"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Those Who Know

Posting Early This Week, in honor of my friend Victoria, One Who Knows
(And one who gave me the above - pictured sari for my birthday!)


A Steamy Classic

As a follow up to my recent post, Quotidian post concerning Dickensian references in Batman and Star Trek, here is another look at the phenomenon of literary allusion.

Way back during the summer before my Senior year in high school, I asked my father for some reading suggestions. He recommended the 1940s best seller Leave Her to Heaven (also a best selling movie) by Ben Ames Williams.

This looks more like the copy that I read!

The story involves a married couple: stoic Richard, who is the legal guardian of his disabled younger brother Danny, and obsessive Ellen, who grows increasingly jealous of their brotherly bond. One afternoon, Ellen offers to help Danny with swimming therapy and allows him to drown "accidentally," not knowing that Richard is watching from his study window. Ellen's guilty conscience leads to her suicide, leading to a trial in which the truth comes out and Richard is convicted as a silent accomplice. As for Ellen, both Richard and the audience must "leave her to heaven," just as the Ghost advises Hamlet.

I enjoyed the novel at the time, but I'm not sure that it would have remained so strongly impressed upon my memory had I not read Hamlet shortly thereafter in my Senior English class. Though the passage from Hamlet appears as an epigraph to the novel, it wasn't until I read them within the context of the play that I fully grasped the connection.

But, howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven,
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge
To prick and sting her.
Act I, scene V, 84 - 88

Even in reverse, having encountered the allusion before before the originating source, I relished the exhilarating domino effect of one text bouncing off another! In highschool Shakespeare class and in again in Professor Herman Wilson's graduate seminar on "Style & Audience Interaction," we discussed the importance of Biblical and classical allusions in Shakespeare's plays, and in turn, the use of Shakespearean allusions by generations of later authors. As I mentioned last week ("A Far Far Better Thing") I have always been fascinated by the intertextual version of "six degrees of separation," with each reading experience perpetually preparing the reader for an allusion that may come in the future -- or bringing about the realization that one has already occurred, as happened for me with "Leave her to heaven."

However you think of it -- a contract between writer a reader, a shared frame of reference, a short - cut, an expansion -- the literary allusion can certainly make the Great Conversation a lot more fun! You have only to say, "Stella!" or "Madame Defarge" or "Nurse Ratched" to convey a second universe of character and conflict, a little meteor impacting Earth.

To be fair, an author cannot assume that every reader will catch every allusion. The reference must be independent enough to make sense on its own, in the context of the poem or story at hand; it should not detract meaning for those who are not familiar with the work or character alluded to. Rather, it is a special bonus for those make the connection, for those "who know."

Wait! That's another one:

“I talk to you in my mind because
I know you understand the things I want to mean.

There are those who know and those who don't know.
And for every ten thousand who don't know
there's only one who knows. That's the miracle of all time --
the fact that these millions know so much but don't know this.

It's like in the fifteenth century when everybody believed the world was flat . . . But it's different in that it took talent to figure that the earth is round. While the truth is so obvious it's a miracle of all history that people don't know.

For you see, when us people who know run into each other that's an event. It almost never happens. Sometimes we meet each other and neither guesses that the other is one who knows. That's a bad thing. It's happened to me a lot of times. But you see there are so few of us.

Why has this miracle of ignorance endured? Obscurantism.”

Carson McCullers
from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
[emphasis added]


"We divided people into two groups: those who knew, and those who didn't know. Aldous Huxley and Carson McCullers knew. Roy Rogers and Doris Day didn't. [Joan Baez and a] crazy singer called Bob Dylan knew.

Sara Davidson
from Loose Change: Three Women of the Sixties
(also a movie)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bastille Day: Is There A World You Long To See?

Ready for the Fourth and / or the Fourteenth!
~ at the Venetian / Palazzo, Las Vegas ~

Some Radical Thoughts for Bastille Day

I say, e pluribus unum is motto enough for our currency; take "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance (and make kids start saying it again -- oh, and while we're at it, raise the driving age and lower the drinking age so that it all happens along with voting, at age 18); put your hand over your heart when you sing "The Star Spangled Banner"; and edit the Declaration of Independence to read: "We hold these truths to be self - evident, that ALL are created equal." See how easy? ALL ARE CREATED EQUAL. We don't have to add anything; we don't have to say "all men and women" or "all people" -- just plain and simple "all."

For a worthy example of how this can be done, see the above - mentioned "Pledge of Allegiance: "With liberty and justice for ALL."

One of the more dispiriting moments in the early days of the 21st C occurred during my first visit to the new international terminal at the Philadelphia airport to pick up relatives. Sure it was brighter and shinier than the old terminal, but I felt my throat constrict when I read the words written across the ceiling: "We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal." Make no mistake, I have always been and always will be one of those citizens who can't sing "America the Beautiful" without a catch in my voice, but this choking sensation was something different -- it was that loathsome old familiar feeling of exclusion.

However treasonous it might be to edit these time - honored words, it is surely more so to leave them as they are, hurtful reminders of ill - will. Bad diction reflecting bad faith.

I maintain that is not heretical to correct bad faith diction. What point are we trying to prove by retaining it? That the founding fathers were never wrong? Well, they were wrong. Plenty of people knew so at the time, and even more know so now.

Let us boldly go. Let us edit! New words for a New Millennium. The pen is indeed mighty. Just ask those who have been wounded, or saved, by it. Each time we have the courage to replace the word "man" with "all" or "one," we take a step forward for humankind. That's the inclusion I'm waiting for! Out of many, one; not out of half, half. Hasten the day!

Feminist - revisionism!



Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, Sororité !

If I Had a Hammer
words and music by Lee Hays and Pete Seeger
sung by Peter, Paul & Mary

If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land
I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

If I had a bell
I'd ring it in the morning
I'd ring it in the evening
All over this land
I'd ring out danger
I'd ring out a warning
I'd ring out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

If I had a song
I'd sing it in the morning
I'd sing it in the evening
All over this land
I'd sing out danger
I'd sing out a warning
I'd sing out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

Well I've got a hammer
And I've got a bell
And I've got a song to sing
All over this land
It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's the song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

©1958, 1962 (renewed), 1986 (renewed)
TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)

Do You Hear the People Sing?!
from the muscial Les Miserables

Enjolras: Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Combeferre: Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

Courfeyrac: Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!!

All: Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Feuilly: Will you give all you can give
So that our banner may advance
Some will fall and some will live
Will you stand up and take your chance?
The blood of the martyrs
Will water the meadows of France!

All: Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes

Source: MetroLyrics.com

Many years ago, I was teaching Ben and Sam these lyrics and more before we went to see Les Mis at the theatre in Philadelphia. They weren't sure if this was really necessary and asked me if it was going to be a sing - along? I told them, "Well, if I'm in the audience it is!" Haha!

Additional Bastille Day Posts on the Quotidian Kit:





To conclude, I share the call to action of my friend Len, who assures me that he holds "no copyright on these phrases; they belong to the People!":

"To the barricades!"


"Maintain your heads!"