So, I’m up in the mountains again, and I’m reading Wallace Stevens — reading about him, reading his poems. I take music with me, listen to it before and after the readings. It’s very windy on the top of the mountain. Actually, the winds are ferocious at times. Merciless. And because I heard the Rod Stewart song in the car before I went to my place, my perfect spot, near the beautiful jagged rocks and the vulnerable pine trees, I hear the mandolin notes in that wind. They’re everywhere, including on the page. I see them dance around on the white pages of the biography and the collected poems, along with the wind that won’t let those pages be . . . still.
One must almost lose the mind of winter in order to feel the mandolin notes in that way, as a call to spring, to the past, to memories of that past. Melancholy … Click to continue . . .
Grandma Gretchen’s in her rocker and she has something to say.
She tells a visitor, a young man from the city, if he plans to write a book about life on a farm in the Fifties, he likely has a lot to learn. She knows about that life because she was there. She says he needs to know about the little things as well as the big things if the book is going to be accurate.
For example, she says for him to understand that culture, he needs to know how laundry was done back then. This was before electric washers and dryers became popular. And he needs to understand why some farm wives today still use a ringer washer to do their laundry, usually on a Monday if the weather is nice.
The visitor agrees. So as he and Grandma sip strong coffee and nibble on scones from yesterday, Grandma … Click to continue . . .
The young are lucky in so many ways. They haven’t seen too many expressions of youth. They haven’t passed through the labyrinth yet, looked back on their younger years, looked back on it again and again. If they try — better yet, if they don’t — they can be who they are, who they really are inside, without being crushed by the world and the idea that it’s all be done before. It has. Kinda. But not really. It hasn’t until they’ve spoken. Until they’ve sung. Year after year, it’s always new for the young. For another generation to take its turn falling through, running through, walking through the labyrinth.
But for some young people, it’s not just the usual obstacles. It’s breaking free of societal constraints, of stupidly absurd and arbitrary constraints, above and beyond the usual stupidly absurd and arbitrary constraints hurled at the young by the old at heart. For reasons that defy all reason, and all … Click to continue . . .
The author brings in Kafka’s own battle with his father, as I thought he would, discussing both his famous letter to his father and his short story, The Judgment. And he makes the connection work well between this and the family dramas of the rest of the Frankfurt school. But he adds a fascinating twist. Jeffries talks about Eric Fromm’s interest in Bachofen:
“As an adult, Fromm became steeped in the work of the nineteenth-century Swiss Lutheran jurist Johan Jacob Bachofen, whose 1861 book Mother Right and the Origins of Religion provided the first challenge to the prevailing orthodoxy that patriarchal society represented a natural state of affairs, and thereby validated capitalism, oppression and male hegemony, as Fromm’s biographer Lawrence Friedman argues. Reading Bachofen also encouraged Fromm to reflect that the mother-child bond was the root of social life and that in a matriarchal society there was no … Click to continue . . .
Just beginning this already fascinating group biography of the Frankfurt School. The author, Stuart Jeffries, is sketching out the foundation for this group portrait, primarily through a concentration on one generation’s battle with the previous generation — mostly set in Berlin. I imagine that further reading will see this expand greatly, and that he won’t remain there, in “anxiety of influence” territory. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it would be reductive to base the amazing work of Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer and the rest of the critical theorists in this “school” solely on the clash of values between fathers and sons. I don’t think that’s what Jeffries is trying to do, and that he’s really just setting the context for more detailed exploration, but some authors might be seduced into such a formula.
(BTW, I respect Bloom’s work greatly, so this is no knock on his scholarship. I’m a fan.)
Some songs follow a course that makes sense, mathematically. As if someone raises a hand, lowers it, raises it higher again, and forms a pattern you can count on, anticipicate. You basically can hear the next movement in your head before it happens, but that’s not a bad thing, or a boring thing, if the music can match emotion with the math.
Panic at the Disco, a Vegas band I had not bumped into until this year, does that with their song, “Death of a Bachelor,” from their new album by the same name. Though it might not be accurate to call “them” a band any longer. This album appears to be the work of its lone original member (from its inception in 2004), vocalist Brendon Urie, though one could say the band’s lineup is still in flux. Regardless, the new album is basically his baby, and the man can sang it!
The bassoon is almost as red as it is brown.
It is a complicated color that was invented
by the orchestra way back when.
It lives life richly. It can be a dying bear
when it sings, a smiling hippo when it is
at rest. It is not the same. It is different.
Anything that is different, is easy
to make fun of. Go on, make fun
of it. It’s fun. Just remember:
someday, you might need this bassoon.
I want to have a daughter so that we can go to the bakery
together on a sunny Saturday morning and when she says
What is that Daddy I can say with confidence: That my dear,
my angel, my love, my sweet is a