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  • Writer's pictureJoe O'Connell

Betsy and the Prince

The Prince as Betsy knew him.

I haven't checked in for a while. Here's an update:

A million years ago, Andre Dubus was my writing mentor. He mentioned his admiration for Paula Fox, whom I've never really read until now. She was apparently rediscovered in the '90s. Somehow I was led to an interview with her. This stuck with me:

"I remember saying after I’d seen A Streetcar Named Desire, when it first opened, “It’s true all the way down, the people are true all the way down.” I didn’t know what I meant, and I don’t even know what I mean now but I think I mean what you’re talking about. There is a kind of central truth and if you get the central truth, and the motion of people, then the rest is implied. Henry James talks about this in The Art of Fiction. He writes about a woman writer he knew who ran up the stairs of a little French house in Paris, and on her way up she passed a room with a door open and inside there was a meeting going on of French Huguenots—this was in the nineteenth century—and they were smoking cigarettes and talking. She was only there for half a minute; she paused and then she went on. Two or three years later she wrote a book about the Huguenots, and everything in it, as Henry James said, was absolutely true. She just went from that one moment. Now, I was very careful not to tell my students to only write about what you know, because I couldn’t define what they knew. That’s where the question really begins. How to define what you know. And what she knew and sensed in that second was everything."

I'm thinking about this right now. It's Spring Break, so I'm getting some decent writing done. I'm expanding a lot the scenes between Betsy Ross and the Brazilian prince. I really skimmed this section in the first draft. I'm in the middle of writing a scene where Betsy is taken by the prince to the city of Petropolis (I love that) to meet his mother. The prince was actually raised in France and his mother is from Bohemia. Only his father, who died a few years prior, is a true Brazilian.

The mother is going to break them up and arrange for the prince to be transferred in his job to Egypt, where he will meet a royal widow and get married (All true). I'm about to write the confrontation between his mother and Betsy.

Wish me luck.

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