I remember when I was first on the periphery of what I guess we could call my screenwriting career and some Hollywood dickhead asked me “What’s your quote?” He meant “what’s your rate, your fee, your market value” — all of which was zero at the time. But what I thought he was after was more akin to “Play it again, Sam,” or “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a fuck” — you know, a movie quote.
I mean that’s what people quote anyway — the movies.
Except, I have a new quote — and it’s not from the movies.
In fact, I hate where I got it.
It was the worst. It was a meme — you know, with an image of a sunset, the words hovering there, in all caps, over the shimmering sea as if belched directly from God, like some Wayne White word painting.
It reads: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
First off, fuck you, meme.
And you too, God.
And Wayne White — okay, you get a pass, but…
Fuck you to the person who didn’t credit the quote’s author, George Eliot (I looked it up). Which became its own wormhole, since everything I know about Eliot fits in two data points:
A) He was a she. Or, rather, she used a male nom de plume because women writers weren’t taken seriously in the 19th century.
B) She is not George Sand, who was also a 19th century writer and used her pseudonym for the same reasons. Also, names were just plain complicated for her, as she once wrote: “My name is not Marie-Aurore de Saxe, Marquise of Dudevant, as several of my biographers have asserted, but Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin.” And then she probably added, “Screw it, call me ‘George.’”
So, George Eliot writes “It’s never too late to be what you might have been” and a century and a half later, Rebecca Mead, in a New Yorker essay titled Middlemarch and Me tries to find the origin of the quotation, which she first read on a refrigerator magnet. Then Mead observes, “the sentence didn’t sound to me like anything George Eliot would say” and some literary sleuthing ensues. Spoiler alert — it’s made up. Probably by a refrigerator magnet scribe, who hopefully took her own advice and got out of the magnet business.
Which is good advice.
It’s not too late to be what you might have been.
What did you want to be? I wanted to be many things, too many things, surely. But the unified field theory always had art in the equation. I’m not entirely sure how that came to feel so far away until recently but I think it went like this: Art led to entertainment, which led to media, which will probably lead to memes if I’m not careful. I think I caught myself just in time, hence this public psychic striptease I’ve been conducting as I peel away a lifetime’s accumulated bullshit and become what I might have been.
And if you come across a Hollywood dickhead, tell him what happened to me, then tell him that the rights are tied up in with a refrigerator magnet. Then run far, far away and hide — maybe change your name to George? — and then become what you might have been. It’s not too late.