“Contentions,” Commentary‘s Web site, is making five of my older essays available over the weekend for free reading: “The Problem of Shostakovich” (1995), “Taking Sinatra Seriously” (1997), “Living With Art” (2004), “I.B. Singer and Me” (2004), and “Culture in the Age of Blogging” (2005). To peruse any or all of them, go here.
Archives for April 27, 2007
I just took a peek at the “About Last Night” world map and saw that we’ve recently been visited by readers in the following cities:
• Anchorage, Alaska
• Coburg, Australia
• Constanta, Romania
• Managua, Nicaragua
• New Delhi, India
• Surrey, Prince Edward Island, Canada
• Tye, Texas
• Zapopan, Mexico
We’ve also had visitors from unidentified cities in Kuwait and South Korea.
From both of us to all of you…hello out there! Come back soon!
Whatever else he was or wasn’t, Richard Nixon must surely have been the strangest human being ever to serve as President of the United States. Deformed by unappeasable ambition and visibly ill at ease in his own skin, he was the polar opposite of the blow-dried, focus-grouped mannequins who now dominate American politics. Roger Ailes, who worked as a media consultant for Nixon’s 1968 campaign, summed him up in one steel-shod sentence: “He looks like somebody hung him in a closet overnight and he jumps out in the morning with his suit all bunched up and starts running around saying, ‘I want to be President.'” Such a creature was made to be put on stage, and Frank Langella plays him to the hilt and back again in Peter Morgan’s “Frost/Nixon,” a slick, superficial and staggeringly entertaining British docudrama about the making of the 1977 TV interviews in which David Frost persuaded Nixon to admit his involvement in the Watergate cover-up and apologize for having “let the American people down.”
Mr. Langella’s performance is all the more remarkable given the fact that he bears no resemblance whatsoever to Tricky Dick. Weirdly enough, he looks much more like Gore Vidal, and the Nixonesque voice he assumes in “Frost/Nixon” is not so much an impersonation as a very free caricature. He’s so far off the mark that it takes about five minutes to get used to him–but once you do, you’ll hang on his every twitch….
S.N. Behrman used to be one of the hottest names on Broadway, but that was a million years ago. I’d never seen any of his 20-odd plays on stage until Tuesday, when the Pearl Theatre Company revived “Biography,” which ran for 267 performances in 1932 and thereafter dropped from sight. Very much to my surprise and delight, it turns out to be a winner, a scintillating light comedy wrapped around an unexpectedly tough core of emotional seriousness….
This was my first visit to the Pearl Theatre Company, and I was decidedly impressed by the outstanding performances of the ensemble cast, which has been tautly directed by J.R. Sullivan. But the real star of the show is the script. Like the Mint Theater Company’s equally fine Off Broadway revival of Rachel Crothers’ “Susan and God,” this marvelous production serves as a highly pleasurable reminder that more than a few of the now-forgotten American stage comedies of the ’30s are still capable of charming modern audiences….
No link, so do what you gotta do. Buy a paper, or go here to subscribe to the Online Journal, which will give you immediate access to my column, plus the rest of the Journal‘s coverage. (If you’re already a subscriber, the column is here.)
This year’s Pulitzer Prize for music went to a jazz album, Ornette Coleman’s Sound Grammar. Did it deserve to win? Was it even eligible? And what are the implications of the Pulitzer jury’s decision to break with past practice and give the prize to a recording instead of a musical composition?
I’ll be grappling with all these questions in my next “Sightings” column, which appears in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal–and the answers may surprise you. Pick up a copy of tomorrow’s Journal and turn to the “Pursuits” section to see what I have to say.
“The average man, who does not know what to do with his life, wants another one which will last forever.”
Anatole France, The Revolt of the Angels