozed out of 1970s period movies. “Patton” might have been a World War II biopic, but it was clearly intended as a commentary on the still ongoing and disastrous war in Vietnam, as was the Korea-era comedy “M*A*S*H.” “The Godfather,” “The Sting,” “Paper Moon,” “Chinatown” — all of them were about decaying values and con-men, but audience at the time clearly recognized the Nixon administration and all of the other American institutions that were rapidly losing public trust.

To see the 1970s from a distance can be pretty fun. To have lived and grown up in it was quite another adventure. It really seemed like an era without childhoods. Families were breaking apart right and left. Drug abuse was rampant. Pornography was everywhere — it could even be glimpsed from highways in the drive in movie theaters. Murder rates were two to three times higher in major cities compared to now. The so-called lawlessness of today was nothing compared to that age of riots during blackouts and fans exploding onto fields of play after major sporting events.

What puzzles me about the 1970s now is that there were excuses at the time that everyone accepted, but that don’t make as much sense anymore. We were told that this is what happens after a country loses a war. Or after a lawless President gets caught. Or when there are hard economic times — defined then by inflation and gas lines. Major social changes had just happened — Stonewall and women’s rights, the sexual revolution. People hadn’t adjusted to it all.

For many years that argument seemed to make sense to me. But having lived the last 20 years of American life, it now seems ridiculous. The Iraq War was just as traumatic as Vietnam in important ways, especially coming so soon after 9/11. We had a massive economic collapse in 2009 and are experiencing an even worse one now. Social change has been far more rapid in our era than that one. The gay marriage decision, MeToo and Black Lives Matter have reshaped the cultural landscape at breathtaking speed.

And yet, with all of this change and a horrendous global pandemic … and the worst President in our history who combines the worst features of Nixon and Carter and still has a lot of venality and stupidity left unaccounted for … we’re actually doing ok in this country compared to how people behaved in the 1970s.

Teenaged pregnancies are way down compared to then, as is drug abuse. Divorce rates are lower. Sexually transmitted diseases are far less prevalent. The kids in general are alright. If anyone is losing their shit right now it’s the same Baby Boomers who were responsible for much of the bad behavior then.

It might be time to take another hard look at the 1970s to figure out just what it was all about. In the 1990s, there were some attempts by Gen Xers to revisit that era in books and movies like “The Ice Storm.” But even those pretty much took the excuses of the era at face value. They were just overwhelmed and couldn’t help themselves, they told us. Maybe it was something else. Maybe, for example, the lead in gasoline was far more damaging than we assumed.

There were deeper social pathologies at play than the first round of explanations can cover. Once the rules started to break down, everyone felt obliged to rush the stage, like fans of The Who in Cincinnati. A weird group psychology had taken hold that trampled an entire generation of children.

Thankfully, we have not returned to those times. Maybe we should study more closely why that happened so we can make sure future children are shielded from a recurrence in future generations.

Yesterday, I expressed quite a bit of anger on the blog. It wasn’t just a quick flash of pique expressed and forgotten either, I kept adding to the story for hours. I even made some additional edits today, although in this case, it was to soften it a bit.

Like many people, I often feel regretful after expressing anger towards people. There’s a short term relief in letting it out, but then a guilt for letting emotions take command and drive me towards saying things that could hurt and damage a relationship.

I don’t feel that way about that blog post, however. In fact, I think it was long overdue. I have told the story one to one in emails and discussions, but I wasn’t able to share it publicly, something was holding me back.

It took work to finally reach that anger. I had to finally understand the personal relationship with the subject of that piece, understand which parts belonged to her and which parts belonged to me. Only after that break could I then return to my hurt and speak honestly about professional harm that I felt was done to me.

Getting to that story required me to accept the consequences of a final break — knowing that there won’t be a return to that relationship in some form in the future. It also required me to go to a familiar place for me: assigning this person a role very similar to others who have disappointed me in life.

So where do I go from here? The most positive outcome of yesterday’s letting go is that it permitted me to strengthen my bond with the person who took up the role that my therapist surrendered. I had kept her at a distance in part because I had not considered the old work done. That feeling is gone now and it’s a relief to allow new trust to enter me, so that I can experience the benefit of that kind of relationship.

This is why I do not feel bad about what I wrote yesterday. It wasn’t about pushing away someone in my life, because that person is already gone. It was about strengthening new bonds.

In times like these, I like to take a look at the I Ching and see what random advice pops up. Today’s is apt and I will post it below. To close the loop on this story, I need to add that I do forgive my former therapist, her supervisor and, yes, my group therapist too for all that happened. You messed up. You put your own interests ahead of mine. But I don’t believe you intended to do harm and I’m sure you had a germ of belief that it was all in my best interests. I can accept that — and honestly, what other choice do I have? What’s done is done, I wasn’t destroyed, we move on and grow.

