Thursday, January 03, 2008

Arts, Briefly

I have just started reading FATHER OF THE BLUES, which is the autobiography of W.C. Handy. There is a lot of Messiaen-like appreciation of songbirds in the early portion of this fascinating book. Speaking of autobiographies, Jim Whorton recently finished G. Gordon Liddy's. I remarked to Whorton that my grandfather enjoyed the book when it came out, as I recall, and that on the playground at school everyone was excited about it because Mr. Liddy eats a rat in the book, and holds his hand over a flame. Yes, back in those days, kids on the playground talked about the autobiographies of shadowy political operatives. Whorton was able to confirm my secondhand memory of the book, and I quote: "Yep, that's the book. Liddy is clever because for example, he describes burning himself deliberately on several occasions, but he is always careful to downplay the pain and play up how shocking and frightening the people around him find it. I mean, I think that is clever or canny storytelling. He ate the rat in order to conquer his childhood fear of rats. That happens early, and then later in the book, when he is in prison after Watergate, some prisoners try to frighten him with a rat and they can't, because he used his will to overcome his rat fear as a boy." Meanwhile, Phil Oppenheim has moved on from Daniil Kharms to Robert Walser, ON MY RECOMMENDATION (!) because it seemed to me like the next logical step. I don't believe that Phil has taken my advice about anything ever before in history, and I do believe he regrets it somewhat. Here, allow me to quote Phil on the subject: "I'm working my way through some of his stories, and boy he sure got nutty towards the end. He's sort of a fellow traveller of Ford Maddox Ford and Hank Kimball's if you know what I mean. [I don't. - ed.] This line is giving me a (typical) headache: 'And I assure you, if it were up to me I'd hardly ever laugh.' One story (The Strange Girl) ended thus: 'I'm going to bed. Figure the story out for yourself if you like.'" Phil concludes by saying that he is not sure the headaches he receives from Walser are "the good kind or the bad kind." Just to tie up this portion of our "post" with a neat little ribbon, I would like to state for the record that Jim Whorton introduced me to the work of Robert Walser. Reading is a like a virus! A big, huggable, deadly virus! In other arts news, McNeil is practically beside himself with joy at the announcement that TCM will soon broadcast Otto Preminger's notorious but rarely witnessed psychedelic vaudeville debacle SKIDOO. (McNeil has "linked" to a scene from SKIDOO before; "click" for details.) To conclude, we apologize that today's edition of Arts, Briefly is not brief.