Monday, November 22, 2010
I would probably argue the Moby Dick promotion, but its only been three days since my viewing, and its possible my views will shift. I love this novel. Loved it the first time I read it, and drank in every single word on Friday night in what can best be described as a prayer. My mind started wandering exactly two times during the performance, both of which I mentally bookmarked, and reread later that evening from my own worn copy in my bed in Brooklyn, clinging to the haze.
I knew all about this play before seeing it-- read the stellar reviews, contributed to the buzz, and gawked with the masses regarding its odd format. It's a 8.5 hour play-- starts at 3pm, ends at 11:30-- that uses for its script the entire text of The Great Gatsby (that wonderful blue and white paperback copy we all read in High School), each and every word and no additions. The formula doesn't make sense, any of it, which is clearly part of its appeal. I was told I that I couldn't get a ticket, that the production has been sold out for months, but reader, please. I found myself there at the Public Theater on Friday afternoon, Playbill in hand, front row center, eagerly awaiting what would surely be an eight hour thrill.
The show opens in a drab office in a nondescript industry, somewhere in America. A khaki-wearing redheaded someone enters the space, hangs his coat, and reaches to turn on his outdated clunky computer. The computer won't start, he tries again, murmurs to a coworker or two who have entered looking bored-as-all-get-out, and suddenly, VOILA!, our leading lady of a book pops from a Rolodex as we all audibly adjusted forward in our seats to discover how the hell this was going to play out.
Our redhead flips to the first page, and slowly begins reading the novel aloud-- seemingly for the first time-- and clunkily starts the ride. I knew it would work, that we would soon be successfully transported to East Egg from Office Building Somewhere, but those first twenty minutes were key to drawing in an audience in dulled mass confusion only to charm our socks off four short hours later.
Scott Shepherd, the redhead, of Elevator Repair Service took on the role of Nick Carraway--that daunting task of narrating the show and speaking all but the scattered dialogue aloud-- although I'm pretty sure he was actually playing Jimmy Stewart playing Nick Carraway, which was a fantastic decision on his part. His voice dipped and clung, a melody of normalcy that we recognize from an era gone by.
Literary snobs love to cry disappointment to adaptations of classic novels, arguing that they shouldn't be touched, and cannot be approved upon. But this is different-- its as if Collins always wanted to remake Gatsby, but understood the task as a setup for gigantic failure, as all abridged versions are. Then he decided to not take anything out, read it in its entirety, and completely dismiss the idea of costuming and set design all together. We already know what it looks like, you see. We don't need him to tell us, the book does that just fine. (THIS was just announced, by the way, and its two leading men actually sat behind me at Friday's production, ha!)
It is with this attempt that we can't argue the execution because we all saw the story as we saw it the first time we read Gastby, and I will bet that most of us geeks sitting there for all 8.5 hours read it every year. I could tell you here, exactly what happened on that stage, but even I am unbelieving of it now. The famous twinkling party scene at Gatsby's manner was played out as the cast cleaned up papers and spilled whiskey and note cards strewn across the floor from the 'Myrtle Apartment' scene right before. Jordan Baker served as our comedic relief, and the swimming pool was played by a leather couch. Gastby wore a magenta suit, and Daisy was brunette. None of it adds up, which is the point of it all, you see.
I left the theater upon its intricate and compelling conclusion understanding the real feat of whole thing: GATZ is a true testament to the human mind and the scope of an often neglected grown-up imagination. It's also a testament to good theater and to good writing and--let us not forget-- the book itself, but it is the human mind that takes us from a theater, to an office, to Southampton Proper without explanation. I've written about this before-- my annoyance at too-literally-executed set designs on Broadway and Off-- and GATZ all but laughs at big budget attempts to create a castle, when their audience is fully capable of building one themselves.
