Thursday, September 27, 2012


Boredom is an unfairly maligned emotion. Inspiration, which shares some qualities of the sugar high, is what most artists claim they seek while enthrallment is what makes most readers buy books or theater tickets —either enthrallment  (Fifty Shades of Grey) or edification (How to Win Friends and Influence People). Boredom is certainly not what the potential lover seeks of his beloved. However caveat emptor, passion is like madness, a form of idealization that’s nature’s way of facilitating biological urges amidst the shoals of consciousness. Similarly, catharsis which produces enchantment and enthrallment can be delusory and manipulative, Aristotle’s Poetics notwithstanding. Boredom is less tolerated today then it was in the era of Edith Wharton and Henry James or even later in the high modernism or post-modernism of John Cage and Merce Cunningham. Both the way in which James reticulated prose captured states of being and the way in which Cunningham and Cage sought to redefine the forms they employed required some degree of work on the part of their audience and the result in the case of Cage, in particular, could be intentionally boring. Today, life is moving so fast, there is no time for boredom. Posts come and go on Facebook like the women in T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, “talking of Michelangelo.” How prescient Eliot was about esthetics evolving into creative gossip! But count to a hundred or maybe a thousand before you lose patience with people or artworks. When Waiting For Godot had its US premiere in Miami’s Coconut Grove Playhouse back in l956, with Bert Lahr as Estragon, the audience was hardly enchanted. Now Beckett’s play is part of the canon, but is it boring to watch? And what about Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad, in which not very much happens, or Robert Wilson’s The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin which went on for 12 hours?

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