Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stonewall Uprising

I hope I'm nobody's point person on media alerts. Last night PBS broadcast an episode of American Experience titled "Stonewall Uprising". Aside from generic interest, this eighty-minute documentary is based on one of the books we read (by David Carter, see below). You can watch it on the linked website or tomorrow morning (4/27) from 1:30 am to 3 am on WETA, Channel 26.

Friday, April 15, 2011

from "Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint"

I am afraid of being, on this shore,
a branchless trunk, and what I most regret
is having no flower, pulp, or clay
for the worm of my despair.

never let me lose what I have gained,
and adorn the branches of your river
with leaves of my estranged Autumn.

Federico García Lorca

Author's Guild v. Google

The author of the New York Review of Books article ("Google's Loss: The Public's Gain") proposes a Digital Public Library, free to all. I have been following with great interest the proposed google settlement, which would have given it a monopoly over the millions of "orphan" books (unknown or unclaimed copyright holders). Quoting the judge, "the ASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission…”  Here is the judge’s full decision.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bookmen DC Facebook Group

Because of text limitations in Facebook wall postings, going forward, I am going to add BookMenDC Blog postings in separate topics on the Discussion board.  I will continue to post the epistles from our facilitator to the Bookmen DC Wall on Facebook, but will edit them if he exceeds the text limitations.


Everyone should feel free to post on the wall.





Friday, April 8, 2011

(He kneels beside her

and his fingers find the opening of her blouse.)

Someone at our discussion of A Streetcar Named Desire mentioned this stage direction in Stanley's last line of the play as evidence of his inherently bestial even depraved nature, thinking that he could evanesce Stella's grief by arousing her (shutting off the waterworks above, so to say, by putting those below in flow). Incredible as this seems for any character we may have seen on the stage it certainly is in keeping with Williams' original view of the "gaudy seed-bearer's" effect of "narcotized tranquility" on his ex-Belle Reve wife. This stage direction is in the play's first edition (published less than three weeks after its premiere) as well as in the second edition three years later (and incorporating for the first time changes in the script that had come about in that production). In the next year (1951) the film appeared and two years after that the Dramatists Play Service published an acting edition, which has some changes in the dialogue but many more in the stage directions. One of those changes is this stage direction — deleted!

All of which makes wonder what Marlon Brando did in the film. Anyone remember? Please let us know or look for it in the future. Brando himself was a very sensitive man and brought that sensitivity, with memorable effect, to the various low-life or out-law characters he portrayed. Elia Kazan, director of both the original production and the film, feared that the play was becoming "the Marlon Brando show ... What would I say to [him]? Be less good?" Brando himself thought that both he and Jessica Tandy had been miscast. And of course, as I mentioned in our discussion, Harold Clurman famously criticized Kazan for tilting the audience's sympathy away from Blanche and onto Stanley. The film—and this is a delayed and very roundabout response to Terry's earlier post—is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that it records this truly phenomenal performance (his best on film—one of the best on film), and a curse in that it perpetuates a performance so at odds with the play. Brando was only offered the role after Jack Garfield and Burt Lancaster refused it (the former "because he felt Blanche [!] dominated the play"). How much safer they would have been, as well as his understudy Jack Palance. The first national tour was directed by Harold Clurman with Uta Hagen and Anthony Quinn. That must have been definitive!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bernard de Zogheb and Edmund White

There's a short reference to de Zogheb in City Boy (p. 129, paperback edition) whom White met at James Merrill's house. He is described as "an Egyptian" who once acted as a "tourist guide." On both counts de Zogheb might have blanched, since he liked to call himself a "Levantine"—the family came from Syria (Lebanon) in the 19th century to make their fortunes and acquired a title from the pope in the course of that century, and then formed as part of the creme de la creme of Alexandrian society for the few short decades that the cosmopolitan world of Alexandria lasted—and he might have acted as a tour guide in moments of desperation but he is known as a librettist and artist. De Zogheb had a brilliant personality, was profoundly witty, and had a way with the four or five languages that flourished in the city during these decades. He wrote librettos for operas, some of which were published with introductions by James Merrill (and now very expensive): "Le Sorelle Bronte" was one; "Phaedra" was another (mentioned in White's book). His death in 1999 was a sad event because it marked the end of the cosmopolitan period in Alexandrian history. A nice obituary was published in Al-Ahram Weekly, which gives some of the flavor of the man. A study of "Literary Alexandria" by John Rodenbeck, an emeritus professor of English at the American University in Cairo and a friend of mine, was published by the Massachusetts Review, the last four pages of the article are somewhat devoted to de Zogheb.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Prissy Closet

An interesting theme that runs through Edmund White's City Boy is his passage from the eternal and universal to the contemporary and particular, both as a reader and a writer. In his twenties he "still had an unquestioning admiration for the Great … because they were Great." As a writer, "I defended myself against … immersing myself in my own period. … A writer must be eternal and universal." With an artist's instinct he moves against his prejudices. But later, when successful, he has to put up with such fulminations as Richard Poirier's (slant rhymes with "warrior"):

Gay writers! I've never heard of anything so absurd. It's obscene! … it's a betrayal of every humane idea of literature. Have you never heard of universalism?

To answer his ilk in kind: "yeah, that dago guttersnipe, writing in the vernacular — Dante!"

The NY Times obituary of the "warrior" concludes

Mr. Poirier never married. No immediate family members survive.