Today, a few videos *ing the amazing Bill Evans on the piano...
My Foolish Heart
Like Someone In Love
I do it for Love
Easy to Love
Today, a few videos *ing the amazing Bill Evans on the piano...
This video of a 1995 performance of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 by the famous Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin, with Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Enjoy! (Not sure who I am telling to enjoy as I don't think anyone really reads this blog. I'm just talking to myself here!)
Other than an occasional one, I do not have the time to read the actual short stories in Object Lessons: The Paris Review presents the Art of the Short Story but am really enjoying reading the introductions to the short stories which are typically 2-4 pages long but very enjoyable!
For example, yesterday I read David Means' introduction to Raymond Carver’s Why Don’t You Dance? Here is an excerpt:
A great story is like an itch that has to be scratched eternally. It opens up a singular feeling forever in the reader that arises out of what seems to be a paradigmatic stance.We’re left with more questions than answers, and more answers than questions; therefore, the paradoxical quality of a good story is that it seems to give us everything we need and yet not quite enough to fulfill a sense of having been shown a full life. All we’re given is a sliver of some wider existence, a collection of minutae, a shift of viewpoint, a statement made weeks later. The poetics of the modern story are both anachronistic (tapping old modes of myth and folklore) and contemporary (the pop song, the thirty-second commercial spot). One must -- as a writer and reader - crystallize deep meaning from a few, slight gestures: ........
…Raymond Carver brought an art form back into relation with itself. He moved the short story forward but seemed to be rehashing and digging up his style from some buried aboriginal source. James Joyce did the same thing in Dubliners. He reengineered the short story, solidifying it with a new type of lyric firmness. It might seem, because Carver’s style is so pristine, so simple-sounding, that the lesson of his work is that one should keep the writing clear and simple. It might seem that the lesson of his work is that one must revert to the Hemingway technique of cinematic reportage, zeroing in on the peak of the meaningful action and image while leaving everything else submerged. Maybe, maybe not. Carver’s style teaches us that the bare bones of a story - no matter how ornate or twisty a style might get - are always simple, rudimentary, and arriving from a deeply humane source. Heart and style and story must be united, somehow. In other words, you have to care, and care a lot. Fancy prose - wildly interesting mannerisms, snarky jokes, weird cartoonish futures - are all fine and dandy, as long as the bare bones come from a pure, honest, humane concern.Later in the introduction, Means writes:
A good short story - any good story - is like one of the cave paintings in Herzog's movie, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The essential mysteries of the human condition, of the fact that we can make art at all, are reduced to a few strokes, a primal essence, bare-boned, stark, pulled out fo the dimness with the flickering light of a flaming torch, which in contemporary times takes the form of a highly sensitive, poetically minded reader flickering his/her soul - across the text.
Means, in a less elevated but equally eloquent manner, compared the form to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”—a short burst of energy that makes you want to reread, or replay, to capture that emotional feeling.
Yeah, I'm tempted by the novel. Tempted is the correct word because compared to the demands of the story it would seem that the novel, all that wide-open space, would be enticing after four story collections. But what's not enticing to me is the idea of simply going big and wide for the sake of giving into the possibility of going big. I love novels, and I read them more than anything, but stories cut in sharp and hard and are able to reveal things in a different way: they're highly charged, a slightly newer form, and inherently more contemporary.
Big and wide can mean expansive and comprehensive, but it can also mean bloat. Novels often thin themselves out to a watery hue—some even start that way—and at times seem to only ride along the surface of things, giving us what we already know, reporting the news that is just news. Ezra Pound said that literature is news that stays news. I keep reading novels that feel, even if they're trying new tricks, like old news, and often resort to cliché to keep moving: out of the corner of his eyes, his heart was pounding in his chest, that kind of thing. Those books are just surfing along on a very small waves—reading them is like watching surfers on Cape Cod trying to catch whatever's coming in on a lame day.
I'm not at all interested in simply reporting what's here right now, or cranking out an entertainment device that's going to touch the widest number of people. I'm interested in digging and excavating as deep as I can go into those small eternal moments and how they expand out, or close in, on the lives of my characters. I lean towards the souls on the fringes of the corporate/industrial landscape, and some of those folks are mute, silent, close-lipped and don't say enough to start filling a novel. As a story writer, you have work with sharp but relatively small tools, the picks of metaphor, the shovel blade of images, the trowel of point of view, and then you delicately lift and brush in the revision with love and care knowing that one slip and you might damage an extremely delicate thing. In the end it has to be as solid as marble. But during the process it's like an ancient shard of pottery.
All of this just to say that, yes, I'm tempted still by the novel, but I'm happy to be working hard at stories. I could go on here to talk about how, paradoxically—and maybe I'm contradicting myself, but so what, like Whitman said, do I contradict myself, who cares, I'm an American, I have to hold multitudes—bloat can be good if it's interesting. A move from stories to novels for me would be partly a matter of not giving into the temptation to abuse the form.
It's a death trap to write something as a flight of fancy, or to sell more books. I was working on a novel a few years ago—I'm still working on it on and off—but then I began to write a story, “The Spot,” and it landed in The New Yorker and I was happy and shifted gears and continued to write stories. When I'm down—and even Alice Munro admits that at times she feels guilty for not writing a novel—I just start a defensive mantra: Blake never wrote novels. Whitman never wrote novels. Carver's work is still around. Franz Wright hasn't written a novel. And it's not fear of bad reviews, or not making something that isn't coherent or good that holds me back, but rather a fear of wasting time—and in doing so not being able to tell the stories that want to be told. If a story wants to be told and you don't tell it, you'd better stand back because something's going to explode.
