We were sitting at an upscale bar in Richmond waiting for me to appear on the evening news. NBC. My book Learning to Live Again had just been published. It was a hot summer. Diana, my lover for three years and wife for two, and I had more than survived marriage. Would we survive the autobiographic book I had just published in 1983 describing a previous romance to Laura, the woman whose love made it possible to get through my first experience with cancer?
My egregious violation of the rules of gentlemanly behavior would never have happened if I were not a writer continually hell bent on publication regardless of the consequences. Thomas Wolfe had written Look Homeward, Angel unwilling/unable to keep the autobiography from his novel’s pages–revealing the secrets of his Ashville, North Carolina home town. In the process, he made it impossible to go home again. Later, Wolfe claimed all novels are autobiographical saying even Gulliver’s Travels was autobiography.
I made no pretense of hiding behind a novel. My chance at becoming a full-time writer of books was this one published by Holt Rinehart & Winston. It had been based on a New York Times Magazine article that had resulted in my appearing with great fanfare on Good Morning America. It was not impossible–nor a forgone conclusion either. As my friend Bill Gahr (and my boss at the General Accounting Office) had said, “When you have a chance at the brass ring, you go for it.” If Learning to Live Again succeeded, I could fulfill the dream of writing books for the rest of my life. This was my big chance.
Richmond television initially was the best I could do on the road for hopeful success. Diana had spent much of our years together watching me write and rewrite expressing the belief her love for me was so great eventually my passion for another woman would be transmuted by her love for me. Thus far her belief seemed to be working. We were happily married. Through the day of press, radio, and television interviews Diana was by my side supporting me totally.
Then the human interest clip at the end of the evening news appeared. The story line went on about the fear of surviving cancer and how a woman’s love had helped me through it. Neither Diana nor I had realized the interview, filmed in a park, had included (after we thought it over) a shot of Diana and me romantically holding hands as we crossed a bucolic bridge. Yet there it was.
Diana and I were sitting at the bar. Several others were also watching the news. The cameraman was not as expert as one might hope. The clip ended as Diana and I holding hands suddenly disappearing as if Merlon, the magician, had said Poof. “Where’d they go?” some of drinkers asked each other who were as puzzled as we.
Diana is a proud woman. Mixing our romance with another was a bridge too far. Never again did she appear with me as I hustled the book. Was this a defining moment? It did not seem so at the time.
The book received good reviews but did not earn enough to repay the advance. I published another book. This time on agriculture policy. One does not receive the kind of advances required to pay the mortgage and support children from a book on agriculture policy. Instead, I had to return to speech writing and then become a technical writer.
As for our relationship, did it matter? We did have two children and remained together as a couple for twenty years. Much of the time a happy time. Did Richmond matter?
Diana marriage continues here:
Copyright © 2018 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.