Why the office? It was someplace to start-- a challenge, I presume, of John Collins to his actors. It was also about READING BOOKS, and turning off our computers and ipads and droids, sitting down with a book, which come to think of it, is the same message we received from the other show I saw last week. Interesting. At any rate, the show closes with Nick seated at his desk, after a slow stripping of office supplies and papers and the computer itself, sometime in the past 4 acts. I thought perhaps they would nod back to the office setting at the end, fixing the computer and returning to daily life, but they didn't and I'm glad. It was the quiet ending Fitzgerald offered, so we left still in Gatsby's world, and not our own.
GATZ is closing on the 28th, so SEE IT. This show is magic, I mean it, and despite what you will hear, there are tickets to be found.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
*(Listening to too many Prince William interviews, my mind has started speaking with a British accent. And NO, I'm not excited about Will and Kate. UGH. Dreams shattered.)
Friday, November 19, 2010
Having a Coke with You
by Frank O'Hara
Frank O’Hara, “Having a Coke with You” from The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara. Copyright © 1971 by Mauren Granville-Smith, Administratrix of the Estate of Frank O'Hara.
Source: The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara (1995)
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
However. Back in the TAL archives, there exists a really fantastic episode about Thanksgiving. The hilarious Sarah Vowell examines "what happens when television takes on a subject it really has no business exploring at all, but seems fairly obsessed with nonetheless: The Pilgrims." It's a mockery of American pop culture and of a holiday that makes us a little uncomfortable when actually considering its roots.
Have you read William Bradford? I have! And I highly recommend it, actually, although its a pain to get through. It's the original text from Plymouth, THE primary source, told in his seventeenth century tongue. It's gory and intelligent and raw, and makes you feel like a slightly better American for understanding what really took place on that first Thanksgiving. Read it. OR listen to Sarah Vowell talk about it.
In the meantime, I'll be brushing up on my pie making skills. Happy holidays, New York.
Friday, November 12, 2010
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Well, let's just mix it up a bit! It sounds interesting! I signed us up, you are going."
"Where is it? Brooklyn?"
And thus our night began.
I don't really know what inspired me to sign up for a decorating class to begin with, let alone a class with a woman who claims to value clutter and unmade beds, but it was held at Anthropologie, John is usually up for anything, and I was in the mood for something other than dinner.
I feel like I've been at a party since the middle of October, taking cabs home late and needing bagels in the morning. I was in the mood to do something inspiring, instead of thought-provoking. Not a movie. Not a book reading. Not a show. I didn't want to have to mingle and I didn't want to strain my senses to impress anyone. I basically wanted to hang out with a room full of Me's, and will not apologize for that. No boys allowed, you see.
We were greeted with gingerbread cookies and fancy Missoni San Pellegrino sparkling water by a stunning woman in a one-piece jumpsuit wearing a huge smile and generous spirit. Mary Randolph Carter, or Carter as she prefers, led the course, and for a brief hour and a half let us into her world.
She is a woman who adores living, simply put. Her passion is infectious, and as she danced around a few of her belongings-- yard sale paintings, handmade linens, mix-matched porcelain teacups-- we too started smiling and relaxing and loving it all in unison. She used the word 'love' so often that she began stopping herself, although I wish she wouldn't have. 'I love these curtains!' 'I love these little dogs.' 'I love using painters' palates in place of placemats!!!' 'I hate sofas, I really do, but I love covering them with pillows and wool blankets and beautiful things." Just insane enough to make us feel comfortable. A real nut.
Yet her enthusiasm swirled around the vibrantly set table, fit for a mad-hatter or wild poet, or Monica on Friends, and landed on our tongues. She taught us to fall in love with our surroundings and to create homes for living in, and to leave the housekeeping for the birds. She's the anti-Martha you might say (although Martha and Carter have been 'friends for years!') and thank goodness for that. Our homes should rise up and greet us, she sang. They should be a reflection of the people who live there. They should make us feel happy, alive, and like our own Best Selves.
