Like the wandering and rascally Odysseus upon whom he models his life, Oliver Stone is “double-minded” in the most profound and illuminating ways. The title of his fantastic new memoir is a case in point. “One of the first basic lessons in filming,” he writes, “is chasing the light. Without it, you have nothing – no exposure that can be seen; even what you see with your naked eye needs to be shaped and enhanced by the light.”
For as a true artist living out a marriage between his writing and his filmmaking, his father and his mother, the warrior and the peacemaker, the domesticated and wild man, he has chosen a title that has a double meaning that is subtly woven like a thread through this labyrinthine tale. It takes the reader from his childhood through his service in Vietnam and his struggles as a writer and filmmaker up to 1987 and his great success with his powerful autobiographical film, Platoon, for which he received Oscars for Best Film and Best Director, among others.
Driven by a youthful urge to escape his internal demons first brought on by his mismatched parents’ divorce when he was fifteen, Stone dropped out of Yale, his father’s alma mater, where he had enrolled to fulfill his stockbroker father’s dream. He accepted an offer from a Catholic Church group to teach English-speaking high school students in Chalon, a suburb of Saigon, which he did for six months before traveling around southeast Asia. Back in Saigon, he joined the merchant marine and worked his way back to the states cleaning boilers, the lowest and dirtiest job on the ship. After a storm-tossed 37 days journey, he was cured of his desire to go to sea, a romantic fascination he had acquired from literature. The lesson: Books are not life, nor are movies – they are ways to shape and illuminate it.
Back in the states he threw himself into writing, his first love and the place where his “anxieties could be relieved” and where he felt he could confirm his independent existence separate from his parents. Through writing he could control his story. He wrote a novel called, “A Child’s Night Dream.”
He reentered Yale but only lasted a few months since his heart was not in the placid life of academia,