Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Frank Kermode said about Shakespeare: "To be able to devote one’s life to art without forgetting that art is frivolous is a tremendous achievement of personal character." And what about when John Ashbery said that poetry is good because of its impracticality? Plus how can we forget the Maine antiques dealer who said, "I think I’m more and more attracted to things that aren’t worth anything"? Let me add a composer I really like, Thomas Adès, who says in a book of interviews, "I have to make gratuitous things... which the philosophers can't explain." He says a lot of other aphoristic things, too! He's very aphoristic. I'd tell you more except I am teaching this book to my grad students next semester and I want to leave some surprises for them. Well, he says some things about Mahler I don't agree with at all, but he does praise Mahler when Mahler "embraces and celebrates the futility of his life and his music." I can get behind that! And then he says (still about Mahler) "good for him. Grand failures are preferable to sneaky successes, aren't they?" And that makes me think of something I have said on the "blog." I can't tell you more! We're reading DRACULA and WUTHERING HEIGHTS in my grad class too. And GLINDA OF OZ, which I haven't yet read, but I'm getting behind Laura Lippman's interpretation, so I am sure it will be a success. I was going to make them read THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ but the ending depressed me too much. (Spoilers here, nearly a century old, but still.) The Glass Cat with awesome brains like pink marbles is forced to exchange them for transparent brains. She becomes "humble" - ugh! - and boring, which in the world of the book is supposed to be a good thing. We all know it's not so. Well, I mean it's good to be humble, of course, but you don't have to be boring about it, and DO try to stop people from switching out your brains on a whim if at all possible. I am quite disturbed, also, by the political system of Oz. Magic is outlawed! You might think my ideas to be conservative. Am I against government regulation? Well, I guess so in this case! Only a certain few government-licensed employees of the state are allowed to practice magic in Oz. If magic spells are the guns of Oz, then Ozma has repealed the second amendment. On the other hand, if you think of magic as free speech (that's probably more like it - I guess!), then I am a true liberal, and Ozma is a censor. Either way it's not so kosher. The Patchwork Girl never did become "terrifyingly amoral" in my opinion, as Lippman promised. The closest she came was saying that she would gladly "kill a dozen useless butterflies" to help her friend. That was scary! But I guess "punk rock" is the best definition of her in my book. Finally, I should tell you that our annual Halloween film festival ended with a movie called TORMENTED, all about a jazz pianist practicing for Carnegie Hall (!) who accidentally (sort of, not really) lets his girlfriend ("Wow! Look at that brassiere!" exclaimed Dr. Theresa) fall off a lighthouse and then she's dead and a ghost! I particularly loved the scheming beatnik in TORMENTED and kept wondering where I had seen him before. Turns out that many years later he was the bartender ghost in THE SHINING! I learned that from imdb.