Sunday, October 29, 2006

The 'good things' Sunday miscellany

#1: Sarah Weinman's thoughtful review of the new Elizabeth George novel at Newsday.

#2: Gordon Bowker at the Observer on a new collection of Orwell essays (I am in love with Orwell's prose, I want this volume--oh, and Bowker says Orwell almost certainly coined the term "cold war"--interesting, eh?).

#3: My first official (timed) race this morning, very exciting--I am pleased with my results too, I totally cracked nine minutes (I feel I am allowed to gloat a bit as the running thing has come solely by virtue of extremely hard work & well-organized training, running is not my natural talent).

#4: Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape at the Irish Rep; not exactly a good play, I think, but a wonderfully appealing one, its expressionism and socialism take it totally over the top and on the whole it is somewhat dated but the language and aspects of the staging (as it's conceived, I mean, not just as it's performed--since I am too lazy to paste in correct accents from Microsoft Word it would seem ridiculous to say mise-en-scene!) are absolutely spectacular, I quite loved this & the production is really excellent. The old-style New York diction of the main character tips it over the edge into complete surrealness, in its own time I expect it would have been a bit more naturalistic (well, perhaps that's not right, it's dementedly expressionist in a quite delightful way, the chorus of stokers reminded me of the goblins in George MacDonald and the prison scene in particular is superb), but Greg Derelian is really amazingly good as Yank--my only quibble is that while his posture is perfect, exactly that hulking stooped high-waisted effect that you see in photographs of the old-time boxers from the 1920s, his musculature is rather too well-defined--should be better padded for historical accuracy, I think only in modern times have people so much been getting that low-body-fat effect--oh, and while it would be too much for me to paste in a hundred of the amazing lines about hairy apes, did you know that this play actually ends with the main character being crushed to death by a gorilla at the Bronx Zoo?!? Absolutely delightful in any case.

#5: And though you might think the union-organizer theme that O'Neill highlights would rather outmoded by now (but the Wobblies guy is one of the best things in the play, very well-acted too by Allen McCullough if I have correctly matched the actor to the part), I heard the true organizer vein last weekend at the lively & stimulating n+1 "little magazine" discussion--in a rather enjoyable late-stage controversial intervention from the audience, the basic premises of the magazine were challenged ("You guys are all the same!" he called out to the editors as they sat there at the front of the lecture hall) by a strident character who, it later turned out, is Benj DeMott, son of the critic Benjamin DeMott and himself editor of the radical/literary tabloid First of the Month. We all perked up, controversy is exciting; and here is the link for the first part of DeMott the Younger's essay about his father in the magazine's current issue. (Thanks to whatever well-wisher slipped the paper issue under my office door, I was indeed very interested to read it after hearing its editor's characterization.)


  1. In the four volume "Collected George Orwell" nearly a whole book is devoted to the As I Please columns that comprise that book. I got the set at Strand Books for $30. Highly recommended.

  2. Oh, good, thanks for tip-off, all I need to excuse buying the set--mmm....

  3. I read your piece on "the Hairy Ape." I don't know if I agree with your quibble. Below, I included the link to a picture of a steamfitter from the late-20's. Now, he has his shirt on and probably stands at 5 and 1/2 feet tall, but he looks like he got himself some pretty defined musculature. I mean, don't forget, these guys were mules. Just menial working, hard-physical labourers. and working your whole life like that is gonna cut you up, no matter who you are. But, to each their own, just givin' my two cents. Other than that, I agree with you. Exciting show! And nice to see a piece of theatre that is about SOMETHING, not just fluff.

    If you want to see some stunning acting/singing, go to Grey Gardens. I am not usually into musical theatre, but holy smokes is Christine Ebersole Amazing. Makes me wish I could sing a little. The first act is a little schmaltzy and run-of-the-mill musical, but without it the second act wouldn't have quite nearly the punch that it does, and Boy, is the second act full of punch. I don't know how they pulled off turning a documentary about nutty recluses into a compelling musical, but they did (whoever They are). The cast is strong, but it's Ebersole's tour-de-force performance that makes you go "wow, I just saw the tony winner." Go see it if you can.

  4. Interesting. I see what you're saying... I still think that if you saw the two guys side by side you'd see that the modern one's got the very fine muscle definition that you really get from gym work, but I may be totally wrong, it's not my sort of expertise! And thanks for the Grey Gardens tip also.