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
The painter who wanted to sing
And write and travel
And be the incognito ruler of the world
Left his apartment that should have been a house
Or a mansion
In the country not the city
Instead of bleakness
He wanted lush greens and grounds
And stone pools
Shining in the sun
Years were to be filled
With talks and walks
And healing of souls
Through his words or images
The notes coming and going in the Cheyenne
Over his ponds and
Flowers in the Prague garden
The horse became a painting or a word
Then a thought
And the beautiful girl was four sounds
A glad row of trees a root
Clouds hanging across the moon
It was a moon not a goddess
And he fell down and kissed the Earth
She would hear him and commit this image to memory
Biographies of writers, artists, musicians and the like fill our libraries to the brim. But in recent years, a new kind of bio has emerged: the “life” of a particular work of art. One very fine example of this sub-genre is Alice Kaplan’s Looking for The Stranger.
The book gives us a brief (but continuous) bio of Camus, his birth and early years in Algeria, providing the North African as well as Parisian contexts for his literary output before, during and after WWII. She takes us through the process of his writing, beginning with several early missteps and rejections along the way, and then follows him almost chapter by chapter through the completion of his short but seminal novel of the Absurd. Along the way, we’re introduced to key people in the life of the novel, its gestation and the road to its publication in 1942. Perhaps the most important … Click to continue . . .
When I was very young, I didn’t see this. I didn’t see the heroism of color, or the way we make colors ourselves, in our eyes, in our mind’s eye, or the bravery of Nature’s way, or its tremendous courage in painting as it does.
Yes, Nature paints, and that’s not just a Romantic notion. It’s not some pseudo-poetic way of describing the ineffable. It just paints. Nothing comes close to the skill set of Nature in regard to — well, everything, really. Especially shadows, colors, light, polarities of darkness and light. And nothing can reach its sublime power in making opposites cohere, mesh, harmonize, complement. In a sense, wash away. In Nature, they become one with the All. But for humans, they mean war.
For us, they mean conflict, battles and war. For Spinoza’s god, they meant the universal orchestra, the mother of all choirs, the pallet of the cosmos. And … Click to continue . . .
It’s almost inevitable that the conversation continues. About Art. About the way we humans structure things, because our brains were built that way. About the way we choose to structure poems, plays, novels and such. The rocks we use to get to something else. The fire inside that rock. The spirit of stone the best sculptors find and exploit. It was there all along, they say. And the best don’t just say that, they feel it with every fiber of their Being in the World.
The best art is inexorable, inevitable. I first bumped into that idea, at least in that form, in William Barrett’s Irrational Man, a book I’ve discussed in Spinozablue now and then. There are, of course, many ways to think about the inevitable — in life and art, within our brains, outside them, the connections we invent and those we miss. And we miss so many.