Sunday, March 25, 2007


I have written before in this report of my old editor, Don Fine, from whom I learned the word 'ineffable.' It became a favorite word because there are more things in this world, Horatio, that are 'unspeakable' than one could have predicted. Still, I use the word rarely, because it has such power in my mind, that one must be discriminating and not abuse it. But now I am afraid that our whole culture, indeed, perhaps our whole so-called civilization, has become one of such ineffable bullshit that we are poised on the brink of... well....falling so deep into bullshit we won't even be able to speak. Or maybe not even note it anymore, the Emperor's New Clothes cladding everything from our political system and our alleged leaders to our books, our fashions, and, God Help Us , the The-ah-tre.
I am in this particular ineffable rage because I went to the Tom Stoppard's 'Coast of Utopia,' a troika of plays(they were supposed to be) yesterday, having bought tickets for all three in their marathon form on my last trip here, imagining that Spring would be coming this time of year, and my consciousness would be in full bud. So yesterday morning, filled with hope I went at 11 Am to the first of the three. It was very Russian, having many characters with names you couldn't distinguish when you were making your way through their novels, which at least had plot, and were, in the best of them, gripping human tales. Tom Stoppard has apparently done his research, and there is no question he is intellectulally adept. But oh, my dears, it was so very unmoving, except for the staging and scenery, which included projections where we swirled in a deep ocean that I eventually decided was his ability to fool people. I could remember my husband saying 'Dazzle 'em with footwork,' but this was wordwork, none of it leading anywhere except to the carotid artery. I also remembered my darling Mabel, the Greek teacher at Bryn Mawr, telling me when I went back to write a play under her aegis "Drama means 'To do.'" I could also hear Shakespeare citing himself, pointing his finger at 'a poor player who struts and frets his weary hour upon the stage, full of Sound and Fury, signifying nothing.' But oh, what a rogue and peasant slave are we, that we buy into this pretentious pap, now at $100 a throw.
Still, I went back for the second play, having bonded at intermission with a nice lady named Lila, all preened for the event, having come up from Philadelphia, having wanted to get her Master's at Bryn Mawr but they made it too hard for her(my second beef with them) who asked me over lunch what my children did and if I was involved in their lives, and in a magical sweep of word economy, reacting to the surfeit of verbose, I said "Not much. Not very."
We agreed to have dinner together but all the restaurants around :Lincoln Center said they were "fully committed." As it turned out, I didn't make it to dinner, and left play two at the intermission, which I had hoped was the end of the play, there being no way to tell since there was much strutting and fretting its weary hour and a half upon the stage but not a single thing that touched the spirit or moved,except the scenery, including the French Revolution which was staged with full smoke and banners and a horse statue on the Concorde that came apart with the first explosion. I tried to sell my ticket to play three, but the box office had several from those who had wised up before me, and at dinner, sitting at the bar at Josephina's, I couldn't even give it away. On the way out, by the way, I told the Maitre d' that he should say 'Fully booked' instead of 'Fully Committed' as that meant having some emotional stake. What a fiasco! At one point a little boy in the play(I use the word advisedly--- it was more a flash of all the information Stoppard had under his raincoat) went for a walk and his mother said "Don't let him play on the riverbank!" so I was hopeful he might fall in and give us one moment we had to shrink from, but no such bad luck.
To be fair Ethan Hawke was surprisingly good, full of bombast, as suited his character, and as Lila from Philadelphia said, it gave work to a lot of actors. But when I came home I did my laundry, which turned out to be more exciting, and then watched 'Judgment at Nuremberg' where Spencer Tracy's looking out the window at the Germany that had wrought the enormity of this sorrow spoke more than all Mr.Stoppard's words.
Happily I had reuned this trip with a bright Brit friend who'd told me she always found Stoppard, ultimately, light. I was glad not to feel alone, though I would have said 'empty.' But then it's all empty right now, isn't it, here on the brink.
Today I had brunch with Tyne and some of her friends. Happily, she'd saved me from 'Year of Magical Thinking' along with my smart friend Carol who also found it "tedious." I'd suffered for a few years because when Don died an otherwise wise friend dissuaded me from writing about it, because she said no one wanted to hear about a widowing, so when Didion wrote her book with her scalpel(I think that's what she uses rather than a pen,) I felt bad, although as I read it I could not help musing that she had, in truth, for all her pain, been spared the real agony, which is the process of losing, watching someone hale and funny and, in my case, hunky, gradually-- though speeded up with Don, who took eleven weeks from diagnosis till death-- disappear. Tyne says that Vanessa Redgrave actually announces in Didion's words (something like) "I'm going to tell you, because this is what you're all going to go through" which would be haughty and presumptuous even if not put in the mouth of a usually British-accented actress(though not here; I'm told it's acceptably American) We all have or will have different experiences in connection with loss, so she has SOME nerve, and that's okay, she's suffered in her way, but nobody did it for all of us except Jesus and then not unless we're Christian. So I'm glad to have skipped that, and saved several people on the street from going to 'Utopia.'
Now if there were only some way I, we, God, --anybody,-- could save the country.