When Urania was young/ All thought her heavenly/ With age her eyes grow larger/ But her form unmaidenly

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Dreams, Waking and Sleeping

We had dinner with old friends, a teacher-turned-merchant sailor and teacher-turned-Jungian dream analyst, husband and wife. Maybe this Keats/Williams stew continues to simmer, but the question amid all my usual questions to Tony that felt to me to have weight was this: "You're a sailor on the Pacific run - aside from the layers of Earth itself and its atmosphere, that's the largest single thing on the planet. There's a long tradition of romance and awe about the sea. Do you or any of your men (he's first mate testing for captain) feel that?

"No, we have all sorts of people on the crew, from intellectuals to members of the deck crew who once complained there were too many choices on the mess menu. All of them think it of it as a job, 21 days on and 21 days off. 65% of our cargo is for Walmarts. When a 40 foot following sea gives us nothing more than a 20 second roll, when the email comes in every day and there's a satellite phone right there, it's just not Man Versus Nature anymore."
"Ah," I said, "But I would suppose there's always Man versus Management."

Tony built his own house, with a tower for the entry way, originally for his first wife (he's a widower) to use for a sewing room, perched about the great room, now an office where he's learning to Mac movies. His daughter does avant-garde textile installations and his son is a wacky musician in Hawaii organizing an "I'm ashamed I am American" theme band tour to Europe. This was his answer. Now thinking that the old theory might be right, that a sense of the sacred only comes from a sense of mortal peril. I guess that's why love still fits, that love is still romantic.

He also told a story about talking to his 91 year old father, who seemed to be shutting down. "Dad, do you still have dreams?" "Nah, I'm too old for that." Tony berated him, then was berated in turn when he revealed that his dream was to be an airline pilot, but that he had given up," "But you're so young -- 56 is nothing."

And when Marilyn talked about dreams (and I showed her an account of one of mine), I could hear the echo of a description of the Jungian mineset as swimming in a world-sea of symbols.

If she reads this far, I want to confide to Eliste (or Enkeli!) that last night one of my dreams last night was receiving a promotional video from your alma mater that proudly stated that Ron "Opie" Howard was the prototype of its students since the mid-seventies. Thank God Marilyn wasn't around this morning to archetype THAT one.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

"The world is ugly/and the people are sad."

Hadn't made the connection between "Gubbinal" and "Ode to a Grecian Urn" before. Anyway, having my own truth/beauty problem right now, but probably because I'm just a slave to my blood chemistry, and we're having a wee crash this morning. Thinking about pretty stories, noble characters and redemptive endings. I'm not cynical enough to think they can't happen in life, but wondering whether presenting a freak lottery winner as someone who simply made a wise investment wouldn't be a disservice. Mind candy, reader's crack, opium of the literate.

On the other hand, as John once pointed out, turning down the painkillers doesn't hurt them any.

Monday, August 09, 2004


"...never you go trailing after a Stuart, not one step. The best of them love their dreams, the worst of them love none but themselves, but no Stuart born cares for you, or for me, or for any of the poor fools who love them."

Not just the writing this time, although that's fine too. I would that this sentiment was expressed at least once in every book ever written, including math primers. Because leaders or would-be leaders - Stuarts all, in my book."

Sunday, August 08, 2004

More Peter Beagle Blather

So, reading Tamsin, on a day of early-spring cool and freshness. Supernatural blah-blah - and a hundred pages in before we see a ghost - and then it's only of a cat, though eerie enough. And he has to write like a teenage girl, who's trying to remember herself as an even younger teenage girl, and so doubly loses the opportunity to use all the verbal pyrotechnics he would otherwise be able to use. But no in media res - no real suspense, since there's ample evidence that things have gone well for the protagonist and all her loved ones since the events that will be related. Remember: all the calls for action immediately, for the magic to appear early, big-bang openings. These are all commercial decisions, not aethetics one. Not to say they're wrong, but nobody carried them down the mountain inscribed on stone tablets.

And a shot of description, from the first sight of the old English manor which will be the setting: "And I remember the windows. There were so many of them - round and long and square and pointy - and because the sun was slanting down behind us, all those windows were blazing up as though the house was full of fire, you couldn't look straight at it. There was one small, sharp window on the third floor that didn't reflect the sun at all. It looked absolutely black, surrounded by all those others, like a hole in the sky, with the darkness of space showing through."

