“The great art of films does not consist in descriptive movement of
face and body, but in the movements of thought and soul transmitted
in a kind of intense isolation.”
Vague — that’s how I’d describe my recollections of Louise Brooks. Considered the original “It” girl, Louise became a film icon in the 1920s largely because of her daring “bobbed” hair, which signalled her independence and adventurous spirit. Show girl, dancer, silent film actress, call girl, salesgirl at Saks Fifth Avenue — and author! — Louise definitely had a checkered career.
I was inspired to glean these scattered facts about her after reading a review of The Chaperone, a new novel by Laura Moriarty. A creative writing teacher at the University of Kansas, Laura came to write her novel after reading a tantalizing tidbit, a “footnote,” about Louise’s teenage exodus from Kansas to New York City: “I knew her personality was very vibrant and that she was difficult, self-destructive in a lot of ways, smart and interesting. But when I had read she had left Wichita at 15 with a chaperone, I started thinking, ‘I wonder if I could write a novel about that.'”
How fascinating: to take a minor character in Louise’s larger-than-life life and build a book around her. I just love learning about the spark, the seed, that inspires a writer to devote countless hours to a story. How do we know when that spark is intense enough to be fanned into a full-blown literary flame — into a full-souled, big-hearted novel?
I’ve never forgotten reading that one of Faulkner’s novels was inspired by the image of a little girl up in a tree. How mysterious inspiration is! One quick glimpse of a girl creates a story; one passing reference to a once-forgotten woman who accompanied Louise Brooks to New York becomes a novel that sounds fresh and new.
Isn’t the imagination wonderful? Louise Brooks said she first learned about “the joy of creative effort” from watching her mother play the piano. Now another woman’s creativity is bringing Louise to life once again.