Thursday, June 19, 2008

Our Heroine Can't Decide: Will It Be The Best of Musicals Or The Worst of Musicals

They are bringing a musical version of A Tale of Two Cities to Broadway this August. What should I do? Should I see it? Do you think I will storm the stage in protest if Sydney Carton sings, "It is a far better thing that I do than I have ever done. It is a far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."? Maybe I will just feel depressed for days afterwards.

I feel this is like making a musical out of Oedipus Rex (saints preserve us!) or Macbeth. But then again, it is Dickens, and he is kind of like really good pop music. And this is my favorite Dickens novel (so far) on top of it all. I am tossed and turned on a sea of indecision. Someone tell me what to do!!!

Our Heroine Raises A Glass to St. Thomas, But Not With What You Think

Saint Thomas Aquinas once said (though I can't now find the reference) something along the lines of, "there is no sorrow on earth that a warm bath and some red wine can't alleviate a little."

I love Saint Thomas! He was so practical! But, in all seriousness, the Angelic Doctor did not have a 7-11 across the street from him the way I do, and thus he did not have 24 hour access to 32 ounce, ice cold, fountain Diet Cokes laced with lemon. Sweet cracker sandwich! There really is no trouble that those can't medicate. And that's really the only point of this post. I was simply meditating on the big, frosty, Diet Coke with lemon that I drank in Bryant Park earlier today and how happy and contented it made me feel. I wish that feeling for all of you! Go! Drink!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Our Heroine Utters A Literary "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?"

I am a soft-touch for book clubs. I am. I am always wanting to start them and I am always wanting to join them. And this has never worked out well for me. One day, I will recount for you readers the tragi-comedy that was my short-lived Homer Book Club just so you all understand how organized reading groups and I don't mix. I think I either get over-excited (as with my Homer book club) or I get seriously under-whelmed (as with most every other book club I've ever joined) and in neither case is the club experience enriched by my involvement.

All this by way of introduction to my most recent book club membership, the Freebird Books Post-Apocalyptic Movie and Book Club. It's a book club being run out of a little independent book store in Redhook, and the idea is we get together once a month to discuss a piece of Science Fiction set on some sort of post-apocalyptic Earth. We discuss themes, imagery, symbolism, plot structure, etc., over wine and cookies, and then we go next door to watch a movie, also post-apocalyptic, that has similar themes to the book. So far, so good.

The June discussion I can't attend because I'm out of town, so I thought I would get started on July's read, which is Dhalgren, by Samuel R. Delany.

Tonight, I curled up on my couch with a nice, lemony Diet Coke and my book and I read seven pages and put the book down and thought to myself, quite literally, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?"

What just happened to my protagonist? Was he just crouching in a shrub, and did he know... with an Asian lady who also happened to be a tree? And did he get dressed in a prism chain afterwards? And if so, huh? And did I actually read this line, "It is a city of inner discordances and retinal distortions."

Thoroughly confused, I decided to read the foreward by William Gibson to see if he could tell me what the heck this book was about, and this is what I read,

...Delany, equipped with the accumulated tool-kit of literary modernism, heads straight for the edges and borders and unacknowledged treaties of the consensual act of fiction. And, most remarkably - almost uniquely, in my experience - he succeeds; the text becomes something else...

Oh, golly. I hate when the text becomes something else. Mostly I just like it when it stays text.


I distrust few things more deeply than acts of literary explication.
Here is a book. Go inside.
It's your turn now.
Circular ruin.
Hall of mirrors.
Ring of flesh.
The smoldering outskirts reconfiguring with each step you take.
Remember me to them.

That's the foreword, dear readers. That's what I'm relying on to help clarify what I'm about to read. Now my head hurts.

Also, I think I learned that it's supposed to be a metaphor for the Sixties. Circular ruin, indeed. I don't think I want to read this anymore.

Am I wrong? Should I display austere self-discipline and finish the thing? Or should I wait to redeem myself in August, and in the meantime read some Wodehouse?
Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the hotel at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.

Our Heroine Has a Hopkins-Related Incident

Tonight, Father A. really pulled out the stops with his homily as far as I am concerned. And I may be asked never to attend St. B's ever again.

Father A. was wanting to stress that each of us has been chosen to perform a specific task in God's plan of salvation, and that feeling a failure at life doesn't mean we aren't doing a spectacularly successful job at the special thing it is that God wants us to do. To illustrate his point, Father A., with no warning whatsoever, whipped out Gerard Manley Hopkins. (Er...just to be clear, he didn't actually like, whip GMH out of his pocket or anything, I mean he just suddenly started talking about him.)

Y'all, here is a hint for future dealings with me: if you ever want to watch me cry big, wracking tears of grief, talk to me about Gerard Manley Hopkins. Do y'all know who he is? He was English, a Jesuit and tragic. Already I'm sniffly.

In truth he was a Victorian from a prominent English family, an Oxford bright, and, of course, an Anglican. While at Oxford, he Poped (yay!), was expelled because of it, and then, as if that wasn't bad enough, became a Jesuit and was disowned by his family.

He was a flop at all his priestly assignments, he spent much of his life battling great mental and spiritual anguish, and was generally considered by all (himself included) to be rather a failure at his vocation. He died young, of typhus, at 45. He's like the Catholic Rupert Brooke.

Anyhow, while he was alive he wrote poems for God, virtually unseen by anyone, and they are beautiful, and revolutionary in style and structure. Everyone agrees they are masterpieces. Everyone now. But Hopkins himself was never to know it.

I love that the kindly Father A. used him in the homily. It was his posthumous Father's Day gift to the lonely Jesuit poet who has become a spiritual father to so many people.

You can see why I was sobbing, most indelicately, in a Church with only 30 people in it? I don't think I can go back there.

I leave with your very own poem of Father Hopkins. Resquiat In Pacem.

Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things --
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced -- fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Speaking of spiritual fathers: Happy Father's Day, Monsignor H. and Father A.!

And, of course: Happy Father's Day to my own lovely Dad!