|Courbet's "The Origin of the World"|
Friday, September 30, 2016
Thursday, September 29, 2016
|photograph by Francis Levy|
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Much has been made of Hillary Clinton being the first American president, but lest we over value this achievement let’s remember the famous Hatshepsut who was the second woman Pharaoh. You can view her in the Met’s Egyptian wing and before her there was Sobekneferu. In modern times we have of course had Golda Meir, Israel’s fifth prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkell, the chancellor of Germany and Britain's current prime minister, Theresa May. Whether Helen of Troy was a political figure or figurehead remains to be seen, but she certainly would qualify as being one of Hegel’s figures of World Historical importance, having caused The Trojan War. And how would some of these famous woman leaders have fared against Donald Trump in a debate? Imagine Trump facing off against Hatshepsut. Even though you can’t get a good handle on a piece of stone, you get the feeling that the famous Egyptian pharaoh was unmoving and imperturbable. Would Trump have dared to accuse her of not having the "stamina" for the job? Her steely gaze would undoubtedly have shaken the billionaire real estate developer’s resolve. How would Trump have handled Meir who is not exactly what you’d call a babe, when she began to rattle him with her prodigious intelligence? Would he have attacked her appearance? And then there’s Margaret Thatcher whose character was played by Meryl Streep. She was hardly a slouch and by the way who should play Hillary in the movie version of the life of our first female president and who Trump, Robert Redford--due to the hairdo?
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
|second Kennedy/Nixon debate (photo: United Press International )|
Monday, September 26, 2016
It’s by no means berating Donald Trump to say that he looks like a car salesman and it’s not to cast any aspersions on car salesmen to say that Donald Trump looks like one of them. But if you were going to engage in profiling wouldn’t the blown dried hair and the portly physique, perhaps covered by a shark skin suit and patent leather loafers, fit the type? Indeed some of the turbulence of Trump’s personality and that part of him which seems to be perpetually about to go out of control may result from his missing his calling. You’ve heard of the four humors, bile, phlegm, yellow bile and blood. Could Trump’s misplaced energies have caused a war between phlegm and bile? Just place him in a Chrysler show room and all the blusteriness, the malaproprisms and misinformation will all soon make sense. He’ll be in his proper habitat. Trump Motors even sounds like the name of a dealership, no? Looking at this another way, Donald Trump has never really broken away from his oedipal relationship with his father, who quashed his son’s great potential to run an automobile dealership by luring him into real estate. And then came leading Trump University and finally the presidency. Who the hell knows how this last happened (though Ike was president of Columbia before he landed in The White House)? But now he’s stuck again and the shoe obviously doesn’t fit the foot. Once the elections are over and he loses to Hillary, he may secretly breathe a sigh of relief when he realizes he is now free to embrace the profession for which he was always destined. He will become the greatest car salesman this country has ever known.
Friday, September 23, 2016
|Klaus Mann, Staff Sergeant US Fifth Army (photo: United States Fifth Army)|
In her review of Frederic Spotts Cursed Legacy, The Tragic Life of Klaus Mann, Anna Katharina Schaffner quotes the author and Mann himself as follows: “In his diary Klaus complained that his father’s 'general lack of interest in human beings is especially strong towards me.'” Schaffner also quotes Spotts thusly, “Klaus Mann was six times jinxed. A son of Thomas Mann. A homeless exile. A drug addict. A writer unable to publish in his native tongue. A not-so-gay gay. Someone haunted by all his life by a fascination with death.” But the case of Thomas Mann raises another question, that of the camouflage of humanism under which artistic depredations are allowed to fester. A great writer may have an exorbitant appetite for life while at the same time being life’s deadly enemy. Look at Tolstoy who early on exercised his doit du seigneur with his serfs while ending his last days, abandoning his wife and dying in Astopovo railway station. Norman Mailer famously stabbed his wife Adele on the eve of his candidacy for Mayor. V.S. Naipaul’s sadistic treatment of his mistress which involved beatings and disfigurement has been documented in Patrick French’s biography. And what can we say about Picasso. His portraits of the many women in his life appear to be the kiss of death; when he could no longer “palate” them they became works of art. It’s no revelation to learn that successful creative people often possess enormous egos which sucks up experience like a black hole light. When one reads Too Far to Go the short stories that comprise Updike’s eulogy to his first marriage, one wonders if the tristesse of the break up, so beautifully rendered, didn’t, in fact, represent the author sacrificing life for the sake of art. In this view creative work is a form of taxidermy, in which the skinned animal is used to make the head which hangs over the fireplace.