For the past week or so, our neighborhood’s been in the throes of a full-scale cicada invasion. They emerge every 17 years in Asheville — red-eyed beasties that flutter around with metallic iridescent wings. (They look like elaborate golden clockworks when the sun hits right.) They’re everywhere, and they’re loud. As I type this, it sounds like a siren or a car alarm is going off somewhere close by. The sound starts at dawn and then dies down at dusk, hitting full volume around mid afternoon. That’s also the hardest time of day to go out for a walk; the cicadas seem to be at their most active then and can plonk you in the head as they fly by.
I asked Lowell to snap these pics. I wish he had a panoramic lens to catch the sheer plenitude. The street outside our house is littered with the various life stages of a cicada: plain brown molted exoskeletons, mating cicadas (two conjoined tail to tail), dying cicadas with quivering legs as well as dead ones, and there are grease spots running up and down the road where cars have run over them. The rest, like the ones below, are in the trees — eating and laying eggs in the branches and singing, singing.
Archives for May 23, 2008
If Terry and OGIC are playing with Jane chords, I thought I might play too. As my first little foray into the Jane game, I decided to look up the Jane chord of the original edition of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, which has the poems in the order Ted Hughes put them after Plath’s death, and compare it to the Jane chord of the restored edition of Ariel, which came out in 2004 and “reinstates” the order Plath had planned for the book.
In Her Husband, her excellent, balanced biography focusing on the Plath-Hughes marriage and creative partnership, Diane Middlebrook writes:
The Ariel Hughes published was not identical with the manuscript titled Ariel that Plath had organized in the black spring binder he found on her desk after her death. As editor, Hughes reshuffled the poems, destroying the narrative arc that Plath had described in her notes on the manuscript. He omitted some of the poems Plath had intended to include–he cut “The Rabbit Catcher,” for example. And he added poems that Plath had not included, poems written after she finished the Ariel manuscript, poems that Plath intended for another book. His most significant intervention was to replace the hopeful poem “Wintering”–the ending Plath had designed for Ariel–with “Edge”:
The woman is perfected.
Body wears the smile of accomplishment.
Ariel original edition (with “The Edge” as the final poem): “Love drag.”
Ariel: The Restored Edition (with “Wintering” as the final poem): “Love spring.”*
It’s an illuminating difference, isn’t it?
But, as Meghan O’Rourke argued in Slate in 2004, while Hughes’s editing of the original Ariel manuscript is regarded with suspicion by many of Plath’s adherents (“he stole her hope!”), it may have been beneficial:
The real problem with Hughes’ interference is that we can’t separate the emotional relationship from the intellectual, artistic relationship–and we don’t trust Hughes to, either. But from this distance Plath seems fortunate to have had his input. It’s easy to forget now how radical Plath’s poetry–with its elemental female anger, its sexual voracity, its self-loathing knowingness–was in 1963. A number of the poems Plath wrote in 1961 and 1962 had been turned down by editors who didn’t understand them. Plath’s publishers in the U.K. didn’t want to publish Ariel, nor could Hughes convince Knopf, in the United States, to publish the new poems. “People didn’t understand what they were getting at, or didn’t like what they saw,” the critic A. Alvarez later told Janet Malcolm. Hughes did get Plath’s poems. And in a strange way, there is something moving about what he did. It is surely an emotionally complicated task to spend two years carefully reorganizing the work of your dead wife so as to persuade someone to publish a book that will implicate you in her tragic fate. And the irony is that, in reorganizing Ariel to emphasize the ultimate price of Plath’s emotional injuries, Hughes, like Samson, brought down the walls of the temple around him, even as he helped his wife take flight.
* To compare more fully, here are the last lines of each poem that turn the Jane chord around:
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.
Will the hive survive, will the gladiolas
Succeed in banking their fires
To enter another year?
What will they taste of the Christmas roses?
The bees are flying. They taste the spring.
In this week’s Wall Street Journal drama column, written from the road, I report on a New Haven show, Long Wharf Theatre’s revival of Carousel, plus an important off-Broadway event, the American premiere of Conor McPherson’s Port Authority. Here’s an excerpt.
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From the Broadway run of “August: Osage County” and the Off Broadway transfer of “Adding Machine” to the regional-theater Tony awarded to Chicago Shakespeare Theater, this was the season when East Coast playgoers found out for themselves that theater in Chicago is as good as it gets. Now comes yet another Windy City stunner to hammer home the point. The Court Theatre’s small-scale production of “Carousel,” co-produced with New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre, has moved from Chicago to its second home in Connecticut. If you were impressed by Lincoln Center Theater’s handsome hit version of “South Pacific,” prepare to be floored: This “Carousel,” staged by Charles Newell, the Court’s artistic director, is the best Rodgers and Hammerstein revival I’ve ever seen.
Unlike Bartlett Sher’s freshened-up but fundamentally conventional “South Pacific,” Mr. Newell’s “Carousel” is a wholly original, deeply creative transformation of a musical that has always struck me as an uncomfortable blend of realism and sentimentality. Not since John Doyle’s similarly scaled staging of “Company” have I seen a musical revival that completely changed the way I felt about a show I thought I knew by heart….
Mr. Newell’s “Carousel” is played out on a near-bare thrust stage by a skeleton crew of 15 actors and accompanied not by a luscious-sounding pit band but a frugal 10-piece orchestra. No drummer, no synthesizer, no fancy sets, no wireless mikes, nothing but the show itself, unadorned and true. The result is a startlingly intimate “Carousel” that is all the more affecting for being so simple. Even the sentimentality becomes believable once it’s pared down to life size…
Conor McPherson, who knocked me flat in December with “The Seafarer,” is back in town with the American premiere of “Port Authority.” Written in 2002, it’s a series of interwoven monologues by three unhappy Irishmen waiting for a bus, and if that sounds like the start of an ethnic joke, don’t be thrown off the scent: The 37-year-old Mr. McPherson is already a class-A playwright, and “Port Authority,” like “The Seafarer,” comes from out of his top drawer….
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Read the whole thing here.
“Only two classes of books are of universal appeal: the very best and the very worst.”
Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad