Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hello, Glenn? Let me get my notepad...

Last year the Luminato Festival in Toronto presented a one-man play that brought to light an aspect of Glenn Gould's life I'd never really considered before. An Evening with Glenn Gould, written by John McGreevy, centres on a single evening of his life, in particular, his last one. McGreevy, who had collaborated with Gould on the documentary, Glenn Gould's Toronto (it is in this program that Gould in his wonderfully articulate and matter-of-fact fashion, riffs on the dubious delights of the CNE), recalled his final conversation with Gould, citing his conviction that there was no sense of prescience of his own death as he spoke. A review of the play written by critic William Littler, at the time of the staging of the play, cites McGreevy's close association with Glenn. "...I was one of those who received late night phone calls from him. In order to keep myself awake I started taking notes and found them a couple of years ago when moving house. My script draws heavily on Glenn's own words."
What utterly fascinates me is McGreevy's note-taking. How he managed it. Whether much of it is word for word. What was inevitably left out. What struck him as significant or not. I have no doubt that it would have been easy to quietly sit there jotting away while Glenn waxed loquaciously about one thing or another. It seems to me that in most interview clips he enjoyed talking, and in talking, he tried to set it right (or occasionally, have someone on). And in the end what you have can only be what anyone can know of another soul -- shards and bits and scraps, the combination of which cannot make the complete picture. Can you hold up a piece and say it is a symbol of the man? What of all the natural, hapless contradictions that make up a human being?
As for the aspect of Glenn's life that never really occurred to me, there is an incident in the play which I assume is based on truth. A persistent female admirer, initially a seemingly harmless fan, begins to call him. The excellent actor, Ted Dykstra, who played Glenn in this production, seems magnanimous and kind at first, then starts to grow suspicious and even slightly unhinged as the caller presses her point, insisting on a meeting; he is threatened, not with harm but with her avowal to do away with herself if she does not manage to meet him. And it occurs to me that this aspect of fame must have terrified him, not only in terms of the invasion of his privacy and self-imposed isolation but as an example of the desperation and unpredictability of human interaction.
I've just noticed something. Since I have been thinking and writing about Glenn Gould, he has become increasingly human to me and more so Glenn than Glenn Gould.

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