Barenboim, Zukerman & Du Pré - Beethoven Piano Trio "Archduke" (I) - Allegro moderato

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Quote Is Mightier Than The Novel

The Quote Is Mightier Than The Novel: Life Mirrors Art

“It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.”~ Oscar Wilde

"Life imitates
art far more than art imitates Life." ~Oscar Wilde

doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television." ~Woody Allen

"Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act." ~Truman Capote

All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players" ~William Shakespeare

"As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life." ~John Lubbock

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

This made a horrible book. That isn't to say, however, that it didn't make a good play. Although, it didn't. It made a great play.

As I started progressing through Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, I became confused as to when the old man (who was the lead) was fantasizing and when he wasn't. And the actual fantasies themselves were confusing me as well; new characters would come up and situations would occur which I did not have enough information to understand . This is a script that begs for a director to tell the reader how to act it out in their mind. So, I surrendered. I sat the book down and rented a DVD of the play, starring Lee Cobb at the library.

But, I can still say that I had read the play; I was reading the script while following the movie.

This here is a family trapped inside a of circus ring, if I ever saw one (and I see one every day at breakfast and dinner). The old man (played by Lee Cobb) is a salesman who has just been fired by his firm. For a while now, his sanity has been propelling in a downward spiral as he is trying to grasp into reality what his family and him could have been. His sons have recently moved back into his house to try to get back on their feet, thinking up ways they can achieve their American Dream, but notice their father's rants of soliloquy late at night, talking to no one but himself. In his imaginary conversations, the old man is speaking as though he is a successful salesman and his sons are off in college, just as successful as himself. One of his sons, Biff, notices a string hanging in their basement and realizes that his father has attempted to commit suicide, and according to their mother, more than once.

As I reflect back on this tragic story (a modern day Shakespearean tragedy if there ever was one), I think to myself; what is the meaning to all of this? What is the bigger picture? This older man clearly misinterpreted himself as popular and successful through his dreams, as though this alone would satisfy him in life. He would rather live in his dreams than in reality; he was his own worst enemy, one could say. When the older man *SPOILER ALERT* killed himself at the very end and his family attended his funeral, they all agreed that he was a victim to his profession and his wife shouted "We're free..." from what? I suppose the old man was the freest of all. I suppose everyone at that moment felt free of the constant struggle to maintain the American Dream.

In this play, Arthur Miller brings up the demeaning ideals America had agree upon during the Cold War, as the middle class was settling in and the gap between rich and poor was much wider. Ideals that popularity, personality and money will bring happiness; basically, that self interested ideals will make you more interesting to your family and friends. All to attain the America Dream. The old man could not except failure, so the only place he could not fail was in his imagination. But in failure, does freedom really exist?

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald, a man whom I always keep a dictionary in my pocket while reading his work and end up spending more time reading my dictionary. I am going to go over a book of his I had read that was published in 1920 under the title This Side of Paradise.

Although I slightly agreed when my octogenarian grandmother who grew up along the east coast (and taught at Hotchkiss) who called this book pretentious, it exudes a candid quality of blissful youth most pretentiously whimsical teenagers can relate to. In fact, it was almost a huge joke directed towards teenagers with no exact pun at the end, rather an epiphany that forced the joke to end.

This story paints the life of a privileged young man named Armory Blaine who realized at a young age that, as Mark Twain had put it, "All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure." In the beginning, Fitzgerald paints the east coast as a playground to this young man where he can decide which Ivy League school he wants to attend (after calling Yale a bunch of sissies and ended up choosing Princeton). At Princeton, Fitzgerald shows Armory going from an observatory freshman to a cocky sophomore, to a senior deciding whether or not to drop-out of Princeton. Towards the end, Armory maintains a candid and enlightening correspondence with a priest whom he had known since childhood as his mother's money is dying out and Armory is getting closer to a sense of reality.

But this book was quite whimsical. It really chronicled a born romantic that viewed the world as a playground for his imagination to blossom. His endeavors into poetry, relationships with femme-fatales and new ideas shared about government all had cast a mirror on himself, blossoming his egotist nature. And what a better title than This Side of Paradise. Really, what F. Scott Fitzgerald was referring to in the title was the egotism and blissful ignorance of youth.

