Essays and Memoirs
The Multimedia Art of Chauvet Cave Print E-mail

chauvetpan(3QuarksDaily July 12, 2021)

In 1994, Chauvet cave was discovered near the township of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc in southern France. The cave is a spectacular venue for the earliest known rock art made by our ancestors and in no way “primitive.” Deep inside the limestone cavern are hundreds of highly animated wall paintings of bison, bear, ibex, lion, rhinoceros, hyena, wooly mammoth, and horse, “signed” by the red-ochre handprints of the artists.

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On Cezanne's "The Card Players" Print E-mail

Cezanne The Card Players Barnes(3QuarksDaily June 14, 2021)

Not long ago, in Philadelphia’s Barnes’ Foundation, I stood close enough to touch Paul Cezanne’s monumental, “The Card Players.” I was mesmerized how paint, texture, composition, and pose achieve an almost granitic-like intensity—three burly men around a table, cards in hands, another man holding a pipe and looking on, and a fifth, a feminine boy, his eyes downcast, echoing and softening the self-absorption of the men before him. The standing man and boy are witnessing the huddle of the three; the two standing invite us to witness the subject and its witnesses, a triangulation of viewer, inner viewers, and inner seen. A painting with its audience internally present and, thus, externally implied.

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Affinity & Ambiguity: Writing & Music Print E-mail

continuity arthur dove(The Nonconformist April 5, 2021)

I want to be an honest man and a good writer.
—James Baldwin

My affinity for language is a given. But how it was given — and revealed more than other affinities that may have had it out for me as well — is a mystery I’m trying to solve. My hunch is that an affinity for words was present at birth, then snapped-to early on by seductive teachers who assigned adventure narratives and lyric poems, and later the stories of Stephen Crane, the novels of Thomas Hardy, the poetry of Robert Frost and Edna St. Vincent Millay (her marquee name was a poem in itself).

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One Afternoon in the Annals of Marriage Therapy Print E-mail

Quentin Massys 030(Helix Literary Magazine March 12, 2021)

It’s Monday, 1:45, and six men and I sit in a circle with our German-trained psychotherapist, an imperious woman who reminds us that she is here to help or offer guidance only if we get bogged down and that we men need to find our own way through our turmoil, which is the point of the group and the point of each of us paying $3000 per year. I’m fairly new, so before I speak, I’m seeking some level of comfort or commonality among them, and every week I come up short. I’m not yet adjusted and unsure what I should be adjusting to.

Obviously, I don’t know these men. And I doubt I’d associate with them outside this forum or be in a social situation where we’d meet. Case in point, the tanned man (our real names cannot be shared). The tanned man has the time-clocked sadness my father had at fifty-five; the greying hair above his ears, the loyalty to a global corporation and the ease of leveraged investments about him; a man who regards his goldenness as some golf-cart anhedonia, with his deck shoes, velour pullover, browning legs, white ankles, and baggy, bluish shorts; and his marriage run aground, whose chassis has been scraping the gravel for a couple years now.

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Emma's Graveyard Moan: Thomas Hardy's Elegies for his Dead Wife Print E-mail

Hardy and Emma(3QuarksDaily November 2, 2020)

In 1874, Thomas Hardy married Emma Gifford, a woman who never let her novelist husband forget that she was born of a higher class than he, ever his superior in taste and breeding. After her death he got back at her—poetically—in a big way. And she at him.

The pair began with a pre-marital affair, fervent and soulful, as intellectual companions; not long after, they were quarantined in thirty-eight years of a childless and mutually regrettable marriage. When Emma died of a bad heart and impacted gallstones (she wrote treacly poems, many published, and suffered from delusions of grandeur), Hardy at sixty-two composed a loose sequence of verse, “Poems of 1912-1913.” These twenty-one rhyming, pithy elegies, among the finest in English, conjure the ghost of his first wife as the means of grieving his loss in a fatalistic anti-theism that feels downright religious.

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Between the Numinous and Me Print E-mail

cloudscape09

Bangalore Review, September 20, 2020)

Every author gets asked—cornered, perhaps—to say succinctly: What’s your book about? Two ex-cons murder a family of four in Kansas and, after the crime and the criminals are sensationalized, especially by the author, they’re hung. Oh, were it so simple. How do I corner the subject I chose—spirituality and the writer? Because of its unwieldy focus, I can’t reduce it to an elevator speech. Can I keep it to a thousand words?

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Quiet City: A Reverie for New York in the Time of Covid-19 Print E-mail

Screenshot48

(The Sembrich Online, September 11, 2020)

The gestation of Aaron Copland’s Quiet City was anything but quiet. In 1939, novelist Irwin Shaw—later praised for the TV serial, Rich Man, Poor Man—wrote a play with the same title. It was workshopped by Elia Kazan and the Group Theater, a communal ensemble from which the Actor’s Studio later took wing. The “experimental drama” follows a once-idealistic young man who leaves Judaism, changes his name, marries a socialite, and achieves wealth running a department store. His materialist dream, however, leaves him morally empty.

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