Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero and the ‘Hidden Presence of Others’

Michael Ondaatje‘s Divisadero is a wise book, elliptical and allusive in his distinctive style, one replaying close, attentive reading to its many lovely, lyrical lines, too many to excerpt and note. Here is one that hones in on a truth already known to those who create: Everything is biographical…What we make, why it is made,Continue reading “Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero and the ‘Hidden Presence of Others’”

The Conformist Non-Conformist

In yesterday’s post I had quoted W. H. Auden‘s review of  David Luke‘s translation of Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kröger and Other Stories in responding to his acid assessment of a reductionist impulse in art criticism.  Today, I quote him again, on a topic that is of similarly perennial interest, the problem of conformism as a hallmark of non-conformity:Continue reading “The Conformist Non-Conformist”

The Laziness of Reductionist Analyses

In his review of David Luke‘s translation of Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kröger and Other Stories W. H. Auden wrote, Polar opposites as in appearance they look, the two literary doctrines of Naturalism and Art-for-Art’s-Sake, as propounded by Zola and Mallarmé, are really both expressions of the same megalomania. The aesthete is, at least, frank aboutContinue reading “The Laziness of Reductionist Analyses”

My Father’s Record Collection

Among the many seeming treasures I left behind in India when I migrated to the US in 1987 was my father’s vinyl record collection. It contained the music I grew up with, played on a turntable, piped through a Phillips amplifier, and then, finally, emitted through a pair of custom-made speakers. The collection was eclecticContinue reading “My Father’s Record Collection”

Bert Williams and the (Funny) Sadness of Clowns

WC Fields described his fellow Ziegfield Follies mate Bert Williams–‘one of the pre-eminent entertainers of the Vaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time…the best-selling black recording artist before 1920′–as ‘the funniest man I ever saw and the saddest man I ever knew.’ Williams certainly made no secretContinue reading “Bert Williams and the (Funny) Sadness of Clowns”

The Post-Apocalyptic Zone of Moral Instruction

During a Facebook discussion in response to my post yesterday on The Road, my friend Maureen Eckert wrote: I am never sure what to make of “post-apocalyptic porn.” On the one hand they seem to be thought experiments about the “State of Nature.” On the other, they seem to tend to express exaggerated exasperation withContinue reading “The Post-Apocalyptic Zone of Moral Instruction”

The Seductive Appeal of ‘Education’

In reviewing Jill Lepore‘s Book of Ages: The Life and Opinion’s of Jane Franklin, a ‘biography’ of Benjamin Franklin‘s considerably less distinguished sibling, Susan Dunn writes: The words “seduction” and “education” in fact share the same Latin root: ducere, to lead. Seduction leads astray (“se-”), while education leads out (“e”)—out of our unformed, primitive selves.Continue reading “The Seductive Appeal of ‘Education’”

American Horror Story and Torture Porn

Last night was Fright Night. I had plans to watch the opening episode of the third season of American Horror Story, a show that despite its disappointingly concluded first season and its at times too-lurid second season still manages to hold considerable promise for me. But I was going to watch Paranormal Activity first; somehowContinue reading “American Horror Story and Torture Porn”

Lech Majewski’s The Mill and The Cross: A Beautiful Moving Tableaux

The Mill and the Cross, Lech Majewski‘s 2011 film, like Pieter Bruegel the Elder‘s The Procession to Calvary, the painting that inspires it, is beautiful to look at. It might be hard to know what to make of it in a conventional movie-viewing sense, but the cavalcade of gorgeous images that it parades before ourContinue reading “Lech Majewski’s The Mill and The Cross: A Beautiful Moving Tableaux”

Alina Simone Doesn’t Like The Internet, Her Best Friend

The New York Times periodically publishes blog posts and Op-Eds by defenders of the intellectual property regimes that are a blot on our cultural landscape today; these defenders include what I describe as–for lack of a better term–‘the whining artist.’ This category includes all those who, seemingly stunned by the fact that the political economyContinue reading “Alina Simone Doesn’t Like The Internet, Her Best Friend”