You tried

Charles 5 Comments

One for you celebrants.

In a deceptively ‘unclever’ eulogy for James Gandolfini, David Chase, creator and head writer of the Sopranos, offered this thought about the subordinate value of coherence  in speechmaking:

I remember how you [Gandolfini] did speeches. I saw you do a lot of them at awards shows and stuff, and invariably you would scratch two or three thoughts on a sheet of paper and put it in your pocket, and then not really refer to it. And consequently, a lot of your speeches didn’t make sense. I think that could happen in here, except in your case, it didn’t matter that it didn’t make sense, because the feeling was real. The feeling was real. The feeling was real. I can’t say that enough.

He addressed, tacitly, the darker side of Gandolfini:

The paradox about you as a man is that I always felt personally, that with you, I was seeing a young boy. A boy about Michael’s age right now.  Because you were very boyish. And about the age when humankind, and life on the planet are really opening up and putting on a show, really revealing themselves in all their beautiful and horrible glory. And I saw you as a boy – as a sad boy, amazed and confused and loving and amazed by all that.

In pursuit of this idea, Chase understands the illustrative value of an anecdote.

We were on the set shooting a scene with Stevie Van Zandt, and I think the set-up was that Tony had received news of the death of someone, and it was inconvenient for him. And it said, ‘Tony opens the refrigerator door, closes it and he starts to speak.’ And the cameras rolled, and you opened the refrigerator door, and you slammed it really hard — you slammed it hard enough that it came open again. And so then you slammed it again, then it came open again. You kept slamming it and slamming it and slamming it and slamming it and went apes*** on that refrigerator … And I remember telling you, ‘Did I tell you to destroy the refrigerator? Did it say anywhere in the script, “Tony destroys a refrigerator?” It says “Tony angrily shuts the refrigerator door.”That’s what it says. You destroyed the fridge.’
… … …

You tried and you tried, more than most of us, and harder than most of us, and sometimes you tried too hard. That refrigerator is one example. Sometimes, your efforts were at cost to you and others, but you tried.

Abridged version of the whole eulogy here


  1. Charles

    Bang right, ‘the feeling has to be real’ It’s a good Eulogy too – but it’s also a good illustration of the difference between the words that a friend or family member can use and the words appropriate to the jobbing celebrant. We can’t pretend to their intimacy and IMHO shouldn’t try.
    Of course that doesn’t mean we always have to make sense either.

  2. Charles

    A lovely piece of writing and a great reminder of the universality of a good eulogy, whether it ‘makes sense’ or not.

  3. Charles

    A eulogy has to be good, and for me Vale’s guidance with regard to presumed intimacy is important. Though I feel we always have to make some kind of sense, even if it is symbolic, verbally inexpressible, mysterious even.

  4. Charles

    A fine and moving example of using the flaw(s) in a person as a keyhole into a heartbreaking glimpse of their inner world.
    It is clever to do this subtly and potently well, a hammer in the velveteen glove of an anecdote.
    Thank you GFG.

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