At first glance, what does it look like to you?
Sorry, I got distracted. Ann E. Dunwoody has just been named the first female four-star general!
I took my friend Kristen to see Spring Awakening this Friday. If you remember, I wrote about my desire to see it back in April. So I won't rehash here what I've written about it there, but instead tell you about my reactions to it.
I loved it. I wish I could have seen it again. It was a pretty minimalist show, no huge stage effects or gimmicks, which fit with the late 18th century setting of a strict, modest town in Germany. It would be easy to say that the play is just one big push for a sexual revolution, or at least sex education, and yes, it is. But it's also a hugely humanizing look at adolescence and discoveries of sexuality, both good and bad. The young performers did an incredible job and I was in awe of them. I totally recommend seeing the show if you can (it's on Broadway and on tour) and taking teenagers, even. Who knows how much stronger my reactions might have been if I were a teen when I experienced this show for the first time, though the feelings and confusion expressed are pretty universal.
My favorite songs follow with my favorite lyrics:
1) "My Junk"
See us, winter walking after a storm.
It's chill in the wind but it's warm in your arms.
The stop all snow line, may not be true.
We've all got our junk, and my junk is you.
2) "Touch Me"
Touch me-all silent.
Tell me-please-all is forgiven.
Consume my wine
Consume my mind
I'll tell you how, how the winds sigh...
Touch me-just try it.
Now, there-that's it-oh, God that's heaven.
I'll love your light
I'll love you right...
We'll wonder down where where the sins cry...
3) "The Word of Your Body"
Haven’t you heard the word – how I want you?
O, I’m gonna be wounded
O, I’m gonna be your wound
O, I’m gonna bruise you
O, you’re gonna be my bruise
4) "The Guilty Ones"
And now our bodies are the guilty ones –
Will fill every hour
Huge and dark
Oh our hearts
Will murmur the blues from on high
Then whisper some silver reply
5) "Left Behind"
The talks you never had,
the saturdays you never spent.
All the 'grown-up' places you never went.
And all of the crying you wouldn't understand.
You just let him cry, 'make a man out of him.'
A shadow passed, a shadow passed, yearning, yearning
For a fool it called a home.
All things he ever wished are left behind.
All the things his mama did to make him mind,
And how his dad had hoped he'd grow.
6) "Totally Fucked"
Yeah, you’re fucked all right – and all for spite
You can kiss your sorry ass goodbye
Totally fucked – will they mess you up?
Well you know they’re gonna try
7) "Those You've Known"
Now they’ll walk on my arm through the distant night
And I won’t let them stray from my heart
Through the wind, through the dark, through the winter light
I will read all their dreams to the stars
I’ll walk with them now
I’ll call on their names
I’ll see their thoughts are known
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that were apart
You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by
Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song
Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom
Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of loves refrain
With a library you are free, not confined by temporary political climates. It is the most democratic of institutions because no one - but no one at all - can tell you what to read and when and how. – Doris Lessing
I read today that the Twilight series was briefly banned from a middle school district in Orange county last Friday--just in time for Banned Book Week! According to the American Library Association, the week is meant to celebrate "the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met."
Some of my favorite banned/challenged books (source, source):
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (banned in certain school districts of Ohio and Texas in the 1970s for its several references to 'whores')
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (banned--oops, sorry I meant burned outside Christ Community Church in Alamagordo, New Mexico in 2001 along with other Tolkien books believed to be satanic)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
There are a lot more--be sure to read a banned book this week! Yay intellectual freedom!
Sorry I've been so negligent of my duties as a blogger who loves musicals. I recently went to see Phantom of the Opera at the Paramount. It was my second time to see it live, but I went with complete newbies who hadn't even seen the movie! The singing was superb, but I think all of us would have benefited from a libretto in our laps during the songs when everyone sings over everyone else (I'm looking at you "Notes.../ Prima Donna"). There's so much to learn and appreciate from the lyrics but it's impossible when it all sounds like gobbilty-gook. The Phantom was terrifying and sexy, and Christine was appropriately sweet and stubborn. "The Point of No Return" still tingles my spine like no other: "When will the blood begin to race/the sleeping bud burst into bloom/when will the flames at last consume us?"
