An Imagined Sacrifice: McCarthy’s Road

November 16th, 2009 § 0 comments

“How does the never to be differ from what never was?”

The Road seems like the kind of book that requires little explanation and needs no context. I knew before reading it that Cormac McCarthy’s last son was a young child when he wrote the book—it is dedicated to him—and that he was born when McCarthy was in his 60’s or 70’s, but I actually forgot these personal inspirations while I was reading the novel. The Road is a contemporary revival of the classic father and son journey narrative, but more than that the book questions and explores a father’s self-sacrificing love, and to what extent and under what circumstances that love can be maintained. It does not seem to be a story about McCarthy and his son, or even about a real father and his son, but more an imagined speculation of all that a paternal love could entail. The Road is not literally about a dark and desolate projected future for mankind, a post-apocalyptic wasteland, it is a nightmarish story born of parental anxiety.

“I wash a dead man’s brains out of [my son’s] hair. That is my job. Then he wrapped him in the blanket and carried him to the fire.”

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An Old Master

October 25th, 2009 § 1 comment

Leonard Cohen

If I had to make two assumptions about Leonard Cohen based simply on his stage persona, seen during last night’s concert from a very distant seat at Madison Square Garden, I would assume he is deeply humble and too spry for a man of 75. Hat in hand as he bowed to his band, or waltzing on and off the stage during a ridiculous number of encores, stretching the concert out into a three hour ordeal, it was undeniable that Cohen was having fun. Somehow I would expect the youthful Indie bands I venture out to see to be full of grateful energy rather than an aging Canadian folk singer who’s reputation needs no confirmation, but I realized as I sat listening last night that Cohen was brimming with enjoyment. Speaking to the crowd after a few opening songs, he deep voice rumbling throughout the arena, he thanked us for coming, for braving the rain and the traffic, and said, “I don’t know when I will be passing this way again, so I want you to know….we are going to give you everything we’ve got tonight.” As the crowd surged I thought he had summed up exactly why I was there: who knows when Leonard Cohen will be passing through town again in concert.

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Our Suspension of Disbelief

October 23rd, 2009 § 0 comments

Watching the new documentary made by and about The Yes Men forced me to remember that it is easy to confuse something’s popularity in nyc with its popularity throughout the country. For most people, The Yes Men Fix the World probably needs a lot more background explanation than most other documentaries. While nyc, especially after the New York Times prank of last winter, is full of enthusiastic supporters of their political pranks—film audiences here were lead off after certain screenings to perform late night, humor based vandalism—I usually find myself explaining the group to others elsewhere.

the yes men

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“Après moi, le déluge.”

April 11th, 2009 § 0 comments

valentino-the-last-emperorMatt Tyrnauer: “There are a lot of people who say no one could replace you.”
Valentino Garavani: “Après moi, le déluge. Do you know what that means?”

I wondered as he said it if a king of France, Napoleon, or another figure of wealth and power had been the author of such a sentiment—it was Louis XV who said, “after me, the flood.” Valentino: The Last Emperor is an indulgent documentary about the Italian couturier Valentino Garavani. The film has shown with unsurprising popularity for the past few weeks at one of Gotham’s independent film houses. The screenings have been coupled with a Q & A with the director Matt Tyrnauer, and the editor at large for Vogue, André Leon Talley. Though the film itself does not address any aspect of the couturier’s life—his role in fashion history, his style, or his notions of beauty—in a deep or terribly engaging manner, Valentino’s life seems to be about two things; beauty and excess, and in that order.

Valentino’s sense of beauty reminded me of visiting Europe. I remember traveling through Italy with M, and her amazement at the obsessive and undeniably extravagant effort that went into creating the works of art, architecture, and ornament that were gloriously scattered from city to city. Watching Valentino fuss over his designs I thought of the different colored marble lining the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica. Every stitch, seam, and embellishment on a Valentino dress is done carefully and thoroughly by hand. It is a certain kind of beauty that Valentino fell in love with as a young man, a certain ideal he evokes with his garments, and it is a beauty that transcends the ordinary, it is an ageless, timeless beauty. Despite his tantrums, his ego, his fussing and frustrations, it is undeniable that his dresses sometimes resemble works of art rather than new pieces of runway fashion. “I love beauty,” he says, “it’s not my fault.” But it is not simply beauty that Valentino loves, he loves a certain class, glamour, and character to go along with his sense of beauty. What do women want? “They want to be beautiful,” says Valentino, stressing all the syllables of the last word.

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Tangy Laughter & Taylor’s Lyricism

March 21st, 2009 § 0 comments

Paul Taylor almost seems too fun. Listening to NPR last week my interested was aroused by an interview conducted with the choreographer, discussing Taylor’s new pieces that premiered last weekend. I knew of his company, but didn’t remember if I had ever seen them dance. Each performance night at the City Center showed a different combination of pieces, mixing the new work with the old, and it took me the rest of the working day to decide which combination I wanted to see most. I picked well, after consulting the Fossil, although the Saturday night performance simply caused me to want to see the Sunday afternoon show. Dragging the Fossil along he asked warily if this was a, “ballet company?” Paul Taylor’s dance company is not a ballet company, but they use ballet as much as all dances and dancers must. The final piece of the show, Offenbach Overtures, was dedicated to poking fun at the traditional form all ballets take. Listening to an interview with Paul Taylor, he states of his working method:

…and I don’t really have a message as such, but I am aware of the world we live in, and I watch people, I’m a watcher. I’m a terrible spy. I watch people move in their everyday lives, and their gestures that are so communicative. And those are so useable in a dance.

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