Friday, January 29, 2010

The Passing of Holden

A couple of years ago I re-read "Catcher in the Rye" and commented on it in what was then my new blog. Having read it caused me to talk "rather strange" (as my great-great- grandmother commented in a letter written at the end of the Civil War, in reference to a returning soldier who had been shot in the face and lost part of his tongue. )Not that reading CITR cause me to lose part of my tongue. It's just that a person picks up the language of Holden and all. It's just goddam hard not to, if you want to now the truth. By the way, a few years ago a very Holdenish movie came out which is worth checking into if you like disaffected prep school boys: "Igby Goes Down." Sad and funny.

Well, J.D. Salinger died yesterday, and even though he had not been seem or heard from for a hell of long time, it was nice to know he was still in the goddam world. We'll miss him like a bastard, I mean it.

I have a collection of Salingeriana: books by and about him. I had read all the short stories and the Glass family saga in the New Yorker over the years. Actually he had written for the Saturday Evening Post for years before he shot to fame with Holden. My daughter Polly found a collection of these stories which had been published in a paper back book semi-illegally, which had pissed off J.D. like a bastard. Some of those stories pre-figure both Holden and a Glass or two, as do a few of the "Nine Stories" stories : both Seymour and Walt are there in "A Great Day for Banana Fish" and "Uncle Wiggley i n Connecticut." The saintly genius child is at the center of "Teddy," a rather frightening sibling rivalry tale in the Glass vein.

I don't' know why I loved the Glass family stories. They were the kind of people who could not stand the world and ordinary people, unless they were child people or poor people who couldn't help being sort of dumb and all.

I think that fascination with unique families has run through history (the Medici), literature (the Forsythes), theater (the Barrymores) media (the radio Barbour Family - if you're older than 70) and movies (the Royal Tannenbaums). When a family glitters, we all want to know more about them. No family has glittered more than the Glass family, a collection of saintly geniuses, pure and innocent, not just braininess but spirituality like bastards. And all creations of the mysterious J.D. Salinger. Jews don't believe in heaven, thinking that what you do on earth is the important part of human existence and that you should make your life here count for good, but if there is one, I hope J.D. is basking with his creations and having a good time. He's one of the few people they'd actually like and all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

World Famous Relative

Mary Lu Walker, who is very dear to me and anyone who has ever met her, was featured on WCLV Weekend Radio this past Saturday. She was interviewed on an area NPR station near her home in Corning, NY that morning and sent the link to me. I haven't heard the WCLV program yet, because of a router problem, but I did listen to the interview and you can hear it here. Am I putting this on my blog because I am mentioned in this interview? Possibly.
But she's fun to hear and if you want to hear the WCLV program, you can go to their web site and check out Weekend Radio for Saturday, Jan. 23. And you can find out more about her over there on my list of sites.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Weekend of Music and Martin

It started on Friday with the Cleveland Orchestra concert. After the orchestra filed on stage, one of them announced that they were going to come out into the audience to hand out an informational brochure. They have been playing without a contract since August and were in the midst of negotiations. The speaker said not to be afraid, that they were going to play the concert, but that a strike was a possibility, after the traditional free concert they were giving on Monday, MLK's birthday. I think the audience was sympathetic, and even more so after an amazing concert: Strauss' "Don Juan" and Brahms' 2nd Symphony. As my friend Kim said afterwards, "They wanted us to know what we'd be missing and they knocked the music out of the ball park." It was extraordinary and exciting. I heard on the radio this morning that they are now on strike. It's only one of the top orchestras in the world, and we're lucky to have it right up the road from here. Almost every cultural organization in the country is in deep financial trouble, the kind of organizations that contribute to our sense of well being and enrich our lives.

I feel a bit shallow and elitist, however, writing about that when people are dying in Haiti. I'm sure the salaries of orchestra musicians are not exactly a priority when that poorest of nations is suffering so terribly. It would be nice if we could have both support of the arts and support for and help for the men, woman and children who are bereft of medical care, food, water, and shelter, and will be for some time. This is a good site to go to for contributions because I like the idea of those two ex-presidents working together for the common good. That's how it should be at all times, a concept which seems to have escaped most of those in public life.

Saturday morning I was a storyteller at the annual MLK Prayer Breakfast which the NAACP sponsors. I had never been to this affair and it was really fun. Our NAACP is quite diversified I used to be member during the Civil Rights era. I remember marching with thousands in downtown Akron, hoping that some crack pot wasn't lurking in one of the buildings with a shot gun, hoping to pick off a few of us. This was right after Viola Liuzzo was shot in Selma and the horrendous violence at the Edmond Pettus Bridge. It was a scary time. It culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which was a beginning. The meal itself was perfect and included grits, which I appreciated. The program included poetry, a moving video of MLK, several presentations by young students, and storytelling. One of the storytellers was a former student from one of my workshops. She did a first person narrative in the person of a participant in the march in Selma, which was excellent. I did a folk tale from the oral tradition. There were two women singers who lifted me right out of my seat with their beautiful voices. It was a fine way to spend a morning and remember MLK.

On Sunday afternoon , the UCC Church sponsored a performance of the Prayer Warriors, a gospel group from Akron. I had heard them a couple of times, once at a folk festival and again at Akron's New Year's Eve First Night. They are a powerful group whose music can make you almost get religion - almost. They are not about ritual, but about praise and worship. They rocked that white bread church right out of its pews. I happen to be reading "The Known World," about free Blacks and slaves in the Pre-Civil War South and I wonder how such faith and joy could survive what they have gone through. It was a wonderful concert.

