Thursday, February 13, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 02/12/20: Edith Warton's Sharp Pen, Unpredictable Big East, *Judy* as a Sonnet Cycle

1. Today I made the switch from Patrick O'Brian to Edith Wharton and there's a point of contact between them. In the same way that O'Brian describes in great detail the physical features of a the ship Sophie and the details of 18th century life on shore and on the ship, Wharton, in The Age of Innocence, describes upper class society in late 19th century Manhattan in similar detail. It's not just the manners of these aristocrats she describes, but she draws, first, a vivid picture of the Academy of Music in New York City where, in the opening of the novel, Faust is being performed. (If you've seen the movie, The Age of Innocence, you might remember that the art production of the movie is similarly lush in its attention to detail.) Second, the novel's principals retire, after the opera, to the ballroom at the Beaufort mansion, and, again Wharton draws a detailed picture of the design and decor of ballroom, always connecting the architectural details of the space and the details of each character's apparel to the nature of his or her personality, taste, prejudices, and over all disposition.

It's wicked.

Edith Wharton's pen is sharp.

2. As an avid follower of Big East basketball, I'm no different from others who devote hours watching rivals in this conference play games.

The conference is reliably unpredictable.

Take tonight. First place Seton Hall hosted Creighton. Seton Hall's Myles Powell had an off night, Creighton continued its emergence as a team on the rise, and the Blue Jays beat Seton Hall, 87-82, at The Rock, the Prudential Center in Newark.

Next up: Villanova played host to Marquette. Marquette had won its last three games and Villanova had lost three in row.

But, Marquette's star, Markus Powell, like Myles Powell, also had an off night; but, in the game's final two minutes, Howard hit huge shots (but missed key free throws) and Marquette nearly pulled ahead, nearly pulled off a near miraculous comeback, but fell short, and Villanova hung on to win, 72-71.

3. Shakespeare's cycle of sonnets read like a 154 sided diamond (if there were such a thing).
With each new sonnet, Shakespeare explores another facet of love and sexuality, whether it's love between friends, romantic love, love and aging, the pain of betrayal, jealousy, despair, or any of the other many dimensions of love.

Tonight, I experienced Renee Zellweger's performance as Judy Garland in the movie, Judy, much like Shakespeare's sonnet cycle, but, the subject was not love;  Zellweger, instead, brought to life grief's countless facets. It was a wrenching performance taking us deep into the grief (and fatigue) of a lost childhood, financial instability, insecurity, lost love, being exploited and discarded as a film star, family separation, carrying the weight of maintaining a public persona, loneliness, dependence on pills, and any number of other sources of her grief. Zellweger brought this grief to life with her eyes, her range of facial expressions, in the catches and breaks in her character's voice, her character's mannerisms, and in way her character walked, danced, sang, slumped, stumbled, and smoked cigarettes. Each gesture was like a new sonnet, unveiling another dimension of the bottomless grief that consumed her character Judy's being.

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