<= 2004.09.21

2004.09.25 =>

dirty ceramics

Ach, two consecutive days without updating... little blog, you need to be watered more often than that. Your leaves are shriveling. I wondered this morning when I may officially be said to have entered my "late twenties." If you divide it evenly into early, mid, and late, as seems the reasonable thing, I would pass the cusp at age 26 and two-thirds, or 10 May 2005. God, that's terrible. I'll hold a wake for my vanished youth. Lots of black crepe and whiskey.

Michael Tilson Thomas (or MTT, as Those in the Know affectionately dub him) and the San Fransico Symphony do The Rite of Spring with precision and restraint(!) and a keen eye for structure; the familiar recording against which I measure it in my mind was Bernstein's, and this was an entirely different kettle of fish. I actually found myself paying attention to the harmonies—not that I didn't formerly think Stravinsky was harmonic, but when the orchestra does the obvious thing and hits the 9/8 and 13/8 and 7/8 et seq. like there's no tomorrow, considerations of pitch tend to go on the back burner. (And big ups to the fellow who played the opening bassoon solo—you lovely liquid fluttering tone of bassoon!) MTT and SFS also do Tchaikovsky's Second as if it were a sort of proto-Stravinsky—everything was rhythm—and they blast out excerpts from "The Firebird" with such schizoid verve that the mild-mannered septuagenarian sitting next to you suddenly raises both hands and starts beating the air in time with the music, maybe remembering the longago drills of his youth on the military parade ground? Or maybe he had a former life as a Russian prince.

Speaking of émigrés, I've been combing newspaper archives for the fifties to find mentions of Lolita. For a while there was nothing at all, and the book probably would have ended up as one more forgotten ejecta from the small presses if it weren't for the good offices of Graham Greene and a stodgy Brit named John Gordon who got all huffy about Greene's promoting pornography. I really ought to make this research of some use to others and upload a Lolita Newspaper Archive; for the moment I'll give you the first tremor in the American press, to wit, the New York Times Book Review of 26 February 1956:

In and Out of Books—Albion

We have been looking at the English papers and we notice that Mr. Graham Greene, fine novelist and hater of all things American except Texas, is riding again. In The Sunday Express, columnist John Gordon writes of his shock at reading a book "Lolita," a long French novel about nymphets, recommended by Mr. Greene as one of the best books of 1955. "Sheer unrestrained pornography," wrote Mr. Gordon, and lectured Mr. Greene severely.

Two weeks later Mr. Greene retaliated in The Spectator:

"In recognition of the struggle he has maintained for so many years against the insidious menace of pornography, in defense of our hearths and homes and the purity of public life, the signatories propose to form the John Gordon Society, if sufficient support is forthcoming. The main object of the society will be to represent the ideals of Mr. Gordon in active form, in the presentation of family films, which will fearlessly attack the social evils of our time, and to form a body of competent censors, unaffected by commercial considerations, to examine and if necessary to condemn all offensive books, plays, paintings, sculptures and ceramics."

The astute reader will note that the Times doesn't bother to define "nymphet." According to the OED the word has been around since 1612 in the sense of "a young or small nymph," but that meaning is considered obsolete, and Lolita itself introduced the modern sense of "a sexually attractive or sexually mature young girl" in 1955. Thus contemporary readers of the day presumably imagined pornography about nymphs, and scratched their heads.


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2004.09.25 =>

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