Friday, September 02, 2005

aug 8 & 15 New Yorker issue

What about that always liberal never radical news magazine? That bourgie arts and entertainment periodical?

I'd been looking forward to Louis Menand on Edmund Wilson, but this was a little bit of a let down. If, as Menand writes, "Wilson thought that literature is determined by history and by psychology" (88) Menand takes history for granted (not a safe thing to do) and gives us too much information about Mr. Wilson's personal life. Though I must admit, I did appreciate learning that when Edmund Wilson and his wife (the totally fabulous) Mary McCarthy fought "he would retreat into his study and lock the door; she would set plies of paper on fire and try to push them under it." Ah, love. But where is the historical materialism in that? I want to know.

Amardeep Singh compared Wilson and Menand in April 2004.

When I read Joan Acocella's review of "Downtown Surrealists," that is, surrealist contemporary dance companies, a feeling of annoyance crept in. Moved by one company, she babbles. The name of the peice they performed is "Frozen Mommy" and she closes her review "You saw Mommy, she was frozen." Frankly, that's weak. It adds nothing. It relies on a kind of assumption of sensory or experiential empiricism. Or objectivity. Or some sort of assumed consensus of shared experience, which seems unlikely. Or an assumed transparency of the work.

Unless . . . well, more on the dance audiance later . . . as I say, my annoyance was there, but just barely.

Further, she describes the dancers in "Frozen Mommy" as seeming or performing roles that were "mad and, at many points, evil" but she likes this fine. Sarah Michelson's work, however, crosses some arbitrary line for Acocella and she describes herself as feeling "abused" as if the dance was designed "against the audience" and accuses Michelson of an excess of "attitude." But given Acocella's review, its hard to tell why one surrealist approach works for her, another doesn't. In one piece, she's willing to assume that the audience knows, reads and enjoys a coherant dance work, in another, she relies on her own distance from the piece to define its merit, or lack of merit, as it were.

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