Archive | Book Matters

Come to Fosse

Anyone who really loves show business eventually has a “come to Fosse” moment. You know you’re a real convert to the choreographer and director when you come around on “All That Jazz,” his bombastic meta-movie biography-musical, and you know you’re a real cult member when you come around on his last film, “Star 80,” about slain porn star Dorothy Stratten. (I’ve yet to achieve that status.) But even if you don’t dig Fosse – even if you don’t consciously know Fosse – chances are good you’ve fallen under his influence. Born in 1927 (he would have celebrated his ninetieth birthday last Friday), his signature style didn’t just indelibly stamp the world of dance. It redefined the packaging of sexuality and entertainment, blurring worlds that post-World War II parochialism had strenuously separated.

I first saw “All That Jazz,” Bob Fosse’s signature directorial effort – though not the one for which he won his one Academy Award – in its initial 1979 run, and was singularly unimpressed. (Of course, I was age eight, and more impressed by “The Muppet Movie.”) Years later, I saw what I had missed. Buried in the film’s dance sequences, its half-assembled spangled costumes and bare-bones Broadway backstages and editing rooms, was a winking homage to narcissism and its opposite, true communion. It was, and is, an amazing cacophony. But it is also bloated by his death wish – a courtship of his own demise that he materialized by casting Jessica Lange, one of his many, many girlfriends, in the role of Angelica, a literal angel of death. Continue Reading →

Greetings from Me and LC at Joshua Tree

Both of them felt it: that day was an island….On the mainland,  people went about their business, eating the Times, glancing through coffee and oatmeal, as they walked the gangway into an original dream of attentiveness, as if a day’s pleasure could concentrate them as much as suffering.
Sun, Donald Hall

Let me tell you: I’m trying to seize the fourth dimension of this instant-now so fleeting that it’s already gone because it’s already become a new instant-now that’s also already gone. Every thing has an instant in which it is. The want to grab hold of the is of the thing. These instants passing through the air I breathe: in fireworks they explode silently in space. I want to possess the atoms of time. And to capture the present, forbidden by its very nature.
Agua Viva, Clarice Inspector

When the sun grew so bright, when it was not nearly but merely blinding, she could do nothing but succumb to her senses and wait. And this is how it will be, with a sense of humor.
Newton North High School 1989 yearbook inscription, Lisa Rosman

Georgia O’Keeffe on Our Mind

Though the painter Georgia O’Keeffe has been dead for thirty years, she is remembered best as an old woman clad in billowing robes and squinting against a Southwestern sky. This is more unusual than you might think, for once most people die, their oldest self is not what lingers in our memory. Instead, a younger iteration is restored to our consciousness, a la Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or “Thriller”-era Michael Jackson. Just the fact that it’s not preposterous to compare O’Keeffe to these two pop touchstones says a lot about the iconic status she actively cultivated in her later years. This spring, a Brooklyn Museum of Art exhibit, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern examines how she subverted conventional tropes of gender, age, and beauty with a dry eye still very much admired today – and how she served as both art and artist long before such a conflation of roles was common.

Curated by Stanford art historian Wanda M. Corn, the show (which later will travel to the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts) includes dozens of O’Keeffe paintings and a few of her sculptures, as well as key elements of the artist’s wardrobe, much of which she made herself. (Her boast of being a “wonderful seamstress” in her autobiography is not wrong, if characteristically immodest.) The show also includes nearly a hundred photographs of O’Keeffe by such twentieth-century heavy-hitters as husband Alfred Stieglitz, and Ansel Adams, Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol, Bruce Weber, and Irving Penn. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy