Sunday, February 21, 2010

'For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.'

Alan Rickman reading Spenser? SWOON.

What though the sea with waues continuall
Doe eate the earth, it is no more at all:
Ne is the earth the lesse, or loseth ought,
For whatsoeuer from one place doth fall,
Is with the tide vnto an other brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.

-- The Faerie Queene

Now I also have: mp3s of Alan Rickman acting in radio plays of The Seagull and A Trick To Catch the Old One, AND about FIFTEEN HOURS of him reading Return of the Native. SCORE.

(As I said later to a friend of mine: "The big plus is it's fifteen hours of Alan Rickman reading....and the big minus is, it's fifteen hours of Alan Rickman reading Thomas Hardy.")

Monday, February 8, 2010

Joyce, eat your little Irish heart out

It was bright and sunny. A fine rain had been falling all the morning, and now it had not long cleared up. The iron roofs, the flags of the roads, the flints of the pavements, the wheels and leather, the brass and the tinplate of the carriages--all glistened brightly in the May sunshine. It was three o'clock, and the very liveliest time in the streets.

As she sat in a corner of the comfortable carriage, that hardly swayed on its supple springs, while the grays trotted swiftly, in the midst of the unceasing rattle of wheels and the changing impressions in the pure air, Anna ran over the events of the last days, and she saw her position quite differently from how it had seemed at home. Now the thought of death seemed no longer so terrible and so clear to her, and death itself no longer seemed so inevitable. Now she blamed herself for the humiliation to which she had lowered herself. "I entreat him to forgive me. I have given in to him. I have owned myself in fault. What for? Can't I live without him?" And leaving unanswered the question how she was going to live without him, she fell to reading the signs on the shops. "Office and warehouse. Dental surgeon.
Yes, I'll tell Dolly all about it. She doesn't like Vronsky. I shall be sick and ashamed, but I'll tell her. She loves me, and I'll follow her advice. I won't give in to him; I won't let him train me as he pleases. Filippov, bun shop. They say they send their dough to Petersburg. The Moscow water is so good for it. Ah, the springs at Mitishtchen, and the pancakes!"

And she remembered how, long, long ago, when she was a girl of seventeen, she had gone with her aunt to Troitsa. "Riding, too. Was that really me, with red hands? How much that seemed to me then splendid and out of reach has become worthless, while what I had then has gone out of my reach forever! Could I ever have believed then that I could come to such humiliation? How conceited and self-satisfied he will be when he gets my note! But I will show him.... How horrid that paint smells! Why is it they're always painting and building? _Modes et robes,_" she read. A man bowed to her. It was Annushka's husband. "Our parasites"; she remembered how Vronsky had said that. "Our? Why our? What's so awful is that one can't tear up the past by its roots. One can't tear it out, but one can hide one's memory of it. And I'll hide it." And then she thought of her past with Alexey Alexandrovitch, of how she had blotted the memory of it out of her life. "Dolly will think I'm leaving my second husband, and so I certainly must be in the wrong. As if I cared to be right! I can't help it!" she said, and she wanted to cry. But at once she fell to wondering what those two girls could be smiling about. "Love, most likely. They don't know how dreary it is, how low.... The boulevard and the children. Three boys running, playing at horses. Seryozha! And I'm losing everything and not getting him back. Yes, I'm losing everything, if he doesn't return. Perhaps he was late for the train and has come back by now. Longing for humiliation again!" she said to herself. "No, I'll go to Dolly, and say straight out to her, I'm unhappy, I deserve this, I'm to blame, but still I'm unhappy, help me. These horses, this carriage--how loathsome I am to myself in this carriage--all his; but I won't see them again."

Thinking over the words in which she would tell Dolly, and mentally working her heart up to great bitterness, Anna went upstairs.

-- tr Garnett

Friday, February 5, 2010


I would seriously. seriously. seriously. kill to see this. It's my favourite book ever (well, along with Out of Africa and Great Expectations and Jane Eyre and Augustine's Confessions and 1984 and Tender is the Night and Villette and Voyage in the Dark, but you get the idea).
A Novel ‘Gatsby’: Stamina Required


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — What happens between a novel and a consenting reader is usually a deeply personal activity, occurring behind the closed doors of individual minds. It is arguably more intimate and subjective than sex. And if someone asked you, “Want to watch me read a book for the next six or seven hours?” you would probably — and wisely — decline.

Yet this is the invitation being extended by Elevator Repair Service’s “Gatz,” at the American Repertory Theater here through Sunday. And to turn down the offer would be to miss one of the most exciting and improbable accomplishments in theater in recent years.

“Gatz” is a word-for-word presentation of the entire text of “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel and a work that has never been successfully translated to the screen. Occupying roughly six hours of performance time (not counting two intermissions and a dinner break), “Gatz” has no period sets or costumes, and no full-fleshed interpretations of any of the book’s characters. You could even say that although the show has a terrific 13-member ensemble, there is only one real character in “Gatz.” That’s you, dear reader.