David Means’s short-story collection “The Spot" is a stunning, often terrifying study of human motivation at the extremes of experience. Inhabiting settings that range from the dark plains of the Midwest, to the seeming order of suburbia, Means’s characters live at the meeting places of cruelty and mercy, criminality and victimhood. Three stories from the book, “A River in Egypt,” “The Spot,” and “The Knocking,” first appeared in The New Yorker. Means recently answered my questions about the American landscape, violence in contemporary culture, and Bruce Springsteen.
Not much time to read the short stories themselves but am loving reading the intros to the stories in Object Lessons, Paris Review's book on the Art of the Short Story.
The image below is from an intro by Daniel Orozco to a short story by Steven Millhauser. The story, called 'Flying Carpets', is about a young boy idling away during his summer vacation. “My father taught me not to believe stories about martians and spaceships,” he says. And then his father brings home the popular toy of the summer — a flying carpet!
the "childhood summer is evoked with sensory details as sharp as they are commonplace and quotidian - the flutter of sheets on clotheslines, the buzz of insects, the gleam of a bottle in the grass. It is sense memory that evokes the strongest emotions in us; that's how we remember. We experience the world through our senses, and in remembering we reach for sense memory in order to somehow feel what was, and is now gone.... Nostalgia is evoked by the precision and accumulation of concrete sensory detail -- in other words, by heeding that writerly chestnut: Show, Don't Tell.
Flying carpets are the diversion of the summer -- ridden by neighborhood boys, skimming rooftops, drifting over fences from backyard to backyard -- until one day the novelty wears off. Summer wanes, the earth turns, and the toys are put away. The fantastic is rendered commonplace, and the magic of a boy's childhood is recalled with the melancholy of the man who can never experience such again."
Behind every great man stands a woman. Sometimes it is your sister!
Just ran into an article that talks about Mozart's older sister - Maria Anna Mozart, nickname Nannerl, - older to him by about 4.5 years.
"We have few certainties regarding Nannerl Mozart’s musical aptitude but they are significant. We know that she was considered a virtuoso on the harpsichord. As a little girl she performed as a duo with Wolfgang in the international tournées organized by their father, and in the announcements of concerts and newspaper articles she was named – and praised – first. ............. In short, there are many letters in which Herr Mozart vaunts his daughter’s skill at the keyboard and the praise she received. .............once she had grown up and was therefore no longer ‘usable’ as a child prodigy, would be to make her teach the harpsichord, so that the money she earned could go to fill the family coffers and finance the study, travel and artistic promotion of her brother. Naturally Nannerl continued to play in public, but mostly – and not by chance – she performed her brother’s compositions.
To conclude, we can be certain of one thing: due to circumstances, over the course of the years Nannerl Mozart’s musical talent, however great it was, gradually dried up and went to waste"
Rare are the days when I don't feel like listening to ANY music. Today is one of those days.
Quote of the day:
"For (Wallace) Stevens, the physical world was variously bare, chaotic, turning, and without meaning; and our cultural traditions so obviously at variance with the physical world that they could no longer offer acceptable accountings of our passage through it. Like the rest of us, the poet, through the offices of the imagination, must construct fictive reconciliations to the physical world so that his or her life might become bearable, even joyous. .. Stevens turned not to received beliefs, like his religious predecessors, but to the resources of the imagination for accommodating himself to the terms of the transient world." - C. Barry Chabot, in "Fiction, Truth, and the Character of Beliefs", The Georgia Review, Winter 1983 issue.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measure destined for her soul.
Music for this Monday morning:
Memorial Day here in the United States and I thought this may be an interesting way to mark this day via music.
Dmitri Shostakovich used his Fourth to Ninth Symphony as a silent protest against the horrors of war and the crimes of Stalin.
"I had to write about it, I felt that it was my responsibility, my duty. I had to write a requiem for all those who died, who had suffered...I had to describe the horrible extermination machine and express protest against it." -Shostakovich on his Seventh Symphony depicting the tragedies of World War II.
by Mark Strand
Now in the middle of my life
all things are white.
I walk under the trees,
the frayed leaves,
the wide net of noon,
and the day is white.
And my breath is white,
drifting over the patches
of grass and fields of ice
into the high circles of light.
As I walk, the darkness of
my steps is also white,
and my shadow blazes
under me. In all seasons
the silence where I find myself
and what I make of nothing are white,
the white of sorrow,
the white of death.
Even the night that calls
like a dark wish is white;
and in my sleep as I turn
in the weather of dreams
it is the white of my sheets
and the white shades of the moon
drawn over my floor
that save me for morning.
And out of my waking
the circle of light widens,
it fills with trees, houses,
stretches of ice.
It reaches out. It rings
the eye with white.
All things are one.
All things are joined
even beyond the edge of sight.
by Mark Strand
Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem likeWhen he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.
When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it downNo longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead.When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky
Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrusAnd cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall singWhen the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.
There is a certain triviality in living here,
A lightness, a comic monotony that one tries
To undermine with shows of energy, a devotion
To the vagaries of desire, whereas over there
In a seriousness, a stiff, inflexible gloom
That shrouds the disappearing soul, a weight
That shames our lightness. Just look
Across the river and you will discover
How unworthy you are as you describe what you see,
Which is bound by what is available.
On the other side, no one is looking this way.
They are committed to obstacles,
To the textures and levels of darkness,
The tedious enactment of duration.
And they labor not for bread or love
But to perpetuate the balance between the past
And the future. They are the future as it
Extends itself, just as we are the past
Coming to terms with itself.