Thursday, July 25, 2013

Running away to join the circus

In my ideal world, I live in a monastic cell with no housekeeping responsibilities and a divine disregard for all matters material. In practice, it is clear that at least every couple weeks, it is important to take a morning to catch up on business, alas. I haven't quite cleared the deck - I need to write a conference-paper abstract and put away some clean clothes - but I have usefully spent the morning doing things like consolidating large amounts of cardboard and taking it down to the recycling area (between Amazon, FreshDirect, etc. an extraordinary amount of packaging enters my apartment on a regular basis), booking catsitting for August travels, unpacking glassware from my adopted grandfather's house in NJ (soon to be sold - more boxes!), tidying up overflow triathlon bits and bobs, etc. etc.

Part of that kind of housekeeping is closing tabs here and logging light reading. Enjoyed Mira Grant's novella How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea and Ben Winters, Bedbugs (the latter didn't quite live up to the strength of its opening, and has given me a desire to reread Tana French's Broken Harbour - another recommendation in this vein is Kelly Link's strange and haunting story "Stone Animals.")

It has been a good week. It was my birthday on Sunday, and I saw a play I loved, Tarell Alvin McCraney's Choir Boy - amazing performances, and some of the best integration of music into a theatrical script that I have ever heard. An evening of cake and champagne afterwards with old friends and family: very nice indeed.

It's the time of year when various former students pass through town, and I've had lovely evenings with Adela and Wei, who was one of my very first students at Columbia (you can read his marathon-running guest post here) and whose beautiful wife and two-year-old son I was delighted to meet for the first time.

Last night, courtesy of Tanya (whose book is coming out soon - she answered some questions about it here), another extraordinary theatrical performance, really remarkable: Aurélia Thierrée's Murmurs.

At the beginning she is moving house, but then there are all sorts of other transformations, haunting and enchanting - amazing use of props and of a historically evocative set of circus and clowning techniques. My favorites were the transformations into anthropomorphic animals (a handbag that when A., kneeling, puts her head into it turns out to have eyes that make her into a cartoon quadruped, a suited man with an anteater head that has previously been seen in its incarnation as old-fashioned leather bellows), and also the phantom-limb dummy bits with real people as the dummies that seem to be alive - you can always see the seams of the illusion, but that doesn't make it any less uncanny. Here's another trailer for her previous show, which I don't see; and the amazing backstory of the performer's mother, co-creator of the show.

(On which note, I add that this is a book I read repeatedly as a child: it troubled me that under no stretch of the imagination could I imagine making a living as an acrobat, but I comforted myself with the fact that playing the clarinet in a circus band and taking care of performing animals would probably suffice in a pinch.)

I didn't quite hit the five-hour mark on my long ride yesterday, but almost - triathlon training is going well, if one concentrates on what one has accomplished rather than on omissions and shortcomings!

Miscellaneous linkage:

Friend and sometime catsitter Joanne McNeil on the Bradley Manning trial.

Two good links from B.: eradication of an enormous nest; telegraphic love!

How can you not want one of these as a pet? (Via Jane.)

For diagram purists, a New York City subway map in concentric circles.

1 comment:

  1. It worried me quite a bit that I couldn't imagine a place for myself in that very same circus...I had to sell tickets. Sigh.