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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Slivers in the Tree

I have a suspicion about abstract art. I suspect it came to prominence in part as a result of the imagery of the microscope and the telescope as it became widely available to the public through, y'know, Life magazine and textbooks. Images of nebulae and microorganisms provided a very different way of looking at the world and its structure(s) than the naked eye could. Most representational art takes a human's-eye-view as the baseline; abstract art takes the telescopic and microscopic views as new baselines. I'm not interested in getting into Sharks Vs. Jets stuff between abstraction and representation, because I value them both, but I think one reason the representational partisans object so zealously to abstract art is that it denies a comfortably human point of view as a sufficient base for looking at the world, and that probably unsettles some people. For some, though, it opens new possibilities. Old-fashioned God-as-man-with-beard art tried to picture God, The Sublime, in humans' eye view ways, which has its virtues and its charms, but Rothko gets much closer to my conception of God.


I'm reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Apparently it's caused some trouble in a high school lit. class. I'm not deep into it; about 30 pages of a 600+ page book. Still, it's clear from Chapter One that this is going to be an R-rated text. The (married) protagonist is sitting around the apartment, hoping someone will call with a job offer. Instead an anonymous woman calls and starts talking explicitly dirty to him. He hangs up, and the incident bothers him for the rest of the day. The phone keeps ringing, and he refuses to answer; he's too icked out by the first call of the day.

I can see why some people would be uncomfortable with this material, particularly for teen readers. But I can see the possible value of it. What teen can't relate to the your headspace, confusing and frustrating you, icking you out all day. I suppose the student who objected to the book saw the book itself in those terms. But still, the book offers an opening into a serious discussion about these kinds of problems, and advanced students need to get outside their comfort zones in order to address difficult topics. I hope that when the young protestor goes off to school she won't be lost at sea when sexuality gets increasingly persistent in her life, which it will. Maybe she'll remember the book and give it another try then; it contains wisdom from which she would be well advised to learn.

I recently finished Silver On the Tree, the last book in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series. Computer game nerds have a term for games that aren't open-ended, games in which the player has to go along a predetermined path to complete the game: "on rails." Like an amusement park ride, right? Cooper's plots are on rails. Will and company mostly have to go along till they get to the next hypnagogic semi-interactive showpiece, then let an old guy lecture them on the Matter of Britain symbolic significance of what's happening, then repeat til the conclusion. There's a pair of nice dilemmas for some characters at the grand conclusion, but the climax itself is pretty much a matter of "Then the children hoisted the magic treasures they found in the other books, and the treasures zapped the bad guys with magic beams and the day was saved, then the old guy gave a really long speech about good and evil, the end."

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