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This is my first restaurant meal with my father. I am between Daddy and Mother. I finger the thickness of the coarse white tablecloth and clink the empty glass with my fork. Mother frowns and shakes her head. The waitress, her dark hair a shining helmet, moves behind us to pour water. She spills a drop when she pours Daddy's, which seeps slowly on the cloth.
"Oh, pardon me. I'll get that right up." She dabs it with a napkin. She smells of roses and grease. Her fingers are poised around her pencil, pink nails curve at the ends.
"Ready to order?" When she approaches my father, her voice slides down just a little.
"What did you think of the White Sox?" he asks her. "Catch any night games?" He flashes her a broad smile.
"Whenever I can." Her laugh is slow and throaty and doesn't match her gentle voice. Daddy's eyes sweep her hips as she walked away. I see him watching her. And he looks away. She has a slender, tight body, while Mother's is lush.
She wets her lips. "Yeah. Well, I was supposed to go with my boyfriend, but..."
She taps her pencil point against her pad and raises her eyes to the ceiling.
"But:" Daddy pursues.
"He was rained out."
He laughs. "I have some tickets for tomorrow night's game."
"Lucky you." She raises one eyebrow. "Well, can I get you anything else?"
"No. We're fine for now," Mother replies.
Polly returns with our plates, sets down my turkey, the gravy with a grease slick on top. She slides Daddy's steak and potato from her arm. She bends at the knees to do it, leans closely over him.
"That was quick," he says.
"Well, I try to serve my customers well." Her voice is low and she says her words slowly.
"I might be able to you some tickets to a night game. Might have some right here." Daddy pats his gray suit pocket, checking inside his jacket. He pierces her with his black eyes, scans her. He is aware of here every movement, turn of phrase.
"Oh, yeah. My girlfriend loves the Sox, too." Polly flashes a smile. Her lips glisten a soft pink. "Oh, my next order's up." She winks at him and sashays away. His charm has won her over.
Daddy rests his hand on Mother's arm. His blunt tan fingers and sparse hairs are at home on her pale blue sweater. "Might as well make things fun," he says.
Mother flashes her casual smile and for a moment, I am swallowed by her warmth.
"Ah. My family," Daddy says.
The Story of Infidelity
I was thrilled when my agent sold infidelity to Macadam/Cage for the launch of their new publishing company. Pat Walsh and Dave Poindexter’s spirit-catching enthusiasm about their new publishing future quickened my exhilaration when they decided to make Infidelity the lead book of their inaugural season and pushed the pub date so that it could be released in nine months.
The time of a pregnancy, I thought.
Pat came to my house and fell in love with a picture of my mom, dad, and me when I was about three months old. The photo became the cover of the book. I took him dancing that night and I don’t know if he’s forgiven me yet for the pain in his legs!
And then, a few weeks before pub date, Pat called with his contagious excitement because Infidelity received a star review from Publisher’s Weekly.
I didn’t know the importance of this award and couldn’t fully share his zeal and optimism.
But it stimulated a forced auction for the paperback rights which sold to Gerald Howard at Broadway Books for the second highest sum that year after Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
Hodder and Stoughton bought the hardback and the paperback and published Infidelity in both the UK and Australia.
Lionsgate bought the movie rights.
I went on a terrific road tour arranged by Carol Fass which included a national tour from NYC to Portland, Oregon with TV, radio, and press and provoked articles in O, Elle, Entertainment Weekly, Good Living, Weekend. It was a thrilling tour because of the enthusiasm of the interviewers and the audiences. Adultery is such an important subject and part of 65% of all divorces.
Right before one TV appearance, Pat informed me Infidelity had been nominated for the Pulitzer and the National Book Award… of course I announced this on the program , live on-air, and even the host was geeked about this scoop.
For part of the tour in San Francisco, my daughter, Elizabeth Hinton, came along and thus met Dave, and enjoyed the publisher’s party as well as the tour, teasing me that I looked like a hyper weather girl after the make up man did his job before a TV appearance.