Armory's many relationships throughout the book, as a female reader, captured me. I felt I could relate with each one of the girls; from Rosalind, the refreshingly feminist image of the now stereotypically spoiled girl who tries to cause chaos in Armory's life, to Eleanor, the poetic soul who teased Armory with her wit and charms. I never wanted each girl to leave, but after they had, a new idea in Armory's life would show up which would progress him to grow as a person, and a new girl would then compliment him, with whom I would grow comfortable with. And that mirrors life quite well, doesn't it?

So, yes, this book does come across as a bit tongue-in-cheek. But, what other way could you express the teenage persona? And the plot intersects so elegantly between the people Armory meets with his progressing epiphany of reality.

Here are a few elements I could relate to:

  • I laughed when Armory was playing the game where he guessed what each person in his high school would end up doing, saying a few things which were not very favorable (but could very well be true). He even spoke about this one guy in his class as looking like a picture on a missing soldier's report.
  • I laughed when he described the teenagers watching the movie with critical wit and tolerant amusement and the nonchalant stride he attempted to walk around with his first day of college.
  • I also laughed as Armory was describing this one boy, considered to be a genius, whose poem he could not figure. I remember it was something about the abysmal atmosphere swirling into a hole.

I loved reading about Eleanor and her teasing poetic nature;

Amory selected a blade of grass and nibbled at it scientifically.

"I never fall in love in August or September," he proffered. "When then?" "Christmas or Easter. I'm a liturgist." "Easter!" She turned up her nose. "Huh! Spring in corsets!" "Easter would bore spring, wouldn't she? Easter has her hair braided, wears a tailored suit."

"Bind on thy sandals, oh, thou most fleet. Over the splendor and speed of thy feet" quoted Eleanor softly, and then added: "I suppose Hallowe'en is a better day for autumn than Thanksgiving."

"Much better and Christmas eve does very well for winter, but summer..." "Summer has no day," she said. "We can't possibly have a summer love. So many people have tried that the name's become proverbial. Summer is only the unfulfilled promise of spring, a charlatan in place of the warm balmy nights I dream of in April. It's a sad season of life without growth.... It has no day." "Fourth of July," Amory suggested facetiously. "Don't be funny!" she said, raking him with her eyes. "Well, what could fulfil the promise of spring?" She thought a moment. "Oh, I suppose heaven would, if there was one," she said finally, "a sort of pagan heaven you ought to be a materialist," she continued irrelevantly. "Why?" "Because you look a good deal like the pictures of Rupert Brooke."

Overall, while reading this book, you must take your frilly little whimsy of a British imagination with you while your tongue is still in your cheek, then you will find this as the bible of your youthful career.


So, here you are wondering what all this is about. Well, here is an explanation:

I deleted my old blog that I haven't maintained in a while (the one with my columns in it that you have no clue even existed) and decided to start a new blog because the child laborer in my yearns to be exploited. This blog will be dedicated to books (mostly ones I have read).

If you would like to know why I have decided to write a blog about books when I have a school to attend, a job to do, a harp to practice, an endangered species to save, and homework to procrastinate, then read the phrase after the 2nd-to-last comma.

But, for the psychologists out there who still need answers, here are some intricacies of mine which may have spurred a sensation in me to write this blog:

  • I always thought I was a very precocious child. I would always keep this leather-bound journal with me everywhere I went, writing about anything and everything that gave me inspiration, and then tried desperately to make up witty little quotes about each happening. But, after nostalgia wandered around time like a ghost, it finally came into reality as I read through that journal and I realized I was really just a pretentious child.
  • I have always wanted to work at the Barnes and Nobles in my town, but everybody who comes in knows absolutely nothing about books, possibly due to the fact that it is too close to the Old Country Buffet.
  • I know a lot of quotes from books because I read a lot of books about quotes from a lot of books.
  • Sometimes when I read a book, I end up reading my dictionary more.