Almanac: Balzac on genius

INK BOTTLE“Men give way before the power of genius, they hate it and try to blow upon it because it takes without sharing the plunder, but they give way if it persists; in short, they worship it on their knees when they have failed in their efforts to bury it under the mud.”

Honoré de Balzac, Père Goriot

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Lookback: on not being able to write fiction

LOOKBACKFrom 2004:

Whatever the reason, I’ve reached the age of forty-eight without once successfully completing a work of fiction (or unsuccessfully, for that matter), and though it’s not unheard of for incautious writers to unexpectedly extrude a novel in the middle of life, I doubt it’ll happen to me. I regret it bitterly, just as I regret never having learned to speak another language, but by now I’m reasonably content to stick to the cards in my hand and do my best to play them as well as I know how….

Read the whole thing here.

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Time out

writerJust in case you’re wondering why there wasn’t a nice long posting today containing my considered thoughts on something or other, this is One of Those Weeks. Not only do I have two Wall Street Journal columns and a Commentary essay to write, but I also had to knock out two lectures that I’ll be delivering this coming weekend at Baylor University. That’s a whole lot of writing to get done in not quite enough time. Something had to give, and it was “About Last Night.”

Fear not: I’ve already arranged for the usual daily postings, which will appear on schedule.

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Just because: Glenn Gould plays a Bach concerto

TV CAMERAGlenn Gould plays Bach’s G Minor Concerto, BWV 1058, on the CBC in 1969, accompanied by Vladimir Golschmann and the Toronto Symphony:

(This is the latest in a series of arts-related videos that appear in this space each Monday and Wednesday.)

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Almanac: Jean Anouilh on inspiration

INK BOTTLE“Talent is like a faucet; while it is open, you have to write. Inspiration?—a hoax fabricated by poets for their self-importance.”

Jean Anouilh (quoted in the New York Times, Oct. 2, 1960)

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On the Town comes home at last

on-the-town-broadway-making-of.sl.8.on-the-town-ss08In today’s Wall Street Journal I write with unrestrained enthusiasm about the new Broadway revival of On the Town. Here’s an excerpt.

* * *

When did you last see a big-budget musical that made you want to shout with joy? If you’ve been feeling anxious about the lukewarm state of American musical comedy, get ready to get hot again: The new Broadway revival of “On the Town” is everything a great show should be.

“On the Town,” in which Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jerome Robbins tell the tale of three wide-eyed sailors with just 24 hours to see New York for the first time, came to Broadway for the first time in 1944 and instantaneously made stars out of its prodigious creators (their average age on opening night was 27). But MGM botched the 1949 film version by scrapping most of Bernstein’s brash, bittersweet music, and “On the Town,” in part for that reason, has never had a commercially successful Broadway revival. As a result, it’s not nearly as well known as the other major musicals of the ‘40s and ‘50s, meaning that Masschusetts’ Barrington Stage Company has taken a huge risk by transferring its 2013 revival to New York. Will it buck the odds and become a hit? I’m no producer, but anyone who isn’t thrilled by this tinglingly well-staged production needs a heart transplant.

4434_Town859469Of all the key shows from the golden age of American musical comedy, “On the Town” most successfully blended frivolous ends with sophisticated means. Bernstein himself said that “the subject matter was light, but the subject was serious,” and for all the screwball silliness of its cotton-candy plot, no one who saw “On the Town” could possibly ignore the dark shadow that World War II cast across the stage: Gabey, Chip, and Ozzie (Tony Yazbeck, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Clyde Alves) have only one day in which to find their true loves (Megan Fairchild, Alysha Umphress and Elizabeth Stanley) before they must sail off to war, and very possibly to their deaths….

“On the Town,” in short, is far more than a piece of fancy fluff, and while John Rando, the director, is a recognized master of comic timing who could make even “Long Day’s Journey into Night” funny, he never skimps on warmth….

Would that Robbins’ own dances had survived other than in fragments, but Joshua Bergasse’s brand-new choreography is so tinglingly imaginative that even dance buffs won’t stop to think twice about what might have been: Each step pulses with passionate life….

* * *

Read the whole thing here.

The trailer for On the Town, shot on location in New York:

Eileen Farrell and Leonard Bernstein perform “Some Other Time,” from the score of On the Town, on PBS in 1987:

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Almanac: Aaron Copland on depression and creativity

INK BOTTLE“Too much depression will not result in a work of art because a work of art is an affirmative gesture. To compose, you have to feel that you are accomplishing something. If you feel you are accomplishing something, you won’t feel so depressed. You may feel depressed, but it can’t be so depressing that you can’t move. No, I would say that people create in moments when they are elated about expressing their depression!”

Aaron Copland (quoted in The Creative Experience: How and Why Do We Create?, courtesy of Maria Popova)

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