Sunday, October 08, 2006

New York, New York

Am in the middle of a seriously New York weekend - attending a talk by Anthony Lane on Ava Gardner [1] as part of the New Yorker Festival, meditating with the pigeons in Bryant Park, eating sushi at Gari's, strolling past the stalls selling bric a brac on Columbus Avenue and trying to keep MR from dragging me into shoe and clothing stores [2]. Oh, and reading the New Yorker, whose current issue features two gems: one, an article by Milan Kundera about what it means to be a novelist - a trademark Kundera piece - moments of startling insight combined with an obsession with European literature; and two, this glorious article by Adam Kirsch on the life and poetry of Hart Crane.

I've always had a fascination with Crane. As Kirsch puts it, "No poet since Keats had achieved this kind of elated lyricism." At his best, Crane is a poet of incredible singing power, a true bard for the industrial age, a voice that combines an ornate wealth of phrase making ("minstrel galleons of carib fire") with the ability to communicate a single-minded purity of vision, a singer of ephemeral geometries. In many ways, as Kirsch is quick to point out, Crane is a failure - but he is a spectacular failure, a burning Icarus to the soberer Daedalus of Eliot.

Notes

[1] An amusing enough talk - Lane was at his wittiest and most cinephile, and his devotion to the age of cinema when stars were stars is endearing if a trifle overblown (I mean okay, so Grace Kelly vs. Reese Witherspoon is a no-contest, but Lancaster vs. De Niro? I don't know). Still you get to the point where you know the wisecrack is coming - so it's more a question of trying to guess who he's going to make fun of next. Good fun, though, and to give him credit he did an amazing sell job on Gardner, who I've never been much of a fan of.

[2] Is there some sort of secret signal I give out that makes women want to take me shopping? Some sort of "I am man, take me shop" vibe?

6 comments:

Jabberwock said...

his devotion to the age of cinema when stars were stars is endearing if a trifle overblown

Yes, I'm always puzzled by how respectful he gets when writing about Old Hollywood, given the usual tone of his reviews. Btw I'm a big Lancaster fan myself. Not sure what the basis for comparing him with De Niro is though.

Anirudh said...

"In many ways, as Kirsch is quick to point out, Crane is a failure - but he is a spectacular failure, a burning Icarus to the soberer Daedalus of Eliot." Crane inspire the poet in you?

huh? said...

so youre not dating this girl, but you let her drag you shoe shopping? You are SUCH a loser.

Falstaff said...

Jabberwock: Yes, I know - it's a little strange to see him getting so ecstatic about Ms. Gardner. Am not a big Lancaster fan, but that's by the way. Lane's point about De Niro was that unlike someone like Lancaster / Bogart / Astaire who are always Lancaster / Bogart / Astaire whatever character they happen to be playing, with De Niro you never know what you're going to get. Me, I like that.

anirudh: A little. I would kill to be able to write a description of Brooklyn Bridge as brilliant as Crane's, but I can't say he's a major role model or anything.

huh?: Yes, I am aren't I? On the other hand, I can't have her walking around next to me looking like a fashion victim - what with me all suave and stylis now, can I?

km said...

Ships passing at night, man.

I was at the Lincoln Center for the Beethoven concert and walked past the New Yorker Festival place later at night, not knowing Anthony Lane was in there.

Samanth said...

More ships, more night, man. I was AT the AL talk, as I've gushed about here:

http://samanth.blogspot.com/2006/10/anthony-lane-at-new-yorker-festival.html

(I'm rather an AL devotee. Proceed towards litigation against me.)

Are you still in NYC?