Priorities, rediscovered

By JENNY HALPER  |  June 19, 2008

…it’s kind of a publicly acceptable way of remaining in high school?
That’s about the emotionality of it. And since I’m not stuck there I have been known to be a bit short, and they love it. It’s the classic story of the paparazzi guy who follows you around till you flip him off. To me, the book gave me a chance to put it together in writing and talk about what I want to talk about. Publishing was never the aim. I’m not that kind of person, I don’t set a goal out and achieve it, I sort of put my foot in the river and see what happens.

You write about that in the Sheltering Sky section: “That which presented itself and was not fought back or negated by my fear.”
I was in this experimental program called the Smith System of Safe Driving. They took you out to a really difficult road for your first outing — we were in Laurel Canyon instead of a parking lot. So if you’re looking at a cliff on the side of a road, that’s where you’re gonna steer. If you’re afraid of something, you’ve driven yourself right into the ditch, as my husband would say. I’m trying to find compassion in my heart for George Bush before he leaves office. Because I think it’s the best thing a human being could do. Maybe he was really afraid of putting us in a ditch.

Now you examine marriage, the loss of your mother, and notions of celebrity in a really grounded way. When you write for the perspective of your more impulsive self twenty years ago, do you feel like you’re sorting out another person’s thoughts?
I don’t want to use any psychoanalytic terms so I’ll just use selfdom, even though it’s not a word. Sometimes you get to a certain age — especially if a lot of things have kept you from having a lot of reflective time. There were times in my life where things were moving so fast that there wasn’t time to keep it together, so sometimes I would behave badly — you see it all the time with early success. People get fractured. I think of myself as the same person. I would feel the split not by show business but by the accident. That was a very defining moment and I don’t know what my life would have been without it.

Debra Winger will discuss Undiscovered with poet and Rumi translator Coleman Barks on June 26, 7 pm at theRobert-Dubbs Auditorium, Brookline High School, Brookline, MA, 617-730-2700

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