My mini series on abandonment seems to have spurred a spike in my readership, so I’m going to share a bit more. First, I want to make clear that this is not an exercise in score settling. I’m writing all of this because someone close to me was triggered by what I wrote about a family member and I thought it might help her to understand why I wrote that piece. Opening myself up a bit might give her a broader understanding of the emotions I’m working through day by day as I write this blog. This project is bringing up a lot of issues from my past, especially those related to abandonment. So, I’m writing these pieces because I hope it will give someone clarity and understanding. If others happen upon this and feel attacked, I’m sorry about that, but there’s a whole lot more you could have done in real time to prevent misunderstandings, if there are any. Next time, don’t needlessly hurt a writer.

I somewhat regret framing this discussion by stating that something unethical took place. That might leave the impression that I was making a legal or professional ethics case, and that’s just not true. I’m sure the firm involved was careful enough to do the bare minimum of requirements before showing me the door.

That’s actually the real issue for me, at least as the ending was concerned. I do want to be clear that up until my therapy was terminated, I didn’t have any complaints about it, either in regards to the firm or the therapist. I thought they had provided me with a decent level of care. But something changed suddenly at the end, making it all the more baffling for me.  They turned on a dime from caring about what’s best for me to offering the bare minimum.

By this I mean: What’s the bare minimum notice we need to give him? What’s the bare minimum number of sessions? The bare minimum of information about why this is happening? The bare minimum of empathy I can show towards him in the last session? The bare minimum referral he can get? The bare minimum care he can be shown on his way out the door?

To me, that day was all about doing as little as possible to make me go away and solve whatever problem they perceived to have in front of them. So, naturally, I wanted to get the fuck out of that room as quickly as I could. Why lounge in your own torture chamber? I knew what I was up against. My feelings were someone else’s problem. My work was something to be recapped quickly. My concerns were something to be placated or gaslighted away.

People who entered a profession to show care for individuals’ mental health had just pushed a client out the door in a far worse mental health condition than he had been in when he walked in the door five months earlier. In the ensuing days, they had the gall to insinuate that I had some more serious underlying mental health condition to justify what they’d done, without having the courage to explain to me their diagnosis or give me an explanation about how this supposed condition might be treated. They couldn’t give an explanation, because it was all bullshit.  It helped them meet the bare minimum. They could put it in a chart to help them explain to a jury or a regulatory review board why they acted as they did. It was about protecting their asses, not providing me with anything more than the bare minimum of care.

They then spent the next three weeks blaming me, the victim, as I looked desperately for replacement help and couldn’t find it as the lockdowns began. They even made numerous calls to another mental health professional I was seeing at the time that he refused to take because, after listening to their voice messsages, he sensed they were looking to put an MD’s stamp on their efforts to pathologize me, and my doctor wanted no part in it. But I’m not going to get into all that. It’s all just postgame drama that deflects from the real harm that was done.

I could give a pleasant wrap up now and declare victory or give a little speech about self overcoming … blah blah blah. I’ve done enough of that already, I’m not in the mood. The truth is, they’re really lucky things turned out well for me. Lots of other people in my situation could have fared a lot worse.

I just hope to God they don’t look back on this and think job well done. Let’s do the bare minimum again if we fuck up someone’s care and need to get rid of him before he figures out just how badly we screwed up.

Closing the loop on this story, I had an interesting conversation this morning that is now prompting me to write this concluding section to my little abandonment vignette. It was suggested to me that one way of looking at any traumatic event is like an adventure story. There is an inciting incident that sets off the quest, which is quite different from viewing the trauma as an act of harm that should lead to sorrow and withdrawal.

I believe that I have, in fact, reacted to my March abandonment this way by beginning and sustaining this very project. The loss that I felt, both for the end of a meaningful interpersonal relationship and the rapid cessation of a therapeutic journey that I believed was doing me good, could have led me to fall apart, withdraw, and retreat into something we call depression. In fact, I believe that my former therapist was basically inviting me to fall apart, perhaps suggesting that this would validate her conclusion that she couldn’t provide the level of care necessary for me to continue the work.

But I did not react with defeat, I chose to battle against this setback and try to come to my own understanding of why it happened, what it meant about me, and how I can fit it into the broader context of where my life is headed. It’s important for me to point out that while I’ve done a lot of writing and thinking about the interpersonal relationship, I haven’t put as much work into coming to terms with what the end of that therapeutic journey meant to me, which is what prompted this flurry of new writing.

I don’t want to turn myself into a hero just for writing my sparsely read blog, but I do want to acknowledge that, yes, avoiding the victim tag whenever possible and taking setbacks as an opportunity for action is a much healthier way to approach life than just accepting things like anxiety and depression as sentences for difficult times. I have been on Lexapro before — I hated the experience, both for the lethargy it gave me and the sense that my brain needed artificial stimulation to remain in balance.

It wasn’t true and I think many people have been seduced into this type of thinking. We have tremendous capacity within us to change our narratives if we are just willing to confront setbacks and not let them roll over us.

So, as my literary agent says whenever I receive my last publisher’s rejection letter, onward!