Meryl Streep: Talent Is A Sacrament

Tenn's bed, in the second-floor suite of the Royal Orleans Hotel, was a cluster of curiosities: notes, drawings, photographs, rough drafts of plays, poems, opening paragraphs. Among these many items were two pages of notes--on creased pages--about Meryl Streep, an actress who clearly fascinated him. Here are the notes, precisely as they were written or typed on those pages.

Talent is a sacrament, and one doled out by a miserly God, who understands that its worth is sustained by its rarity, and its value increases when the ecstasy it releases upon exposure is felt by those who understand and appreciate it--those who can recognize it.

I have searched for  faith, which people keep telling me is the greatest and rarest of gifts, but I see now that talent is the great gift, the pearl of great price, and a mean seductress, for you can only search for it in others: It will never arise from within you through faith or prayer or diligence. 

You either have talent or you don't.

Talent is not to be confused with genius. As rare as talent is--and it is--it is given to far more people. You find genius as often as you find a unicorn or a kind act offered without the expectation of a return.

Meryl Streep, I believe, has talent and she has genius.

She wears both well, another rare gift she possesses, along with her beauty and her humor. There would appear to be no threat of her being smothered or defeated or burdened by her gifts: The wonder of her wealth has made her almost modestly bewildered, confused, grateful, furtive. She understands that she is here to work, to learn, to prosper as a woman to a greater degree than as a commodity.

She has inhabited my world and invested my words with her intelligence--jewels thrown at my feet, but not with diffidence, but with that gratitude she displays before she runs away to begin her work anew. I hope she returns--her Alma would be transcendent; never has a beautiful woman played that sad, repressed piece of tapestry, who is not physically unprepossessing, but who is instead denied proper lighting and placement, and so does not recognize her worth and her appeal and her place. (Kevin Kline as John? One dreams.)

She will age into the most extraordinary Blanche, and when the softness of the flesh arrives, along with the realization of how rare her gifts and her time to enjoy them are bound to be, her Amanda would become that funny, heartbreaking vaudeville act that tries so hard to frighten away time and boredom and old age and bills due and affections withered.

She can stand in a park and perfectly transmit isolation and regret and sadness, and elevate a soap opera into something I can sit through again and again to witness her particular alchemy with the human heart--an organ that needs repair and magic and, like Alma, good lighting and placement.

Intelligence rests easy within her heart. This is so rare that it makes me sad to consider it.

I have had snatches of her type of genius in my life and in my works--but merely snatches, like a line of Conrad in the bustle of the subway. Meryl Streep offers her genius in large bolts, and extends them across whatever she does, and the reward to her seems to be the offering, the giving.

This is a mess and a dream and a confession. I do not know what to make of it or what to do with it.

Ultimately, it is all I have at this time to offer to her, and I give it fulsomely.

It is thanks. It is the gift I currently have.

© 2012 James Grissom


  1. Not sure if you have a Follies of God Pinterest board but you should----pinners would adore these fab photos that accompany these digestible in-one-bite fabulous vignettes!


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