Liking What I Write

jockey

Sometimes I read an article I wrote, and I think, “I wish I had written that,” then it hits me that oh, wait. I did write that.

A case in point:

This morning someone left a comment on my post “Let It Ride,” telling me he was doing a podcast about the movie and wanted to know if I would like to join the discussion. Not remembering having ever written about the film, though it is one I like, I went back and read the post. The piece turned out to be not so much a rehashing of the movie (which the critics hated and apparently, so did the screenwriter, because she had her name removed from the credits), but a discussion of the philosophy of luck.

I generally do not like stories about gambling. They set my teeth on edge because of the inevitable slough of despair the character falls into when the addiction gets the better of him. Despite that, Let It Ride is one of my favorite movies, probably because although the story takes place at Hialeah amid the horse racing culture, it is not a movie about gambling. It’s the story of how the forces of the universe align to give Jay Trotter (Richard Dreyfuss) one perfect day, how he had the wisdom to recognize the gift, and how he had the courage to accept it. Not everyone accepted the gift. Even those who saw what was happening to him and were jealous, refused to follow his lead when he so generously offered to share the luck.

I think the part I liked most about that particular post was my summation: What does this philosophical vision of the movie teach me? Perhaps that luck — and life — should be taken as it comes, we should trust ourselves, and beyond that, we should just let it ride.

So, that was an example of something that I wish I’d written and had. On the other hand, there are a lot of things I read that I am very glad I didn’t write. The last book I read (or attempted to read) was a mystery written by a man from the point of view of an alcoholic woman journalist who kept sabotaging her life. It was a popular book, though I don’t know why. A writer struggling with alcoholism is such a trite theme; hundreds, if not thousands of books (though not a single one by me) have been written with that same generic character.

Another book I was glad I didn’t write was the one I read before that — a novel by a youngish white woman whose point-of-view characters were a flamboyant black woman and an old man (who turned out to be younger than I am). I thought such stories were no longer acceptable in a world where people don’t appreciate race appropriation.

I suppose I should be grateful that I like the things I write since there is so much writing out there that I don’t like. I also suppose I will follow through and email the guy about his podcast, though I’m not sure I’ll accept his offer. I really have nothing much more to say about the movie than what is already in this post and the one where he left his comment.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Let It Ride — The Philosophy of Luck

luckWe do not all see the same story even if we watch the same movie or read the same book because we each bring our own feelings and philosophies and perceptions to the experience. I’ve always known this, of course, but now that the internet allows everyone to be a critic, it’s becoming a lot more obvious.

For example, professional critics panned the movie Let It Ride, calling it disjointed and only sporadically funny. The screenwriter herself didn’t like it, and had her name removed in favor of a pseudonym. Nonprofessional critics — those who posted reviews on the Internet Movie Data Base — generally liked the movie. In fact, the majority thought it was one of the all-time most underrated films. Even people who hated it didn’t have much bad to say about it other than it was simplistic and predictable.

In their reviews, the nonprofessionals talked about the great cast, the humor, the gambling. They talked about it being a feel-good film and mentioned how great it was to see an underdog win. And they said fans of thoroughbred racing would love the film, calling it the best horse racing comedy ever.

All that might be true, but it does not reflect the movie I see. To me, the movie is a philosophical gem about luck, about recognizing luck when it makes an appearance, trusting the luck and having the courage to go where it takes you.

Trotter (Richard Dreyfuss) lucks into a hot tip on a race. He has a hundred dollars he’d stashed away for such an occasion, but instead of betting the whole thing, he shares it with the friend who gave him the tip, which makes me wonder about the nature of luck. If he hadn’t been so generous, propitiating the gods of chance with his generosity, would his luck have died right there? (Well, obviously, his luck would have been whatever the writer decided it was, but since this is my version of the movie, I tend to believe that originally luck might have given him a small nod, but his generosity made good luck smile on him.)

His friends and friends-for-the-day envied him his luck, but when he offered to pool his money with theirs and bet it all, they backed off. Although they recognized Trotter’s luck, they didn’t trust it. Or perhaps they simply didn’t have the courage to trust it. It’s this lack of follow-through on their part, this variation on the theme, that helps give the movie its depth, and keeps the story from being as simple as it seems.

One thing I especially like about this movie, and what helps earn its appellation of being simplistic, is that there is no third act where everything goes wrong. I hate such third acts, and the lack of one in this movie keeps the story focused on the premise of a guy courageous enough to trust his luck.

The philosophy of luck interests me. I’ve never considered myself lucky, but overall, I’m not sure I’m particularly unlucky, either. I am aware that much of success in life is luck — being in the right place at the right time, perhaps — but what I don’t know is if we can create luck. Lucky people say yes, and of course they would since lucky people seldom see themselves as lucky — they take their largess as their due, as payment for their work, and refuse to see that others have put in at least as much effort without getting the same results. Unlucky people say we can’t create luck — we are either lucky or we aren’t.

Some people don’t believe in luck — either good or bad — because they believe that we decide before we are born into this life what traumas and situations we will have to deal with in order to learn certain lessons. Perhaps that is true, but what do I know? I’m having a hard enough time negotiating the steep rocky path of this life without worrying about what might have come before or what will come after.

To confuse the issue of luck, perhaps there is a different kind of good fortune, a sort of negative luck that makes us lucky even if we don’t seem to be lucky. In one scene of Let It Ride, Trotter is mistakenly arrested before he can bet what he thinks is a hot tip. And the horse loses. So what seems like bad luck is actually good luck.

Considering my interest in the philosophy of luck, it makes sense, then, that I would see the luck theme in Let It Ride, where others would see merely the wonderful comedy, the great cast, or the racing aspects.

So what does this philosophical vision of the movie teach me? Perhaps that luck — and life — should be taken as it comes, we should trust ourselves, and beyond that, we should just let it ride.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+