. . .
is a place
~ Wallace Stegner
Even a casual glance at the news could make you think the empire is crumbling fast. If so, should I not urge you to undertake a cultural boot camp this summer that would prepare you for the moment when the walls collapse and -my worst fear -we’re on our own? The books would all preach self-reliance; the music would be the soundtrack of aerobics. By September, you’d have the bodies of Marines and the mental toughness of Spartans.
Then I thought: Why? What have these people done to deserve to suffer more? They’re the smarties; they know all about the state of our little planet and the hacks in Congress and the garbage media. They can hard-body and tough-mind on their own. Cut them some slack.
Well then, here’s a list of reads and views that might make you dream, give you comfort, put a smile on your face, or make you reflect and (gasp) think, should you be ‘forced’ to spend time away from it all, anywhere.
Mission to Paris (if you’re not going, here’s the next best thing. But if you have a deadline looming or even a busy week, the absolute last thing you want to do is crack open Mission to Paris and think you’re going to read just a chapter, because you’re not.)
Beautiful Ruins (it’s a stunner. Or, as they say at the library, awesome. Very unique. A real journey of a novel.)
The Queen’s Gambit (I dare you to start it and not finish. On a long plane trip, I started reading The Queen’s Gambit. The author was Walter Tevis, who had also written The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hustler-and who would later write The Color of Money. The woman sitting next to me tried to make conversation; I shushed her. A meal came; I pushed it aside. All I could do was read, straight to the end, weeping and cheering.)
A Field Guide to Getting Lost ("Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction." ~Rebecca Solnit )
Paths of Glory
2001: A Space Odyssey
A Clockwork Orange
Full Metal Jacket
Eyes Wide Shut
‘Cold. Satirical. Sardonic. Ironic. Godless.’- labels used to admonish Kubrick’s movies.
But life isn't all beautifully arranged. Spielberg shows us what we wish of ourselves; Kubrick shows us what we are. We might yearn for Spielberg's human being – we might find it more palatable – but there's no greater truth in six hundred surviving Jews than there is in Kubrick's story of three executed soldiers. Ambiguity, uncertainty, awe, discomfort, excitement, boredom: I experience all of these things when watching Kubrick's films, but I've only inched closer to a logical explanation of my own experience, let alone that of any other. A truly honest filmmaker, one who adheres to the traditions of this visual art form, holds a mirror up to the world to show us how it is; that is, how it appears through subjective eyes.
‘Parentless and bereft of moral guidance’-more labels. It is not the purpose of art to provide this guidance, only to reflect upon its absence.
Alexander Walker writes: 'The humanist in Kubrick hopes that man will survive his own irrationality; the intellectual in him doubts it' ~Walker, Alexander. Stanley Kubrick Directs. London: Sphere Books Ltd, 1973.
“. . . I have never been certain whether the moral of the Icarus story should only be, as is generally accepted, "don't try to fly too high", or whether it might also be thought of as ‘forget the wax and feathers, and do a better job on the wings’.”
~Stanley Kubrick, 1999
Things come, things go.
Drink the wine; but not in excess.
Enjoy the world; in perspective.
And, above all, guard your mind and use it well.
I wish you all an uneventful summer. Do spend some part of it revering this place we call home.