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The Emails of Portia Nathaniel and Froderick Savior Johann

On the eve of two grand events — her directorial debut, his first book in a decade — the stunning actress and accomplished novelist virtually connect.

>> On Fri, July 1, 2016 at 2:39 PM, Froderick Savior Johann wrote:

I am devastated. I suppose keeping my email on GeoCities was a mistake, as I have lost all 14 years’ worth of our correspondence.

We met in the basement of a Lower East Side café in 2002, where we both discovered the beauty of vegan slam poetry. I sweatily hunted you down afterward and begged you for your email address. We have kept in contact ever since. Usually me who initiates. Just sayin’.

You recently directed your first film, “The Desolate Theory of Wonder,” about a boy growing up in his great uncle’s candle shop in 1920s Wales. But it is also about redemption, fertility, potatoes, haunted lamps, Spanish farming communities, ponytail holders with those little balls on them, and the feeling of having a cobweb hit you in the face in the garage at 6 o’clock in the morning. It is about all of those things, and less.

When it was suggested by myself that I write a piece about you, I knew I wouldn’t be able to hover quietly outside your bay window as I have so many times, so I thought a new email exchange would be a way to create a story — as well as show the world that We Are Friends.

>> On Sun, July 3, 2016 at 5:14 AM, Portia Nathaniel wrote:

Thank G-d our old email exchange is lost forever (and it must be, as I sure as h-ck didn’t keep my end of it, LOL). I’m certain in the early days of our correspondence I came across as insufferable, although beautiful. So. Yes. Let us start a conversation anew for the purpose of friendship, and publicity. I am attaching a picture of an aardvark in a tutu as a commentary on gender in politics.

>> On Sun, July 3, 2016 at 5:48 AM, Froderick Savior Johann wrote:

It is dawn. I can hear my children dreaming, or perhaps it’s the humming of the colony of ants I have hanging on the wall over my bed.

I watched your new film 12 times and each time found a new way to picture us together. I love so much about it — the way the colors are not black and white, how the people are humans, and the way it is not a book, nor a play, nor a non-movie.

Now for some questions, and please also answer these in the blue book I have provided. What is art? How do you feel you have arted? How does arting create more artistness? Do you ever see yourself leaving your husband?

>> On Fri, July 8, 2016 at 10:15 AM, Portia Nathaniel wrote:

Yesterday was my turn to choose a movie for Fun Family Night, so we watched a German documentary about ants. Did you know that “ants marching” translates to ameisen marschrieren? I am so enamored of that German phrase I am getting it tattooed on my inner thighs.

I remember in your first book you wrote “one can be and also not be at once” and I think that is one thing that can also be as well and not, if one can also be what one wants, and not, however “be” one is, and also isn’t.

More later? Craft Services just unpacked the fruit salad and I haven’t eaten in three days.

>> On Fri, July 8, 2016 at 10:39 AM, Froderick Savior Johann wrote:

It’s garbage day, Friday. Yesterday was Thursday. Today is Friday, Friday. Partyin’. We, we, we so excited. We so excited. We gonna have a ball today. Tomorrow is Saturday. And Sunday comes afterwards. Have you ever heard the music of Rebecca Black? It makes me think of suburbia, which I find quite funny.

I like to play a game with my children at dinner called the Thinking Box. If they can get a reaction out of me that they interpret as love, they get to choose a prize — such as a bowl of cottage cheese for dessert, an extra hour with their Latin studies, or a Werner Herzog movie marathon.

Do you have rituals? Do you think? Do you ever look at a picture of me and touch it gently with your fingertips? Also just wondering if you’ve thought about that whole leaving your husband thing.

>> On Sun, July 10, 2016 at 9:26 PM, Portia Nathaniel wrote:

I don’t really have rituals because I am a movie star, not a boring normie, ha ha.

Yesterday my son made prolonged eye contact with a bald eagle as we hiked up a mountain to gather wildflowers for the brunching table. That made me think.

My husband (have I not mentioned him yet?) and I had a crazy time out at dinner tonight! He ordered an entire horse stuffed with a smaller horse, stuffed with Gruyère, stuffed with a horse fetus, and I ordered 4 artichoke leaves and a side of air. You should have seen the waiter’s face — it was all so hilarious, because he is poor.

>> On Sun, July 10, 2016 at 9:49 PM, Froderick Savior Johann wrote:

My family and I are en route to vacation in the mountains of Kentucky, where we will spend the next 7 days foot racing, planting a harvest, and building a sustainable plumbing system. There is also a cave there that I fantasize about hiding in with you.

Do you ever think about my body pressed up against yours?

>> On Tue, July 12, 2016 at 8:46 PM, Portia Nathaniel wrote:

An ex used to call me “Factory Girl” because I was always covered in soot from sitting in the chimney. I would sit in there to yearn and desire and be and also I don’t like light or breathing. I spent years trying to look like those 90s “heroin chic” girls with the dead eyes and cheekbones that could slice a beating heart clean in half.

I have to go, as my son is currently expressing himself on the walls with his feces — I don’t wish to stop him, only offer words of encouragement.

>> On Tue, July 12, 2016 at 9:02 PM, Froderick Savior Johann wrote:

Still on vacation with the family. There are 48 of us here, 8 of us to a bed, and I was kicked awake by various cousins several times throughout the night. This morning we rose at 4:30 to hunt for wild boar (I’m no longer a vegan), and later we will play what I can only anticipate will be a fiercely competitive game of bocce on the east wheat field. The winner gets to skin the boar.

How do you view time? What do you love? Do you mind if I cut out pictures of your head from magazines and tape them over photos of my ex-wife?

>> On Thu, July 14, 2016 at 8:46 AM, Portia Nathaniel wrote:

I love acting because it doesn’t require thinking, and I love directing because it’s like being a mother. I like to think of my films as something I birth. I only wish there was a placenta to pickle. It’s delicious in salad.

I will write more later — my son is asking for a critique of his new symphony.

>> On Fri, July 15, 2016 at 2:46 AM, Froderick Savior Johann wrote:

After a court order was delivered by federal marshal to GeoCities (which was apparently deemed “unnecessary”), I was able to obtain some of our old correspondence. I have not been able to stop orgasming. Here is the earliest one:

>> On Thu, June 20, 2002 at 6:19 PM, Portia Nathaniel wrote:

Hello Froderick, it was nice to meet you the other day. Cool that you’re on GeoCities — that’s the hottest site on the ‘net. I was just sitting in the chimney, dreaming of someday being photographed for an article wearing a $1000 sweater while sitting pantless in a dingy room. That would be cool.

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