Friday, August 31, 2012

An American Tragedy

I am so glad to be done with Dreiser's An American Tragedy!

In spite of an over-written and plodding prose, this novel is very engaging for the first two thirds (about 600 pages I believe). Although I was familiar with the story and knew the ending, I was sucked into the conflicted and yearning mentality of the protagonist, Clyde, and was interested in the plot.

However, once the "main event" happens, the climax the narrative had been building up to, the book takes a serious downturn. There is an incredibly drawn out courtroom section which repeats, in great detail, all the events I had already read about. Towards the very, very end I found myself again interested, but really, a giant chunk of this book was a major drag.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Girls, Visions and Everything

I just finished Girls, Visions and Everything by Sarah Schulman. What an exciting, crackling book!

It's about a group of cool young theater dykes in the East Village in 1984, and, while exploring intimate relationships and sexuality it captures the distinct -- at times disturbing -- energy of New York City at that point in time.

The writing is terrific, propelling you forward with wit and humor, and the relationship at the core of the novel is sexy, tough, and touching.

It made me feel nostalgic for New York in the 80s, when there was still grit and tension in the city, still places to be poor and young. Although not safe. The dangerousness and bravery of being openly gay permeates. Anyway, it really captures a specific period of time, the early gentrification of downtown while there was simultaneously a thriving arts scene. It gave me a similar feeling as the Keith Haring show I saw recently, documenting a sliver of a moment.

A quote from Girls, Visions and Everything:

"There were so many feelings going around at the same time. There was the global plane, where, frankly, things looked bad and nobody wanted to face it. Like the neighborhood changing. Everybody knew it was going to happen and then that it was happening. Now it had finally happened. Just like the grotesque certainty of Ronald Reagan's re-election, no one could really accept how much more cruelty they'd have to see. But summer also brought new dimensions of feeling on the street, with different kinds of love and sex for each person. You saw someone and you wanted to touch them because you loved them, or because you didn't know them and they're pretty. Because they had a way of wearing an earring, or turning and smiling, or long special fingers. Your heart would just melt for that second and you'd want to kiss her breasts or suck his cock, the way Sal did. The air was murky and think enough to hide anybody's shyness. Because, even when the shit is hitting the fan, people still have good times."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lyle Lovett at Celebrate

Lyle Lovett and the Lyle Lovett Acoustic Group performed last night at Celebrate and it was an AWESOME concert. Really energized me and exhilarated me. I was so impressed by the musicianship, the talent, the professionalism, and the generosity of everyone on stage.

The set included a number of songs I wasn't familiar with, as well as hits from the albums Pontiac and Joshua Judges Ruth.

Lovett brought out a guest singer, who's name I forget, who added jazzy warmth to the songs. He was generous with his musicians' solos, and he gave his musicians a lot of solo time. They were all so great, particularly the fiddler, who did the most amazing fiddling solo I have ever heard. It's hard to categorize Lovett's music, because it isn't straight country. It's very bluesy as well.

The opening act was Aoife O'Donovan who performed original work, as well as a cover of one of my favorite Paul Simon songs, Hearts and Bones.  She has a very pretty voice, and Lovett brought her into his set to do backup vocals.

It was a fabulous night, a terrific concert, and Celebrate Brooklyn is just a fantastic performing arts series, every year a great season.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Complexions at Celebrate

The dance company Complexions presented a wonderful, exuberant, eclectic, and rousing performance at Celebrate last night.

The first piece used a kind of music I can't quite describe, like religious organ music meets house. That doesn't really capture it, but it worked well with the complexly beautiful moves.  There wasn't a program for the evening, so I don't know much about the music. Except that the whole last act used U2 music and it was enthralling and fun and really a great way to spend a slightly humid, slightly balmy night in Brooklyn.

Statement from the Celebrate website:
Inspired by artistic directors Dwight Rhoden, “one of the most sought out choreographers of the day,” (NY Times) and Desmond Richardson, “one of the great modern dancers of his time,” (NY Times) and their pronounced appreciation for the multicultural, COMPLEXIONS’ unique mix of methods, styles, and cultures has created an entirely new and exciting vision of human movement. The company’s foremost innovation is that dance should be about removing boundaries, not reinforcing them. Whether it be the limiting traditions of a single style, period, venue, or culture, Complexions transcends them all, creating an open, continually evolving form of dance that reflects the movement of our world—and all its constituent cultures—as an interrelated whole. At Celebrate Brooklyn! the company performs excerpts from a selection of recent works, including Moonlight, Choke, Testament, Rise, and What Come, Thereafer, and Mercy, which is dedicated to the memory of Patrick Swayze.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Straight Man

Richard Russo's Straight Man is a wonderful novel! A very entertaining, clever, layered send up of life in academia. Laugh out loud humor. Excellent satire, the characters are richly drawn with both affection and disdain.  Although it takes place in a short period of time, the story has many different narrative strands -- all of which get tied up at the end, perhaps a little too neatly.

Although a lighter read than Empire Falls, Straight Man has an emotional center that makes for a moving ending and a satisfying read.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hannah and Her Sisters

I watched Hannah and Her Sisters last night, a Woody Allen movie about the intertwined lives of three sisters. There are several narrative strands, but the central story line concerns an affair between Lee (played by Barbara Hershey) and Hannah's husband (Michael Caine).

The tempo, dialogue, dramatic focus, and look of the movie were all excellent. Woody Allen really captured New York in the mid 80s. The film included internal monologues of the main characters, which really helped draw me in and feel connected. The tension around the central affair was also very well done.

I guess I was left wondering how we were supposed to feel about the adulterous couple, particularly Lee, who seemed very sweet and reasonable, and yet did such a despicable thing.