24 July 2007

silence, exile, not so much cunning

I have another week of minimal computer access, so to tide you over here are some bon mots from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

- Perhaps they had taken refuge in number and noise from the secret dread in their souls.

- If we must have a Jesus, let us have a legitimate Jesus.

- We are right, he said, and the others are wrong. To speak of these things and to try to understand their nature and, having understood it, to try slowly and humbly and constantly to express, to press out again, from the gross earth or what it brings forth, from sound and shape and color which are the prison gates of our soul, an image of the beauty we have come to understand -- that is art.

See ya in 7!

06 July 2007


Most holidays are so much better in theory than in practice, and the Fourth of July is second only to New Year’s Eve as the perfect example. I spent this one as usual, panicking that some moron with totally illegal fireworks was going to burn my house down, and once you realize that in America these days you can take that statement both literally and metaphorically you understand why I just get disgusted and depressed on the glorious Fourth. (Happy Independence Day, Scooter Libby!) Plus I had to devote a lot of energy to avoiding all sight and sound of the hot-dog eating contest that was dominating news coverage (of course, it’s not as if we’re in a tragically misguided war or anything like that, or sacrificing anything but our civil liberties), in which some American with a name like a minor hit man on the Sopranos reclaimed the speed-eating title from the Japanese man who held it, for which triumph he was wrapped in an American flag. Eating contests disgust me on such a visceral level, are so obscene and immoral in a world of starving people, that I can barely stomach even still pictures. We used to be able to boast of having a government that, you know, considered torture inappropriate for a free nation. Now we’re filled with star-spangled pride that someone could stuff his face faster than someone else. In this country, you can be both obese and malnourished.

And I was also remembering that it was a year ago that I heard with such sorrow that Lorraine Hunt Lieberson died, much too young, and as I was pondering that I heard that Beverly Sills had just died. I never heard her live, so I didn’t have the personal concert-going connection that I had with Hunt Lieberson, but I first heard many operas on her recordings, back when we used to buy things on cassette tape, and there was one in particular in which her cry of “il fantasma!” just burned through me. (I think it was Lucia di Lammermoor, but the great thing about opera is that there are any number of them in which the line “il fantasma!” would fit right in as a logical part of the story.) You just had the feeling that no matter how old she was she still could have kept on giving. What a loss, and what sad times all around. I’m thinking about these two great women whose stories are so different but both so very American, American in a way that I can only hope once again becomes what we mean by “American”: open, independent-minded, strong without bullying, and so very generous in heart and hand and soul.

P.S. I will have only irregular computer access this month, so updating will be a bit sporadic.