to the Icepick Killer
A Poet in Hollywood
Prizewinning poet and novelist Carol Muske-Dukes offers
smart, entertaining stories and reflections about the unpredictable
marriage of L.A. and literature.
after I moved to Los Angeles from New York City, I attended a cocktail
party with my actor-husband. At the party, which was full of film
and TV industry representatives, a man asked me what I did for a
living. I told him that I was a writer. 'Right,' he said. 'Half-hour
or hour?' I smiled indulgently. 'Neither,' I said, fixing him with
what I like to think of as an Oversoul gaze. 'Lifetime.' He smiled
back. 'Oh, you work for cable,' he said."
Muske-Dukes, one of America's most accomplished poets and novelists
and critics, has a sharp ear and eye for the wild incompatibilities-—and
the surprising commonalities— of Hollywood and a life of letters.
In this wonderful collection of real-life adventures and meditations
on literature and landscape, she addresses the significance of huge
freeway billboards featuring quotations from Emily Dickinson, she
observes the warning signs that poetry is in danger of commodification,
and, in the title essay, she describes the severe adjustments she
had to make as she struggled to understand the life of show business
when she married actor David Coleman Dukes (who died last year). Muske Dukes
is a witty, socially acute diviner of correspondences and contradictions.
Here she takes a geographical (and commercial) context and shows
how it fits in with and grates against a poet's sensibility.
Carol Muske-Dukes is the director of the graduate program
in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern
California. Her most recent collection of poetry, An Octave Above
Thunder, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book
Prize. She has written three novels, most recently, Life After
Death. She lives in Los Angeles.