Archives for posts with tag: Christ what an asshole

I initially had quite a bit of trouble figuring out what Hilton Als was getting at in his review of a production of the musical version of “Sunset Boulevard.” Then, in the last paragraph, I encountered this, and it clicked:

… it takes a long time for Norma to express her masculine rage …

Apparently we are, indeed, to read Als’s line of argument literally: he truly is evaluating how well Glenn Close portrays a man in drag playing the role of Norma Desmond. And this makes sense to him as the right approach because he truly is asserting that the character’s femininity is based not on some extant model of femininity associated with, you know, women, but rather on (a particular brand of) drag, which is (his term!) sui generis.

(I’m reminded of this perplexing comment about drag that appeared in the same magazine in another context:

… it’s all about dressing up and being pretty without the baggage of gender coding.

Sure. And minstrelsy is all about dressing up and being funny without the baggage of the Triangular Trade.)

To sum up: Als’s take is that, despite the repeated casting of women in the leading role, “Sunset Boulevard” is actually about a man, mistreated by men, and played to a male audience.

OK then. Just so we’re clear.

Moving on: it seems that Mary Beard has persisted in writing and publishing articles, despite warnings and explanations. Oh, this is interesting:

… my basic premise is that our mental, cultural template for a powerful person remains resolutely male.

You think this kind of “mental, cultural template” might have something to do with Als’s characterization of Norma’s rage as “masculine”?

[W]e have no template for what a powerful woman looks like, except that she looks rather like a man.

And Als doesn’t even like “Sunset Boulevard.” Jesus.

 

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I must admit that I am completely flummoxed by this article. The following paragraph, in particular, confuses me:

If classical Chinese poetry is going to reinvigorate English anew, though, it will need to come to terms with Ezra Pound’s Chinese, and what his translations and poetry did for poetry and translation, as well as for our understanding of China. Pound was a fascist and anti-Semite and translated from Asian poetry without knowing the language in question, so it makes sense that an uneasiness would come from both curmudgeonly specialists in Asian literature repeating the Arnold line of displeasure at his inaccuracies, as well as from Newman-like purveyors of poetic taste who’d rather deny that Pound’s contributions to English have anything to do with his representations of other cultures. Some might even imply that the discursive style into which East Asian poetry has been translated since Pound only reveals the racism behind the enterprise of translating Chinese into English (how many times was Pound mentioned, for instance, as paving the way for “Yi-Fen Chou” and Calvin Trillin’s New Yorker poem?).

I happened to run across the phrase “cultism and aesthetic compromise with the representatives of oppression” this morning; possibly relevant here.

 

Has this ever happened to you?: I had a brief white-knuckled interlude today in between realizing with head-splitting clarity that a particular long-ago acquaintance undoubtedly blogs and locating the blog in question. I was relieved to find nothing little of great practical concern there, just the small stuff of everyday buoyed along on a deep undercurrent of putrescent bile. I think the tone of the thing has given me an angle on a project I’d been struggling with, though, so that’s nice.

On the topic of memoir again:

Thoreau could stroll from his cabin to his family home, in Concord, in twenty minutes, about as long as it takes to walk the fifteen blocks from Carnegie Hall to Grand Central Terminal. He made that walk several times a week, lured by his mother’s cookies or the chance to dine with friends. These facts he glosses over in “Walden,” despite detailing with otherwise skinflint precision his eating habits and expenditures. He also fails to mention weekly visits from his mother and sisters (who brought along more undocumented food) and downplays the fact that he routinely hosted other guests as well—sometimes as many as thirty at a time. This is the situation Thoreau summed up by saying, “For the most part it is as solitary where I live as on the prairies. It is as much Asia or Africa as New England. . .”

Worth reading the whole thing–it’s absolutely hilarious.

Just finished Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections; it’s a mess. He’s a reasonably good writer (despite some forced humor and a tendency to lose the thread of the narrative in a quagmire of minutely described action). But what he writes! Christ, what an asshole.

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