Set in a shabby business office of indeterminate professional purpose, this remarkable play follows the seduction of one man (Scott Shepherd) by one novel. And it’s as thorough an evocation as any work of art I’ve encountered of how a book can so take over your life that you start to see everything through its sensibility.

“Gatz” was one of three productions I caught here last weekend (all presented by the American Repertory Theater) that are trying to redefine the relationship between plays and audiences, erasing distance and blurring genres....“Gatz” is the least literally interactive. Directed by John Collins and first produced in Brussels in 2006 (with a New York run expected this fall), it does not seek to destroy physically the wall between audience and actors....Yet for me “Gatz” was the most transporting, traveling to an ineffable place that theater is not expected to inhabit: the corridor between written words and a reader’s perception of them.

The road to Fitzgerald’s poetically imagined fictional universe begins in the land of the flatly prosaic. Louisa Thompson’s ingeniously dismal, realistic set creates an urban work space where nothing looks clean and everything — including the office’s one computer — appears to be secondhand. It is here that one of the employees (Mr. Shepherd) discovers a battered paperback copy of “The Great Gatsby.”

He begins to read it aloud to himself, with no particular flair or ardor. Other people drift in and out, delivering mail and picking up the phone (though you can never make out what they say) or just goofing off, as Mr. Shepherd continues to read. And little by little, his fellow office workers become the characters described by Nick Carraway, the novel’s narrator. That includes Nick’s mysterious, party-giving Long Island neighbor, Jay Gatsby, and Daisy Buchanan, the girl with the voice of money.

A couple of years ago I had seen and much admired Elevator Repair Service’s “Sound and the Fury (April Seventh, 1928),” which brought the complete text of a chapter of that Faulkner novel to theatrical life. That was a piece for connoisseurs of experimental theater and experimental fictional narrative.

“Gatz” is much more accessible (as is Fitzgerald’s novel, compared with Faulkner’s). But it is also richer and more subtle in its ultimate achievement. Throughout the show, the relationship between what is read and its context keeps shifting, with the real world finally giving way entirely to the fictive one. This is achieved partly through the sound design of Ben Williams, wherein traffic noises melt into the sounds of chirping crickets or jazz orchestras, and Mark Barton’s superb transformative lighting.

But the most astonishing metamorphosis is that undergone by the cast, whose interpretations of Fitzgerald’s creations go from quotation-mark-framed stiffness or jokiness into a style that is compellingly sincere without ever being purely naturalistic. Mr. Shepherd, in a performance of symphonic calibration, progresses from detached curiosity to intense engagement to an emotional fluency that allows him to discard the book altogether and recite from memory.

By the end, he has become Nick Carraway. So have you. And as can happen when you’re caught up in a book, you’re surprised to discover that so many hours have passed, and that you’re still inside your own body, a bit stiffened from sitting for so long.

-- New York Times
Nitpick (yes I am that kind of person): Daisy doesn't have 'the voice of money.' Her voice is FULL of money. It might seem an overly picky distinction, but not to Fitzgerald:

"She's got an indiscreet voice," I remarked.
"It's full of -- " I hesitated.
"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.
That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money -- that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it....high in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl....

"Did you ever see an amusement park?"
"No, Father."
"Well, go and see an amusement park." The priest waved his hand vaguely. "It's a thing like a fair, only much more glittering. Go to one at night and stand a little way off from it in a dark place--under dark trees. You'll see a big wheel made of lights turning in the air, and a long slide shooting boats down into the water. A band playing somewhere, and a smell of peanuts--and everything will twinkle. But it won't remind you of anything, you see. It will all just hang out there in the night like a colored balloon--like a big yellow lantern on a pole."
Father Schwartz frowned as he suddenly thought of something.
"But don't get up close," he warned Rudolph, "because if you do you'll only feel the heat and the sweat and the life."

-- "Absolution"
(supposedly a discarded prologue to an early version of The Great Gatsby)

Celestial Eyes -- from Metamorphosis to Masterpiece, by Charles Scribner III

Monday, February 1, 2010

Anthony Lane on "The Red Shoes"

Photograph from Red Shoes verdoux post.
By popular demand, “The Red Shoes” is returning for another run at Film Forum, beginning February 19th. New York has always been kind to the movie, which, to the dismay of its creators, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, faltered and flopped when it opened on British screens in 1948. Salvation arrived in the form of the Bijou Theatre, at Broadway and Forty-fifth Street, where the film showed for more than two years. Ballet-crazy children—or “half the little girls in America,” as Powell put it—were an important sector of that audience, and I trust that some of them, now in their limber seventies, will head downtown to reforge an old acquaintance.

What will they find? A blindingly rich and refulgent print, digitally restored by the Film Foundation and the U.C.L.A. Film and Television Archive. I’ve seen the same version on DVD, but watching “The Red Shoes,” whatever the quality, on the small screen is like drinking champagne, whatever the vintage, through a plastic straw. The movie should fill one’s vision no less comprehensively than a sunset, and Powell, like Turner before him—another hearty, romantic Englishman, whose eye gloried unashamedly in a given world—knew that reds, even at their most flaming, are never the whole story of a sunset. Consider Boris Lermontov (the incomparable Anton Walbrook), the impresario of a ballet company, who strolls into breakfast in a full-length gown of verdigris and gold. No Chinese emperor was more resplendently arrayed. As for the cigarette that he holds out, half smoked, to be taken and deposited by his valet, a whole civilization—urbane, authoritative, preposterous, and doomed—resides in that single gesture.

