On his way to reconcile with the woman whom he loves, & who loved him enough to take the kids & leave her husband, Bates is stopped by the police. They somehow found a .32 in his Rolls. He says, it’s because of the Nazis – his family had trouble. He tries to plead celebrity, but it lands him in jail, which humorously reunites him with his chauffeur. Obviously, some part of life really is going nowhere, unless you’re very obedient.
Throughout the story, we see what has caused this damned bleakness. The man made comedies, now people ask him to help in every conceivable way. Is he some kind of a god, to grant all these good things? Some kind of lucky charm, to give people what they think is a fighting chance? In a striking show of lack of a sense of humor, some critic invites him to a festival of his own movies, better to be hounded by questions which are requests, & hopes which barely conceal despair.
He is among his own, then. Unsuicidal despair, he suggests, is the way of the bourgeois. His latest movie is serious to the last interminable scene. He suggests the end of the ride is not worth the ride. Everyone gets the same depressive nothingness. It is not obvious that he talks from experience. He may only be telling people what he learns from them.
Maybe Dorrie & that weird other dark girl suggest something about Bates, the contradiction between brilliance & self-destruction. They are tied up with poetry; perhaps they would not be anything interesting without it, but perhaps poets are no different. Finding people in the stead of beautiful statues is quite debilitating, or at least confusing. But a man who makes a life out of beauty cannot let go.
This man really has nothing to teach, so the people trying to turn him into a cult, or some kind of evil – a corruptor, maybe – are really wasting their time. But if we think to the end, they lose that eagerness to control – they are needy, though they do not see it. The man naturally turns to himself as an escape. He has some experience of neediness. He says he has mastered art; he knows that art gives you control over art, not life, so that you choose everything you leave out.
Isobel comes to see Bates; her children arrive later. By an extraordinary coincidence, they show up in his time of need. This woman knows how to be needed & not needed according to necessity. Thinking that she may be the problem, Bates undergoes a long education compressed into one crisis regarding the goodness of this companionship.
A strange, but sometimes funny story about what the people do to their comic poet