Look at what you can do, even with a first person narrator with limited skills herself - look at "pointy," "full of fire," a full-on comma splice, and - the best a "sharp window" - that last with a total suspension of literal meaning of "sharp" but the hint of menace is not lost - dangerous!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Cyrano de Bergerac

The American inability to honestly see and discuss power pisses me off.

Cyrano de Bergerac has two chief propulsive factors: the love triangle and great soul/fair face dichotomy; and Cyrano's struggle against the powerful. They're equally important. The loathesome Steve Martin/Daryl Hannah vehicle "Roxanne" strips out the second completely - which aesthetically reminds me of the first French edition of Anna Karenina which omitted huge sections of the Kitty/Levin story; and morally of a certain British productions of (1) Pride and Prejudice, wherein Lady Catherine really intended to push Darcy and Elizabeth together and (2) of Prince and the Pauper, which reduced Twain's commners into buffoons. Yes, those well-meaning aristocrats and their understandable allergy to the lower orders. So Americans get Cyrano as a problem for the plastic surgeons apparently - or, at most, NOT for the plastic surgeons.

That's not a blindspot for French writers. That's not how Stendhal or Balzac or Hugo worked. My favorite example is Beaumarchais - we think of the Barber of Seville if, at all, in the operatic versions . That stuff was revolutionary at the time - Figaro's class and station was the point of his victory.

It's interesting that even if the relatively faithful (but in verse!) and superbly acted version I just saw missed a couple of power points. Although it didn't completely screw with the play by conflating Ragueneau and Le Bret, as another version I saw did, there were two small changes I noted: one, it did combine Le Bret and Captain Carbon, making Cyrano's military superior also his best friend (tin ear the the power matter); and it deleted the introduction to Christian of the Cadets, with the ironic exchange. "You are all barons!" "All!" Americans don't think that was important - it was. (Unlike this versiions combination of Ragueneau and Ligniere, the only problem of which is that R. was supposed to be a rotten poet, and Ligniere presumably gifted enough to provoke attempted murder, and it is good to make that distinction rather than Cyrano rather bizarrely assuring R. that he really IS a poet. Shades of the self-esteem world!)

One of the most interesting aspects of this is that Cyrano's interesting relationship with Roxanne is completely irrelevant to the attack that causes his death - this is the denouement of his constant struggle with the Powers-That-Be., although his determination to make it to Roxanne despite the attack was the immediate cause. Anyway - two equal themes.

Other notes: dumbing down the play (making the wit/psychological points more obvious) wasn't so bad, except for the execrable (and even symbolically incomplete) rendition of the final line; "My panache!" My panache?????

I made it to the fifth act before tearing up. One of our party who will remain nameless (but to whose jeans a reference was made previously in this journal) made it only as far as "The feast of Lazarus..." in the Third. Callous me.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

The Glass Menagerie

I didn't think it was possible to be surprised by a Tennessee Williams play at this late date - but it is, and I need to remind myself in the future that with art of even middling ambition, it is always possible to be surprised.

We were laughing and it was cruel. So many ways to look at it: we as an audience managed to reach the proper detachment Nietzsche suggested for readers of Don Quixote - with nothing but derision for the hero: no admiration, no identification, no resonance. Of course, somehow I can't imagine good Nietzsche was imagining the well-fed crowd American at a typical Kennedy Center production, but perhaps that was his own myopia - perhaps you don't need to transit all that great Goat's Song searching to become an Ubermesch. Maybe Donald Trump really is the Blond Beast.

I think I was sandbagged by having seen it only in a television production, which - since it brought us in its typical close-up manner face-to-face with the protagonists and wasn't callous/bold enough to use a laugh track - inevitably stressed the pathos of it all, of the poor crippled girl, her longing and her blank future. Because the play is funny, and that leaves the final monologue oddly suspended - how do we connect back in through the humor, back to the odd quality of emptiness.

And maybe I'm thinking about it now. Laura, with her unicorn and music, has a new life - and Tom too, still "Shakespeare,: still unpublished - or maybe, humorously, "e-published", still scribbling. Despite her poverty and shyness, she's a blogger, and a chatter, and a surfer. Her life is simultaneously more exposed - an exemplar of these netizens, with their fibro and geekiness and financial challenges - her world is richer, and not nearly so lonely. But that tenement apartment has a big window now, through which the Paradise patrons can watch what goes on around the Glass Menagerie, in the unlikely event they are so inclined.

Derision? Pathos? Indifference? Where am I on this?