Yesterday I saw the filmed last Broadway performance of RENT at my local movie theater. I have only seen the movie and listened to the OBC recording, so it was great to see songs that were missing from the film. So much of the show is sung rather than spoken, which I really prefer to the lyrics-turned-dialog of the film. It was a treat to see Tracie Thoms re-creating her film role of Joann onstage--though it made me miss the original cast that made it into the movie. I was blown away by the actors who played Mimi and Maureen--I soon forgot that their roles didn't originate with them and felt no need for comparisons.
The only less-than-perfect moment was the same moment that I dislike in the film: the end. Not the end-end, I love "Finale B", but the end when Mimi's dying, Roger sings "Your Eyes" and then she wakes up and talks about seeing Angel. First of all, I think "Your Eyes" might be the worst song in the entire show, so why it's at the end, I'm not sure. I would have preferred a reprise of "Without You" or "Goodbye Love", though I realize that the point is Roger writing a new song for her. And the way that she wakes up and starts talking about Angel seems almost laughable, and therefore inappropriate. And then Maureen is like, "Her fever's breaking" and it feels so unrealistic and cheap considering how we lost Angel--a song didn't save him. I can't get back into the story and get back "in it" until "Finale B" starts. I'm sad that the show has left Broadway, but it has yet to be retired--they're going to tour and be here in June. I'm curious about what a revival would look like--what would they update or change or re-imagine in the characters, scenery, choreography, etc.?
I also watched In the Good Old Summertime, an adorable Van Johnson/Judy Garland movie from 1949. Highly recommended, even though it isn't going to be one of my favorites. I'd only seen Van in Brigadoon, where he plays the cynical hunting partner of Gene Kelly. When he was the romantic lead in this film he sounded an awful lot like Jimmy Stewart, which is interesting considering Jimmy starred in his role in the original film with the same story-line, Shop Around the Corner (1940), nine years earlier.
And finally, I cannot stop listening to the Jane Eyre musical soundtrack. I've listened to it over and over and over again for hours daily but I have yet to get sick of it. I know that day will come, but for now it's wonderful to be so immersed in it and the story. With musical soundtracks, there's this point that I reach--and I think other people reach it too--where you've listened to it so much and poured over it and 'figured out' the songs to the point that it becomes a part of you--those songs fuse into your brain in a way that time and distance can't touch. I remember sun-bathing in my parent's backyard after seeing Phantom for the first time, and going through the songs with libretto, memorizing them and playing my favorite songs over and over on my disc man. Or when I ordered the RENT OBC soundtrack from my library and listened to the whole show while shelving books in the stacks, blown away by what I was hearing. And sure enough, when I revisited these scores again in the last week, I remembered almost every line, and waited breathlessly when I anticipated the joy I would experience as one of my favorite bits was about to be sung. And now it's happening with Jane Eyre--I want these songs to become a part of me, eager to share them with others. I just hope I get to see a stage version or movie of it someday!
Paul Newman died yesterday. Ever since I heard of him having health complications, I told people that when he died, I would have a Paul Newman party that would include watching his movies and eating all Newman's Own products. I'm sad that day came so soon.
