H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy. Underrated by critics ever since its original publication in 1926, Mencken’s pithy “treatise” on democracy (he wrote similar books on religion and morals) was reprinted last fall by Dissident Books in a paperback edition. It is greatly deserving of a new audience. For all the inescapable limitations of Mencken’s damn-the-boobs point of view, Notes on Democracy, in addition to being among the most personal of his books, is also the most artfully written and least well known of his many essays on democracy and its discontents. If you’re feeling disillusioned with the wisdom of the masses–no matter what your reasons–you’ll find it grimly amusing and hugely diverting (TT).
Archives for March 28, 2010
I Know Where I’m Going! This 1947 Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger film, surprisingly little known in this country despite its release on DVD by the Criterion Collection, is a fantasy-tinged romcom about a priggish young woman (Wendy Hiller) who decides to marry a rich older man but is swayed from her course by a Scottish laird (Roger Livesey) who, unlike her, is in tune with the quiet joys of village life. The film’s surface charm conceals a tough-minded critique of contemporary materialism, yet Powell, Pressburger and their delectable cast never allow it to become obtrusively heavy-handed. I’ve no idea why this wonderful film isn’t as popular as the Ealing comedies (TT).
The Glass Menagerie (Roundabout/Laura Pels, 111 W. 46th St., extended through June 13). Gordon Edelstein’s production of Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece is a recreative landmark, perfectly cast and imaginatively staged, that will make you feel as though you’re seeing The Glass Menagerie for the first time. Every line, every pause, every gesture is as fresh as a shaft of sunlight. It joins David Cromer’s Our Town on the short list of New York’s must-see shows (TT).
Dollison and Marsh, Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider (ArtistShare). Julia Dollison has joined forces with her husband, the singer-arranger Kerry Marsh, to create an album of Maria Schneider’s compositions for big band in which all of the original horn parts are sung, not played. (Schneider’s own rhythm section provides instrumental support.) More than just a technical tour de force, this CD is a miracle of kaleidoscopically varied vocal color that provides an arresting new perspective on Schneider’s musical genius. If you’ve heard Observatory, Dollison’s 2005 debut CD, you won’t need to be told twice to get Vertical Voices. If not, get them both (TT).
Charles Addams, The Addams Family: An Evilution (Pomergranate, $39.95). All of the 200-plus surviving cartoons–many of them previously unpublished–featuring the members of the decidedly creepy family that “graced” the pages of The New Yorker for a half-century. If you only know the Addams family through its various incarnations on TV and in film, you’re missing most of the point of the output of one of the most gifted and original cartoonists of the twentieth century (TT).
L’Etoile (New York City Opera, Lincoln Center, Apr. 1 and 3). Constant Lambert called Emmanuel Chabrier “the first important composer since Mozart to show that seriousness is not the same as solemnity, that profundity is not dependent upon length, that wit is not always the same as buffoonery, and that frivolity and beauty are not necessarily enemies.” Curious? Then check out Mark Lamos’ 2002 staging of Chabrier’s near-surreal, divinely silly operetta, newly revived by the New York City Opera. It’s the aesthetic equivalent of a chilled split of Dom Perignon (TT).