I had been called a “mediagenic author with a platform,” was versed in the politics of promotion and appeared on such national television as: “Oprah”, “Donahue,” “Sally Jesse Raphael,” and “Oxygen”, “Sonia Freedman,” for my previous books. For Infidelity, an article I wrote appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine (Oct. 2000) All together for Infidelity, I appeared on 51 radio programs, 11 Television programs, 24 print media and 5 Internet sites mentioning infidelity.
Broadway Books planned a second tour and the launch date was set for September 11, 2001. Broadway’s publicity director told me there was a huge display of my book already set up in the Barnes and Nobles in the World Trade Center.
I forgot all about the launch. I had delivered Elizabeth for her freshman year at NYU two weeks before the terrorist attack. In fact, it wasn’t until three or four days later, that I even remembered the book launch now part of the rubble of the World’s Trade Center.
Unfortunately the Broadway tour was limp. Book conferences were empty; authors were reluctant to fly for their presentations, and flights had been cancelled. One radio interviewer asked me, “When we’ve just been attacked by terrorists, why should we concerned about adultery?” My only answer: “Well, I guess when it’s happening to you, it feels like an attack on you and your family.” At a reading, only one person attended and it ended up a therapy session as she had just discovered her husband was having an affair.
However, in the UK and Australia there was much excitement about Infidelity. The U.K. Eve (July 2002) had a four page spread including pictures. Each country featured a cover article about my book, (in one case hiring a photographer to take pictures of me) in the Sunday magazine section of their largest newspaper. Good Weekend’s (Morning Herald Sept 2001) was 51/2 pages. Life’s the Observor Magazine was 6 full pages. Gerald Howard was thrilled! It was like being featured in the New York Times Magazine section. I did an international radio show with the BBC.
Years passed. I forgot about the movie deal. My kids complained about the publicity, especially in the Ann Arbor newspapers and magazines. I reassured them that the movie rights were about to expire and so no one needed to worry about more publicity.
But…. When I was in Mexico working on Inside the Crips and finishing up a scene of a riot in Corcoran prison yard, I hit an internet cafe and discovered an email from Pat. Lionsgate had exercised their option and the movie was in the works. In fact, shooting was scheduled in a month. Would I like to go to the set? Pat asked. Weirdly, the movie producers forgot it was a memoire and changed it quite a bit. Pat hadn’t read the script but when he finished it, he’d send it to me. He wanted to give me the heads up.
The next day, I received a long email from him. The producer set the movie in New Orleans, made my ex-husband white, changed all our namesI was now Kathrynand I was the one who committed adultery with a Latino Jazz musician! And most weirdly of all, I did not want to be a mother. Obviously it was not my book. They flipped it 180 degrees.
Pat enclosed the script as an attachment, but I couldn’t download it. I’d have to wait till I returned to the U.S.
I was surprised at my own lack of anger. Instead, I thought it was a huge irony. A movie about my life that was not my life. I didn’t feel annoyed about the fact that the character that was sort-of-me committed adultery. The irony was too perfect, almost funny. Women commit adultery almost as much as men. Maybe the movie would open up the discussion.
A few months later, right before Mardi Gras, I was in New Orleans in the Garden District on the set. I knew movies were collaborative art projects having done some work in theater and enjoyed seeing how they set the scene, how the very professional actors resettled themselves into their previous position to continue the scene.
As much as they changed the plot, they left one scene completely intact from the book: I am a child sitting by the window, watching the street for my Daddy to return home. The little girl who played me was super excited both by getting to be in a movie, and now meeting the author of the book and the character she was playing all grown up. For me, here was an actual scene from my childhood, and yet the adult character movie-me grew up to be so different than the real-me.
It was fun rewriting parts of the script, therapy scenes in particular.
I was saddened when I heard MacAdam/Cage had been swallowed up by the tremendous changes in publishing in the last decade. They did a fabulous job of launching writers, cherishing, and preserving writing, while developing and preserving a notable backlist. Pat and Dave were always encouraging and supportive, especially to new writers and unconventional styles. I was especially saddened when I read that Dave Poindexter died. Here’s a link to the blog I wrote about him.
And now, here we are again. At the start of a new adventure. I’m thrilled that Infidelity is getting a rebirth and eager to see what excitement and voyages this new edition will take us on.
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