The film is a legend built on a legend. Lermontov, having acquired a new prima ballerina, Vicky Paige (Moira Shearer), plus a new composer, Craster (Marius Goring), mounts a production of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes,” in which a woman is danced to death by her own footwear. We see that work in its entirety, and the abandon with which it is sprung from the prison of the auditorium, into an unfeasible freedom of space, glances back to the opening scenes of Olivier’s “Henry V” (1944) and forward to “An American in Paris” (1951). Yet this is not, in the end, a film about ballet; it is a hymn to the risks of investing all that you are, and have, in the fugue and fury of the imaginative act. Look at Vicky as she dances solo, to a crummy gramophone, in a tiny London theatre on a rainy afternoon. She is not yet a star, but Lermontov has come to observe her; we see first his face, watching fiercely, and then hers, staring back—a milk-white death mask, filling the frame, with red and black dashes swooping from the corners of her eyes, and lips gleaming like the poisoned apple in “Snow White.” It is the most striking closeup in the history of cinema: not for Powell the yearning of Garbo, or the perplexity that Bergman found in Liv Ullmann, but a sudden, bright ecstasy that verges on the demonic, and more than enough, you might think, to scare those girls of 1948 out of their tutus. “The Red Shoes” is both suitable for children and beyond their ken: it treats art not as sedative or diversionary but as hard and supercharged, quite lethal to the danceless rhythms that most of our lives obey. No wonder Britain, still rationed in color, food, and feeling in the wake of an exhausting war, could not cope with what the movie proposed. Catch it here now, and you will not just be seeing an old film made new; you will have your vision restored.

-- Anthony Lane, New Yorker
Red Shoes Criterion Collection page - Red Shoes Powell and Pressburger page

We had all been told for ten years to go out and die for freedom and democracy, for this and for that, and now the war was over, The Red Shoes told us to go and die for Art.

Photograph from Cornel Lucas Collection.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Anna Karenina GoodReads schedule

Our reading/discussion schedule will be:

Day to begin discussion
1/06/2010 Part One 1-34 134pp. 1/25/2010
1/13/2010 Part Two 1-35 141 pp. 1/26/2010
1/20/2010 Part Three 1-32 136 pp. 1/28/2010
1/27/2010 Part Four 1-23 94 pp. 1/29/2010
2/03/2010 Part Five 1-33 130 pp. 2/06/2010
2/10/2010 Part Six 1-32 134 pp. 2/07/2010
2/17/2010 Part Seven 1-31 112 pp. 2/08/2010
2/24/2010 Part Eight 1-19 55 pp. 2/08/2010

(argh so far behind already....)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

spotted in the wild

While we were buying a new toilet plunger at the big QFC down on Broadway (the things you tell the internet) I scoped out the book table, because I scope out book displays everywhere I go -- QFC, airport, drugstore, it doesn't matter. Walked out with a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed (I KNOW, MISTAKE, I KNOW) but more to the point, saw a stack of Middlemarch in among the "books" by Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck and Leslie Rule and crap like The Time Traveller's Wife and Revolutionary Road. I was so tickled I got T to take a picture for me.

Friday, January 8, 2010


"Enigmas," Pablo Neruda

You've asked me what the lobster is weaving there with his golden feet?
I reply, the ocean knows this.
You say, what is the ascidia waiting for in its transparent bell? What is it waiting for?
I tell you it is waiting for time, like you.
You ask me whom the Macrocystis alga hugs in its arms?
Study, study it, at a certain hour, in a certain sea I know.
You question me about the wicked tusk of the narwhal,
and I reply by describing
how the sea unicorn with the harpoon in it dies.
You enquire about the kingfisher's feathers,
which tremble in the pure springs of the southern tides?
Or you've found in the cards a new question touching on the crystal architecture
of the sea anemone, and you'll deal that to me now?
You want to understand the electric nature of the ocean spines?
The armored stalactite that breaks as it walks?
The hook of the angler fish, the music stretched out
in the deep places like a thread in the water?

I want to tell you the ocean knows this, that life in its jewel boxes
is endless as the sand, impossible to count, pure,
and among the blood-colored grapes time has made the petal
hard and shiny, made the jellyfish full of light
and untied its knot, letting its musical threads fall
from a horn of plenty made of infinite mother-of-pearl.

I am nothing but the empty net which has gone on ahead
of human eyes, dead in those darknesses,
of fingers accustomed to the triangle, longitudes
on the timid globe of an orange.

I walked around as you do, investigating the endless star,
and in my net, during the night, I woke up naked,
the only thing caught, a fish trapped inside the wind.

-- tr. Robert Bly