"Keep going. I like your anger."
"But you know all this. This is why you travel a million miles photographing writers. Because we're giving way to terror, to news of terror, to tape recorders and cameras, to radios, to bombs stashed in radios. News of disaster is the only narrative people need. The darker the news, the grander the narrative. News is the last addiction before-what? I don't know. But you're smart to trap us in your camera before we disappear."
"I'm the one they're trying to kill. You're sitting in a room making theories."
"Put us in a museum and charge admission."
"Writers will always write. Are you crazy? Writers have long-range influence. You can't talk about these gunmen in the same breath. I have to steal another cigarette. You're no good for me, this is obvious. You have a look on your face, I don't know, like a bad actor doing weariness of the spirit."
"I am a bad actor."
"Not for me or my camera. I see the person, not some idea he wants to make himself into."
"I'm all idea today."
"I definitely don't see it."
"I'm playing the idea of death. Look closely," he said.
She didn't know whether she was supposed to find this funny.
He said, "Something about the occasion makes me think I'm at my own wake. Sitting for a picture is morbid business. A portrait doesn't begin to mean anything until the subject is dead. This is the whole point. We're doing this to create a kind of sentimental past for people in the decades to come. It's their past, their history we're inventing here. And it's not how I look now that matters. It's how I'll look in twenty-five years as clothing and faces change, as photographs change. The deeper I pass into death, the more powerful my picture becomes. Isn't this why picture-taking is so ceremonial? It's like a wake. And I'm the actor made up for the laying-out."
"Close your mouth."
"Remember they used to say, This is the first day of the rest of your life. It struck me just last night these pictures are the announcement of my dying."
"Close your mouth. Good, good, good, good."
She finished the roll, reloaded, reached for her cigarette, took a drag, put it down, then moved toward him and touched a hand to his face, tilting it slightly left.
"Stay now. Don't move. I like that."
"See, anything you want. I do it at once."
"Touching Bill Gray."
"Do you realize what an intimate thing we're doing?"
"It's in my memoirs, guaranteed. And you're not cloddish by the way."
"We're alone in a room involved in this mysterious exchange. What am I giving up to you? And what are you investing me with, or stealing from me? How are you changing me? I can feel the change like some current just under the skin. Are you making me up as you go along? Am I mimicking myself? And when did women start photographing men in the first place?"
"I'll look it up when I get home."
"We're getting on extremely well."
"Now that we've changed the subject."
"I'm losing a morning's work without remorse."
"That's not the only thing you're losing. Don't forget, from the moment your picture appears you'll be expected to look just like it. And if you meet people somewhere, they will absolutely question your right to look different from your picture."
"I've become someone's material. Yours, Brita. There's the life and there's the consumer event. Everything around us tends to channel our lives toward some final reality in print or on film. Two lovers quarrel in the back of a taxi and a question becomes implicit in the event. Who will write the book and who will play the lovers in the movie? Everything seeks its own heightened version. Or put it this way. Nothing happens until it's consumed. Or put it this way. Nature has given way to aura. A man cuts himself shaving and someone is signed up to write the biography of the cut. All the material in every life is channeled into the glow. Here I am in your lens. Already I see myself differently. Twice over or once removed."
"And you may think of yourself differently as well. It's interesting how deep a picture takes you. You may see something you thought you'd kept hidden. Or some aspect of your mother or father or children. There it is. You pick up a snapshot and there's your face in half shadow but it's really your father looking back at you."
"You're preparing the body all right."
"Chemicals and paper, that's all it is."
"Rouging my cheeks. Waxing my hands and lips. But when I'm really dead, they'll think of me as living in your picture."
"I was in Chile last year and I met an editor who'd been sent to prison after his magazine did caricatures of General Pinochet. The charge was assassinating the image of the general."
"Sounds perfectly reasonable."
"Are you losing interest? Because I sometimes don't realize the way a session becomes mine. I get very possessive at a certain point. I'm easy and agreeable on the edges of the operation. But at the heart, in the frame, it's mine."
"I think I need these pictures more than you do. To break down the monolith I've built. I'm afraid to go anywhere, even the seedy diner in the nearest little crossroads town. I'm convinced the serious trackers are moving in with their mobile phones and zoom lenses. Once you choose this life, you understand what it's like to exist in a state of constant religious observance. There are no halfway measures. All the movements we make are ritual movements. Everything we do that isn't directly centered on work revolves around concealment, seclusion, ways of evasion. Scott works out the routes of simple trips I occasionally make, like doctor's visits. There are procedures for people coming to the house. Repairmen, deliverymen. It's an irrational way of life that has a powerful inner logic. The way religion takes over a life. The way disease takes over a life. There's a force that's totally independent of my conscious choices. And it's an angry grudging force. Maybe I don't want to feel the things other people feel. I have my own cosmology of pain.
Leave me alone with it. Don't stare at me, don't ask me to sign copies of my books, don't point me out on the street, don't creep up on me with a tape recorder clipped to your belt. Most of all don't take my picture. I've paid a terrible price for this wretched hiding. And I'm sick of it finally."
He spoke quietly, looking away from her. He gave the impression he was learning these things for the first time, hearing them at last. How strange they sounded. He couldn't understand how any of it had happened, how a young man, inexperienced, wary of the machinery of gloss and distortion, protective of his work and very shy and slightly self-romanticizing, could find himself all these years later trapped in his own massive stillness.
"Are you fading at all?"
"I forget how weary all this concentrated effort can make a person. I have no conscience when it comes to work. I expect the subject to be as single-minded as I am."
"This isn't work for me."
"We make pictures together after all."
"Work is what I do to feel bad."
"Why should anyone feel good?"
"Exactly. When I was a kid I used to announce ballgames to myself. I sat in a room and made up the games and described the play-by-play out loud. I was the players, the announcer, the crowd, the listening audience and the radio. There hasn't been a moment since those days when I've felt nearly so good."
He had a smoker's laugh, cracked and graveled.
"I remember the names of all those players, the positions they played, their spots in the batting order. I do batting orders in my head all the time. And I've been trying to write toward that kind of innocence ever since. The pure game of making up. You sit there suspended in a perfect clarity of invention. There's no separation between you and the players and the room and the field. Everything is seamless and transparent. And it's completely spontaneous. It's the lost game of self, without doubt or fear."