Here they are, with the very few I've read in bold:
- The Lottery (and Other Stories), Shirley Jackson
- To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
- The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
- White Teeth, Zadie Smith
- The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
- Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
- Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
- The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
- Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
- The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
- Beloved, Toni Morrison
- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
- Like Life, Lorrie Moore
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
- Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
- The Delta of Venus, Anais Nin
- A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
- A Good Man Is Hard To Find (and Other Stories), Flannery O'Connor
- The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
- You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, Alice Walker
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
- To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
- Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
- Earthly Paradise, Colette
- Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
- Property, Valerie Martin
- Middlemarch, George Eliot
- Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
- The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
- Runaway, Alice Munro
- The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
- The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
- Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
- You Must Remember This, Joyce Carol Oates
- Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
- Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill
- The Liars' Club, Mary Karr
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith
- And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
- Bastard out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison
- The Secret History, Donna Tartt
- The Little Disturbances of Man, Grace Paley
- The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
- The Group, Mary McCarthy
- Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
- The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
- The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank
- Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
- Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag
- In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
- The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
- Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
- Three Junes, Julia Glass
- A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft
- Sophie's Choice, William Styron
- Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
- Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford
- Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
- The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
- The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
- The Face of War, Martha Gellhorn
- My Antonia, Willa Cather
- Love In The Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- The Harsh Voice, Rebecca West
- Spending, Mary Gordon
- The Lover, Marguerite Duras
- The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
- Tell Me a Riddle, Tillie Olsen
- Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
- Three Lives, Gertrude Stein
- Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
- I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
- Possession, A.S. Byatt
In real life I'm in no way drawn to motorcycles, but in Bruce Springsteen songs, they are one of the sexiest things ever. Which is why I would have loved to see him and the E Street Band close their Magic tour at the Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary Celebration in Milwaukee. He played his best road songs including "Glory days," "Born to Run" and "Thunder Road." According to Rolling Stone, "as the concert approached the three-hour mark, Springsteen asked guitarist Steven Van Zandt whether it was "quittin' time." It wasn't: Springsteen played for another half-hour, closing the night--and the tour--with a supercharged version of "Born to Be Wild." And to top it off, today he turns 59. Happy Birthday, Bruce!
(Image from backstreets.com)
In other Rolling Stone news, James Taylor is doing a covers album! And it includes the Oklahoma! opener "Oh What A Beautiful Morning"! There's a bright golden haze on the meadow...
"Dolphins. Do I even need to write another word? Oh, I know I do, but...dolphins, I had to write it again!"
There's a sweet review of A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle at Jezebel. I always preferred the books with Poly O'Keefe and Vicky Austin to Meg Murray, but I love them all dearly. This may be the young adult novel closest to my heart, if for no other reason than it was easier to understand and follow than the crazy time traveling in An Acceptable Time. After Madeleine died my first instinct was to go out and get a tattoo of Vicky riding Basil the dolphin. I might still do it someday.
"Like Vicky's minister grandfather, the dolphins advocate a unified theory of everything, one in which not only life and death are intertwined, but evil and good. But when Vicky, on the cusp of womanhood, tries to assert her new psychic powers with the dolphins with Adam to form their own unified theory, she is slapped back:
Without consciously realizing what I was doing, I turned my mind toward Adam. Do a cartwheel in the water, like Basil.I have always loved the part of this book where Leo tells Vicky how his parents made love after his own grandfather's death as an "affirmation of life" (it's not creepy, I swear), and it seems to sum up the entire thesis of this book—that sex and death are intertwangled with joy, which is, as Vicky's grandfather puts it, "the infallible sense of God in the universe.""
I held my breath.
Adam dove down. Up came his legs. Flip. Head and arms were out of the water. Just like Basil.
Adam, do you really think of me as nothing more than a child? I realize I'm naive and backward for my age in lots of ways, but I don't feel about you the way a child feels. I've never felt about anybody else the way I feel about you, touched in every part of me...Is it only my feelings? Doesn't it touch you at all?
He broke in, saying sharply, "Vicky, what are you doing?"
I could feel heat suffusing my face. "N—nothing."
Now he was shouting at me. "Don't do that!"
"Why? Why not?"
"Because—because—" He clamped his mouth shut. But he was telling without speaking. Because it's too intimate.
But I did it with the dolphins. Why was it all right with the dolphins?
And the answer came lapping gently into my mind like the water lapping about my body. Because this is how the dolphins are, all the time. They're able to live with this kind of intimacy and not be destroyed by it.
