I’d already decided what I’d say to Nick Dunne if I ever met him. “Brilliant resurrection sir…well edited reprise.” I would also have tumbled out less well assembled words to express condolences about the murder of his daughter.
Dunne passed away in August 2009 after losing his battle with bladder cancer. The news of his passing was eclipsed, not surprisingly, by that of Senator Ted Kennedy. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who misses Nick Dunne. I have a low threshold for sycophants and suck ups…a limited desire or ability to play the social game…and zero capacity to watch any of the voyeuristic, base reality merde that so populates television these days. But I always enjoyed a little sprinkle of Dunne’s gossipy tidbits purveyed usually, in Vanity Fair.
I also love a resurrection story and Phoenix rising personifies Dunne’s journey. A Bronze Medal recipient (Battle of the Bulge), he went from being right in the thick of Hollywood’s elite to living shamefully alone in an Oregon cottage, driving a Ford Grenada after selling, literally, every material passion he owned—including his dog. One of his sons had to send him enough money to fly back East for the funeral of a family member.
I’ve had a low-point or two in the proverbial journey but there’s always, always someone who can trump your worst sob story. Get a copy of The Way We Lived Then to see Dunne’s photo chronicled story.
“He wrote assholes so well in his novels because at one time he was one.” I believe it was his son Griffin who commented similar. And one of the things I loved about Dunne was that he readily admitted it and was grateful for the proverbial second chance…an opportunity to be father, grandfather, writer and crusader for justice sans the asshole affectation.
But he didn’t cast aside his ante-crash and burn appetite for finery. Graydon Carter mentioned that Dunne always insisted on Claridges when in London and that his expense reports were turgid to say the least. And I say good on him for it.
I got acquainted with Dunne years ago during a summer-beach house reading jaunt. People Like Us coursed through the beach house and to a person, was read cover to cover. I’d just rolled off of Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and being the run on sentence dilettante that I am, enjoyed every Wolfian scrivened phrase. Dunne’s stuff was less well contrived but a hell of a lotta fun to read. I can assume that you literary snobs are thinking that the ADG Summer Wolfe-Dunne Comparative Literature class was at best, a decision regarding the tallest midget. So be it. I subsequently read everything Dunne wrote.
Dunne credited Tina Brown with providing him a ticket back to solvency and a platform from which to try his hand at novel writing. She realized that he was a trove of back stories and anecdotes from his Hollywood days and offered him his first shot at writing for Vanity Fair. And Graydon Carter continued the allegiance.
He wrote gossipy fluff in measured doses and he campaigned energetically for victims rights…fuelled by the experiences of his daughter’s farcical murder trial. Michael Skakel can thank Dunne to a fair degree, for his Moxley jail time.