December 13, 2009

Went with the family to see WICKED up in Cleveland. Great stuff on a plot level; the kids enjoyed in. And the physical comedy was positively inspired. (Brought Profs. Dougherty and Anderson to mind!) But on the downside the play reminded me of a Grisham novel. A great ride with nothing to say. I know it was a comedy, but I like subtext. This one offered a squishy "be nice to animals" message. (I went home and didn't kick my dog.) But I had a good conversation with my cousin afterwards--he's always good for that. He was going on about DEATH OF A SALESMAN. I really hate that play. I don't like Miller at all--though the only other thing I've seen was THE CRUCIBLE. Insufferable. Boring, long-winded; and the people are stupid. Why am I here? I don't want to be? How can I get out of here? (Reminds me of being stuck some years ago at a FUS Christmas carol service-y kind of thing at the chapel. The performance positively creaked with self-aware tradition. I couldn't breathe--and the only way out was to excuse ourselves and walk right right through the singers! God I love culture . . . Thankfully, though, I've heard that with the new personnel, offerings have much improved.) But if I were ever locked up in a stalag prison camp, they could just make me watch those Miller plays. I'd crack, work in PR.

Long works seem so hard to pull off in any form. In grad school I did a course in O'Neill. LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT was actually a description of the reader trying to get through the thing! I loved his one-acts. In and out, with punch. But the long ones! All that was missing were the straps to bind you to your seats. Diodes. (What are diodes anyway?)

I find that's true of novels, too, and of long poems. "No man ever wished it longer," as Dryden said about PARADISE LOST. I wonder if Milton had to take out a gun and finally shoot the sucker, whimpering on the floor (the text, not him--my next entry will be about squinting and/or dangling modifiers). Really an act of epic perseverance just to get through the first book. And then there's THE FAIRIE QUEEN. Whoa, pure flagellation: purgation. A fitting irony as Spencer was doing a concerted anti-Catholic dance at the time. People have died! English halls littered with the vanquished--some still breathing. (If you went to school in the 70s, you know what I mean.)

I did MOBY DICK for quite a few semesters, back when I was the American Lit. person here at FUS. I liked the book very much--and as I say, I don't really like long works--but it was a trial every time. And once I tried ULYSSES when I was saddled with Modern British Novel. Give me THE DUBLINERS, story, not Freud's poop lectures in prose. (That's probably too easy, but without inner resources, I hated wading through Dublin's outhouses. . . . My wife once read FINNEGAN'S WAKE for fun. . . . a wonderfully strange woman. . . . She's told me that she often feels most novels decline sharply during the second half, so maybe I got part of this from her.)

And what's the baggier monster: PIERS THE PLOWMAN or HAMLET? No one ever stages the whole play. Shakespeare is Shakespeare of course, but I am always more interested in how his tragic characters got to be where they are when the plays start than where he wants to take them. I know, too "realistic" (and quite off the road--though there is much to be said about high grass).

But in the spirit of the times, I want to blame my difficulties squarely where they belong, on my daughter's ADHD. ("I was just following orders.") I flash back to Mr. Powers, SJ, scholastic at Jesuit St. Ignatius HS in Cleveland, during detention, 1970--mine, not his; though that might be another story--: "Mr. Craig you just can't sit still can you?' ----uh, no. And so the great student/critic was born!

The lyric poem is an almost perfect form: too short to get stupid or boring. Maybe if they hired scops at MTV, had them, like Caedmon, SING! Tim Russell, a fine poet from Toronto, OH once told me that due to some sort of brain condition, his interests in writing poetry ran to shorter and shorter forms. Some years later he won an international haiku contest in Japan. Is that where I'm headed? The land of the rising abbreviation? On the other hand I love oriental stuff; Chinese and Japanese--Li Po, falling drunk in the water, trying to embrace his image, or Basho, singing at Horsetooth Reservoir.

I'll stop now.