The Way One Does

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My Lunches with Orson has the feel of a spectacularly candid series of ongoing conversations. Really, you just don't want them to end. They're the type of heart-to-heart discussions that you imagine yourself having with Welles, then going home to try to explain to your family and friends. Of course, it can be very difficult to remember everything just as it was.  

Documented over the course of the last two years of his life, you feel as if you're slowly moving behind the scenes. You're finally getting a glimpse at the real Orson Welles. Not only are his secrets revealed, you really want to order another nicoise salad, just to hear one more story. Anything to extend the conversation. 

Then, as you reach the end of the book, you realize that a single question has haunted you from the start. "Were these conversations staged?" Did Orson Welles, the director of F is for Fake, merely take us on a wild-goose chase? Can we truly believe what he, or anyone else, says? What is the status of these insights that we have just gleaned? Does it really matter? Can we take him at his word?

When he confesses - "I've realized that I've misquoted O'Hara all my life. He didn't say, 'This [Citizen Kane] is the best picture ever made. And the best picture that will ever be made.' He didn't say anything as good as that. I made it better…the way one does." - what's at work in these admissions?

As you turn to the epilogue, you immediately recognize that the same question accompanied his interlocutor(s). As Jaglom recalls, recounting their last lunch together, "For some reason I didn't have my little tape recorder on in my bag. I remember thinking as a I drove over that I'd done almost every lunch for a few years and I didn't feel I had to anymore. I remember wondering if he'd notice that it wasn't there, and what he would think it meant if he did."

You're left with the impression that Orson Welles really was a larger than life character. Or, at least that's what he wanted you to believe. It makes you wonder, the way one does.