It’s the first day of fall, and you know what that means: Christmas has officially begun!
September 22, 2006
September 17, 2006
I thought the dog days would hang around until Halloween at least. But here it is, half past Labor Day and seventy degrees. This city has seen droughts and floods, October ice storms and winters without snow, frosty Easters and Thanksgivings basted in sweat. We have more weather, per capita, than anywhere else on earth–a casserole of climates left over from places that can’t use all theirs.
Still, we’re poorer, meteorologically, than when I was young–when we weren’t wrapped in plastic, and office windows actually opened. We didn’t watch the weather, we lived in it. 103 degrees meant looking for a breeze, not turning a thermostat. People somewhere lived in air-conditioned homes, but no one we knew. My sister and I would walk half a mile to loiter in a nicely-chilled museum. We came to know every inch of every exhibit, and which corners never got swept.
What will future archaeologists think when they dig up our skyscrapers? That our civilization died for lack of air? That these great towers were crypts?
Come to think of it, we could be wrong about the Great Pyramids. They might have been the first cubicle farms.
September 11, 2006
Not only is Cousin Henry a comedy, it’s Old Comedy, as practiced by Aristophanes, among others.Old Comedy opens with the imposition of an arbitrary law or regulation that upsets the world of the story. In this case, Uncle Indefer’s insistence on leaving the property to his oldest male heir instead of his all-but-adopted niece results in an impoverished Isabel, a miserable Henry, angry tenants and an exodus of faithful servants. The resolution of Old Comedy is the repeal of the ridiculous rule and the return of society to its natural state. In Cousin Henry, the law is actually repealed before its effects begin to unfold. More unusual, I think, is the fact that a minor character (Apjohn the lawyer) is the agent of resolution.
I wonder whether Trollope was consciously following the Old Comedy formula. Quite possibly not. As literary critic Northrop Frye pointed out, literature tends to take a handful of archetypal forms. In any case, the plot here is merely a peg on which to hang a character study.
September 8, 2006
The disputed “ego,” or “self,” is a euphemism for a cerebro-dorsal collocation of ill-disposed jurors who constantly shuffle positions while chattering like chipmunks in loquacious disagreement. The “id” is a consequence of these soi-disant selves straggling from their factitious conference room to frolic with ancestral rats in abandoned factories. Meanwhile, the aloof “super-ego” stands hips a-canter in a posture of titillating liberalism, ravishing herself in the mirror. Taken in a mixture and kneaded into a roughly star-shaped form, these unconscious yet assertive mechanisms make up that mainspring and bane of the spiritual world, that unmistakable rack on which the fragile denizens of sentience are broken while their flesh is sprinkled with torturer’s tears, the Human Soul.