"I think it’s the most difficult thing to do as a film [but] it’s the Holy Grail if you can do it [right]. I would love to do a musical"
MADE AT A LITERARY
BY JOHN HODGMAN
- - - -
Every year, we wonder what might be appropriate on this day, and we can never think of anything more appropriate than this piece, which Mr. Hodgman originally delivered at a literary reading shortly after September 11, 2001.
- - - -
My name is John Hodgman. I am a former professional literary agent, which on a good day is a pretty small thing to be, and these days feels rather microscopic. Before I was a professional literary agent, I thought it would be a good idea to be a teacher of fiction in a college MFA program because it is easy and you are adored all the time and of course it pays a lot of money.
I used to have a lot of bright ideas.
I even had two lessons planned out, which, by all accounts from MFA programs that I've heard, is one more than you need. The first would address the comfort of storytelling. I would explain to my adoring students that stories hold power because they convey the illusion that life has purpose and direction. Where God is absent from the lives of all but the most blessed, the writer, of all people, replaces that ordering principle. Stories make sense when so much around us is senseless, and perhaps what makes them most comforting is that, while life goes on and pain goes on, stories do us the favor of ending.
Not a very original idea, but one that seemed more or less reasonable before something happened that showed us how perversely powerful stories can be when told into the ears of desperate and evil men, and showed as well how sadly challenged stories are in providing comfort now. What happened on Tuesday was enormous, sublime in the darkest sense of the word, so large as to overwhelm our ability to describe it, to sense it except in parts, and certainly to order it and make it make sense. In the immediate aftermath, we have only our very personal flash memories, but personalizing an event that has touched so many and so cruelly, announcing by byline our own survival, feels shamefully self-involved. To convert this experience into metaphor, into symbolic gesture, feels almost offensive when we are still pressed by such an urgent reality that is ongoing and uncontainable by words.
I have heard a lot recently about the role of writing, song, music, painting, in the tragic blank space in our souls that this event has left behind. Of course, this preoccupation is largely a result of an unconscious bias of the media. If pig farmers had as much currency with NPR as literary novelists, we would be hearing just as much about the healing power of bacon. And knowing that power well, I can say that it is certainly comparable to the reading of a sensitive short story as far as comfort goes; and yet both fall far below the direct aid that is being passed from person to person, below Chambers Street, in our homes, on the phone with strangers, with an actual touch, in the actual, nonsymbolic, unannotated world of grief in which we live. The great temptation is to be silent, forever, in sympathy.
The second lesson plan that I had in those days was a very lazy assessment of storytelling's function, beginning in the oral tradition, when it served a civic purpose aside from getting you invited to cocktail parties. As I would explain to my adoring students, storytelling served initially in every culture three purposes: to inform, as in relay news and record history, to instruct, as in pass down a set of moral guidelines, and to entertain. We are, as regards this event and its unfolding, all too well informed. And as for entertainment: when I thought this was a bright idea, it was when I was younger and war seemed so far away. But I realize now that those in history whose lives were short and mean and threatened by sword and disease gathered and told stories not as leisure, but as desperately needed distraction, and reassurance that they were not alone.
So if art cannot contain or describe this event, and if for now the suffering is too keen to be alleviated by parable ... if stories are for the moment not as critically needed, as courage, as medicine, as blood, as bacon, they can at least revert to this social function. As time goes on, this will all pass away into memory, into a story with a beginning and a middle and finally an end. And that transition from the real into fable will bring its own kind of comfort and pain. Now, though, we may gather and distract one another, take comfort in our proximity, and know that we are, at this moment, safe.
Not many of my ideas seem bright anymore, and I am not a teacher. I am only humbled: to be here, to be alive.
That is all.
Is kick-ass. It's possible when google-imaging that one gets art that isn't actually by the artist you searched for. If you see any non-Arthur Rackham illustrations here, do let me know. And to see one particularly lovely one, visit one of Bridget's posts on 8/22/08. Bridget herself is practically as close to a faerie as one can get.