So I began the weekend with Brahms and ended it with music of the people and remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. Made my head spin it did.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hume the Theologian

Since I do not watch TV news programs, preferring to read more than the soundbites which TV offers, I did not hear Brit Hume expounding on Tiger Woods' need to embrace Christianity as means of receiving forgiveness and redemption. (Unfortunately, Tiger has done too damn much embracing for the last few years, so he may not be ready to embrace anything so long as his wife has access to golf clubs. It's hard to redeem a jerk, in any case.)

Well, we've all seen a large number of professed Christians being redeemed over and over and over again and continuing to lie, cheat and steal, so I'm not sure what good it does being one of the chosen to whom Jesus is a personal savior. (He must get tired of all that forgiving and redeeming of those people.) I rather lost confidence in that whole concept when a born again Christian friend maintained that if Hitler had accepted Jesus on his death bed (or bunker) he would have been forgiven and his soul would have risen right up to the Pearly Gates, passing go and collectiing $200. Sorry, Adolph; some things are unforgivable.

When Hume was criticized for his fatuous comment, there was an outcry from the religious right that godless liberals don't want no religious talk 'round here on TV. Have they checked out the numerous religious channels full of bloviating, well coiffed , nattily dressed religion hucksters who seem to go on 24 hours a day? And how about Pat Robertson, who talks to God, and is currently blaming the tragedy in Haiti on their lifestyle? Besides these obvious fish in a barrel, there have been some terrific discussions of religious beliefs all over the place on PBS, mainly, if one is serious about the study of same, and not mere proselytizing.

So, Brit, mind your own bees wax about Tiger Woods and his jerky behavior. Oops - I guess I made a judgement there! Forgive me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Clever Cat

Well, actually, he's not that clever, but I like this Sphinx pose he has lately adopted. (He also has a meat l oaf pose, but then, so do a lot of cats.) His Sphinx pose demonstrates his prevailing attitude : aloof, princely, mysterious. He is currently being aloof toward his food, even though it is the expensive Fancy Feast, featured as a chip dip on a late commercial.

He is princely about deciding to sleep on the table from which he can stare disdainfully at those who attempt to shove him off so we can eat.

He is mysterious when he stares out of the front window, twitching his tail at things no one else can see: no birds or squirrels in sight.

Herman, the errant cat who lives, supposedly, in a house across the street has become bolder lately. His family is breaking up and he must wander over here to avoid the tension. While Polly and Sally were home during the holidays, he crept in at night (through our cat door) and slept in their beds. They think that I should adopt him. So far, I don't know who will get custody of Herman and the three pit bulls (another reason he comes over here), and I hope it's the one who moves out. I cannot adopt this cat, although I must say, he is much more family oriented and affectionate than the aloof, mysterious prince. But Dupree has dibs on this house and our hearts no matter what.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Snow: What Is It Good For?

Happy New Year? Bah!! Although it is quite pretty, I do not like snow. There is no end in sight. We are luckier than many, however, since we have not had a blizzard - yet. My main concern is with having to drive in it, and now that I am an old party, worrying about falling on ice. Of course, I am at the age when one can fall on a perfectly dry, non-slippery surface. Why is that, I wonder? My balance does not seem to be so bad; I don't drink and walk or drive; I look before I step. Well, almost - I just tripped over the computer wires on my way into the kitchen a while ago. Caught myself before I hit the floor. I keep reading that the most frequent injuries suffered by geezers are those caused by falling. What the hell's wrong with us, anyway?

I am enjoying the Internet radio as long as I avoid the news. There seem to be a lot of bad things going on in the world - one story after another about people carrying explosives in their underpants (jockeys or boxers? They never tell you that.); new countries that hate us; unemployment for thousands; golf idols fornicating with bimbos; the guy with the really bad comb-over firing up his Apprentice program again; too much attention paid to people who should be banned from civil discourse.
So yesterday I listened to a program on BBC4 about the quality of voices and how the vocal cords actually work and how each of us has a distinctive voice and why that is and how actors are able to use their voices to express character, etc. We were invited to go to the BBC4 web site and record our voices with an expert who would then describe us down to our underwear practically. Where else can one find such wonderful escapist radio fare?

I am not a Civil War fan, but I have just read three books about it: "March", a fictionalized account of the father of the Little Women; "The March" about Sherman's march through my childhood home state (He wasn't around then, but there was still evidence of his evil ways.); and a really, really bad book by Jim Lehrer, a novel about a corpse found at Antietam in the present day and how this Hardy Boy archaeologist figures out who he was and how he died. I don't know why I kept reading it. If it hadn't been written by Lehrer, it would never have been published. I am now reading "Burning Bright," Tracy Chevalier's last book which came out a while ago. She has a new one about a woman archaeologist of thew 19th century, which I bet is a lot better than the one Lehrer wrote. I'll get around to it in a few years, given the lag time I have with current books. Those first two books above about the Civil War were excellent and I wanted them to be longer. I want to read Barbara Kingsolver's latest, too. I have to read the large print books now, so I do have to wait for them.

So that's how I shall avoid the news and the snow for the next few months, reading books about the past, figuring out how to work my Ipod Nano, and listening to radio programs about vocal cords and other little known exotica.