Tuesday was the second busiest day of a rocky week: I wrote two pieces, went to an appointment in between, then headed south for a Broadway preview from which I only just returned. Today will be even busier: I have to write my Wall Street Journal column and a speech, go to an afternoon rehearsal, meet an out-of-town visitor for dinner, then take a cab to the Village Vanguard to hear Jim Hall (you come, too). Things will ease off a bit after that, but I’m still double-booked through next Monday, my day off. That’s my life, and though I’m not really complaining–it’s nice to be wanted–anybody who tries to get me to do anything on Monday is looking for t-r-o-u-b-l-e.
Enough said. Here’s what’s been happening on the art front:
– I saw a press preview of Bombay Dreams, which opens Thursday at the Broadway Theatre. I’ll be reviewing it in Friday’s Journal.
– I watched the first part of The Letter, William Wyler’s 1940 film version of Somerset Maugham’s short story. It’s not bad, and Bette Davis (of whom I’m not usually a fan) was quite good, but I’d rather read Maugham than watch him, so I switched off after Davis spilled the beans to her stiff-uppah-lip lawyer.
– As I mentioned the other day, I’m currently rereading W. Jackson Bate’s Samuel Johnson, something I do every year or two. For me, Johnson is the most sympathetic figure in all of English literature, and the courage with which he climbed out of the abyss of failure and depression has helped nudge me through more than one dark patch of my own life. Not only is Bate better than Boswell when it comes to this particular aspect of Johnson’s psychology, but his biography is a masterly piece of writing for which no stylistic apologies of any kind need be made. Would that all academics wrote so lucidly. A friend of mine who studied under Bate at Harvard assures me that his Johnson class was better than the book, but I wouldn’t know–I didn’t go to Harvard, or even Yale! All I can tell you is that I’ve read Samuel Johnson at least ten times since it was published in 1977, and profited from it every time, this one included.
– My copy of Fairfield Porter’s Broadway, the color lithograph reproduced on the cover of A Terry Teachout Reader, was delivered today. It proved to be even more beautiful than I expected (and my expectations were high). Alas, the print came loose from its mounting tape in transit, but a quick trip to my framer should set things right, and then I’ll hang it over my mantelpiece. If I wasn’t so busy, I’d invite a few select friends over for a hanging ceremony! I’m having lunch with Supermaud on Thursday, so maybe I can lure her uptown to take a peek.
– Now playing on iTunes: “Rapunzel,” a sinuously hip bebop line by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (that’s Steely Dan to you) performed by nonpareil tenor saxophonists Pete Christlieb and Warne Marsh on Apogee, their Steely Dan-produced 1978 duet album, now available on CD for the first time with three previously unreleased bonus tracks. I’ve loved this record ever since I first heard it a quarter-century ago, and wondered why it never made it onto compact disc. Now it has, and I’m ecstatic. “Rapunzel,” by the way, is a contrafact of “Land of Make Believe,” a song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, of all people. Three words to the wise: buy this album.
And so to bed. I’m bushed. Don’t be surprised if I maintain radio silence on Thursday. I promise to get back to you as soon as things calm down a bit. Not only do I have a hatful of links crying out to be posted, but I want to write a few heartfelt words about Carolina Ballet‘s remarkable dance version of Handel’s Messiah, which I flew down to Raleigh to see immediately after finishing my Balanchine book but haven’t had time to blog about other than in passing.
All this and more once the clouds roll by! Meanwhile, I’m still hoping that Our Girl will feel like coming out and playing one of these days….