This quote, ostensibly spoken by the character playing Harper Lee in the film “Infamous,” made the rounds on a few writer listservs last week, generating a bit of discussion:

“America is not a country where the small gesture goes noticed. We’re not a country like France where charm, something light or effervescent can survive. We want everything you have and we want it as fast as you can turn it out. I read in an interview with Frank Sinatra, which he said about Judy Garland. ‘Every time she sings she dies a little.’ It’s true for writers, too, who hope to create something lasting. They die a little getting it right. And the book comes out and there’s a dinner. Maybe they give you a prize and then comes the inevitable and very American question: “What’s next?” But the next thing can be so hard because now you know what it demands.”

The small gesture means much, even if it’s not at the forefront of the American mindset. To those who cherish nature, it’s nearly everything. Alaska, like so many places, is a paradoxical mix of those who covet the small gesture and those who could care less. I like to think there are more of us small-gesture types, but that might be wishful thinking

Writers do die a little getting it right, not only wielding the broad brush of truth but dabbing their creations with the small gestures that encompass it. If we seek recognition – lasting recognition – then we may as well die all at once and get it over with. We know what this task demands, and we do it anyway. Not because someone asks “what’s next?” but because we cannot contain our passion for beauty and truth and the sheer joy of creation.

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