Ruth Harrison, February 18, 2012

The Fitzgerald Theater

Saint Paul, MN


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Ruth Harrison

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TR (ANNC): And now, from the hushed reading room of the Herndon County Library, we bring you: Ruth Harrison, Reference Librarian.

(THEME)

(SS HUMS MERRILY, HOLE PUNCHER)

(FOOTSTEPS APPROACH)

SS: Yes? May I help you?

TR: I'm looking for books about heinous crime. Really heinous.

SS: Fiction or non-fiction?

TR: Well, I've tried non-fiction and it's just not heinous enough ----- I guess fiction, then.

SS: Well, can you be more specific about what sort of crime?

TR: I'm interested in heinous crime that's committed by very quiet, very polite, sort of weird people ----- you know ------- men who have no close personal relationships ------ men with a whole weird tormented inner life ------ and one day they just go berserk and bludgeon someone, or strangle them, or fill them with hot lead, and walk away cool as a cucumber and go home and there's Mother waiting for them with a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk, and she says, "Oh, Ellsworth, where did those blood stains on your shirt come from?" and he says, "It's only cranberry juice. I had a big glass of it." "Oh," she says, and she makes him take it off and put it in the washing machine to soak. And he eats the sandwich and ------

SS: Okay, I think I get the idea. A thriller, in other words. Not detective fiction.

TR: No. I want to read about the killer. And I want to see the crime. Lots of description. That's what I want.

SS: Well, the thrillers are down the basement, sir. Right down those dark stairs.

TR: Okay-----

SS: If you see my intern, Brent, he can show you where to find them. They're off in the corner.

TR: Okay. Thank you.

(FOOTSTEPS, DOOR CLOSE)

SS: Oh dear. I feel like I ought to have directed him to Henry James or Joseph Conrad, but it's not what he was looking for. Have to serve the patrons, not try to reform them.

TR (TEEN): What's wrong, Miss Harrison?

SS: Oh Brent, I'm just so confused.

TR (TEEN): I'm Trent, Miss Harrison.

SS: Oh you're right. Brent is the other one.

TR (TEEN): Right. I'm the new intern. I'm only 28. Brent is 37.

SS: I'm sorry.

TR (TEEN): Quite all right.

SS: In library school we were taught that the role of the library is to educate, to uplift----- not to cater to every whim---- like thrillers and all these vampire books ---- weird depraved creatures flying around sucking blood out of people's throats. And yet it's what people want.

GK: Hi Ruth.

SS: OH! You startled me. I didn't hear you.

GK: Sorry. Remember me? R.D. Ryder. Your old college classmate.

TR (TEEN): You mean---- R.D. Ryder, author of "Hello Moon"?

GK: Hey----- a fan-------

TR (TEEN): Hello moon, hello gloom. Hello shadows in the room. Hello darkness, hello drape, hello man with long black cape.

SS: How are you, Richard?

GK: Doing well, Ruth.

SS: I didn't see you come in.

GK: You were busy. ----You haven't changed a bit. How's it going?

SS: It's going. You're looking well. Haven't seen you in ages, but I read about you now and then. I should congratulate you. Your book's been on the best-seller list for 16 months. Your 14th Best-Seller in twenty years. Quite a record.

GK: Can't imagine you keeping track of best sellers, Ruth. I thought you were strictly a Jane Austen, Edith Wharton reader.

SS: Yes, I do keep going back to the classics. What do you read, R.D.?

GK: I don't. Don't have time to. Too busy writing.

SS: What a shame.

GK: Well, I used to read the classics and then I realized that they made me unhappy. Made me feel unsettled, skeptical, restless, frustrated with life. And then I discovered my calling. It's to scare people. People love to be scared.

SS: I suppose.

GK: All of that literary style that they taught us in school ---- wasted motion, Ruth. You just get the heroine into a flimsy dress and a deserted mansion and send the hero off on an errand and a bat flies in the window and it just sort of writes itself. And you earn an enormous amount of money and you get to live in the south of France. That's where I am heading now.

SS: Let me ask you, R.D.,... do you remember a roadhouse out in the country called the Sugar Shack?

GK: Vaguely, why?

SS: Do you remember taking a girl there dancing? In October 1966? On the back of a motorcycle?

GK: Ah, Ruth. Now it all comes back.

SS: You told me that I was the most special girl in the universe, and that one day you would marry me when you got back from the tour with your band ... Paroxysms of Dread?

GK: The band broke up a couple months later.

SS: Never mind Mr. Ryder. Just never mind.

GK: And I married Rosalie Carpenter, my first wife.

SS: Yes, I know.

GK: And then Miss Sorenson, my Swedish wife. And then Ellen and now----- just me and the limo parked outside.

SS: So what happened to all these wives, R.D.? Tell me the truth. We're old friends.

GK: Well, if you really want to know, Ruth ----- they got old. They got old and cautious and unhappy and I stayed youthful and ever the optimist and I kept running into women who shared my optimism and it was easier to be with them than with the old cranky wife and one night I just stayed out all night and didn't go home.

SS: And do you see any parallels between your life and your novels?

GK: What are we doing, Ruth? Writing a term paper?

SS: The man who keeps finding younger women, the man in the cape who is hung up on eternal life and seeks out fresh prey.

GK: Very facile, Ruth. But I don't buy it. ---- Mmmmm I like that necklace. Lovely work.

SS: Mr. Ryder---- what are you doing?

GK: Just looking at your necklace. Interesting stone. And your neck ----- very youthful looking for a woman your age. My compliments.

SS: Why are you putting your face down there?

GK: Just thinking, Ruth.

(FOOTSTEPS)

TR: So ----- I found a whole pile of terrific books by this Jenkins guy. J.F. Jenkins.

GK: J.F. Jenkins------

TR: Boy, I started reading this one ----- The Body in the Boudoir ----- and it gave me the creeps. Got so scared I had to come upstairs.

GK: J.F. Jenkins? You're going to read books by that fraud? That hack? You want to know what that man is like? Do you?

TR: Who are you?

GK: A former friend of his, that's who. The man is a liar and a cheat. He hires young women to write those books for him. He's a blight on the writing profession.

TR: Well, I like him a lot.

SS: Mr. Ryder----- please------

GK: You ignorant filthy peasant-----

TR: I like his style.

GK: Style!!!!!!!!

SS: Please. R.D.----- go------ now------

GK: You are not going to stand there and tell me that you read J.F. Jenkins for his style. The man has a tin ear for dialogue. Nothing he writes has any emotional resonance whatsoever.

TR: Well, I happen to like him a lot. I read a book of yours, by the way, and I got to page 3 and I slapped it shut and never went back.

SS: R.D.----- don't-----

TR: What are you doing? Let go of my tie. Hey----- (HE STRANGLES)

SS: R.D. ------ let go-------

GK: You want heinous crime, Mr. Smart Pants, here it is. Murder in the Library. Jenkins a stylist. Ha! Ha! You fiend. (CHOKING)

(THEME)

TR: From the hushed reading room of the Herndon County Library, Ruth Harrison, Reference Librarian.

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