In the end, it was just what I needed. She's an artist, really, although she doesn't paint, her home is her canvas. (A peek, here!) I asked her about the painting, I assumed she did. I also asked her what music she would be playing during her Thanksgiving dinner and she said 'Coldplay. Or Cole Porter. Or both!' She has a new book out, called 'A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of A Misspent Life' with all of this included. Perfect, right? Such a good title.
Thanks, Carter. Loved it.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I mentioned that I've been listening to Bing Crosby's Christmas album this morning to Little Sister, who immediately sent this little ditty my way:
"a couple of a teenage tune-smiths around hollywood here. mel torme and bob wells of pendenitum wrote a song that i consider quite appropriate for tonight. skitch i'd like to do it for ya. it's called the christmas song."
Bing Crosby's Christmas album is the best because he encourages you to sing along before EVERY carol. It's as if he's running one of those public radio fund-raising drives, asking for 'just ten dollars a month, to keep our programming strong', but instead of money he's asking us to 'sing along, wherever you are!' 'Just tap your toes!' 'Get into the Christmas cheer!'. It's amazing.
Also, he uses the phrase 'gee-wiz' while doing so three times throughout the recording. Em and I have it memorized, hence the Mel Torme bit above. That's not a lyric found online, people, that is honest-to-goodness memorization on her part. This album is in our BLOOD, yo.
And pulling out Bing's version of The First Noel or Jingle Bells or A Christmas Song, or White Christmas (!!!!) really is the best prescription for a bad mood, even if it's only November. NOT that I've been in a sour mood for the past
day, FINE, week. Not that I've been slamming doors and rolling my eyes and pouting around listing off all the the terrible things about my little life that I normally hold dear.
I'm ready, dear reader. Ready for tinsel and lights and angels and shopping and garland and the other Garland. Bring it, Bing.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
"Dealers, please don’t stop talking! Your galleries are special to me: They are wormholes, time machines, matter transporters, gardens of delight, shtetls, hellholes, mediocrities, meritocracies, Dixieland tunes, places to get to the bottom of things, voting booths, fun fairs, tranquilizer bullets, big trees, missing links, states of grace, secular temples, travel bureaus, shallow ends of the pool, deep ends of the ocean, shelters from the storm, nails in your back, stones in your shoe, vicious circles, and burning rings of fire.-Jerry SaltzA friend sent this bit to me, from Saltz's column on Vulture. I always appreciate Saltz's unashamed nostalgia when writing about art. The world could use a bit more sincerity, don't you think? I know my little corner could.
Photo: Alexis Rockman, our Dec 2010 Basel: Miami cover artist, whom I interesting.
Monday, November 8, 2010
For The Marriage of Faustus and Helen
by Hart Crane
Source: The Complete Poems of Hart Crane (2001)
Friday, November 5, 2010
I WANT THAT. You can purchase it for me HERE.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Both Patty and Denise (Freedom, and The Corrections, respectively) act it out, cowering in the arms of married others, in the shadows hidden from husbands and fathers and their own conscious selves. Sure, you can blame adolescent disruptions but Franzen doesn't seem to be driving home any real messages of the harm of date rape and infidelity. He pushes more radically the idea that even the good girls carry a burden: The burden of feigning morality.
As in Freedom, Franzen offers a view of the Midwest so very familiar to East Coast transplants (such as Franzen and, well, me.) He touches on the uncomfortable and unwarranted guilt that we feel for judging the land that raised us. We wish we could love Christmas the way we understood it from a cul-de-sac but somewhere between the Heartland and Midtown we were robbed of it and feel only a prickly angst for no longer understanding its worth. He isn't degrading it, he's mourning it like the rest of us. It isn't 'less', its just left behind.
There is so much more to say here, about this readable novel and its insanely flawed characters. But I've been trying to write it all down for three days and maybe we should just discuss it over dinner, wanna? Let's go to Denise's new restaurant on Smith Street and do just that.
NOW, onto Great House. Get excited.