The New Yorker and Life

One of the ironies of being in Los Angeles is how I continue to devour the New Yorker: skipping over the Tables for Two, I tend to read from the back to the front. And so it was that I happened to come across two articles in a recent issue (15 december 08) that touched - surprisingly - one pieces I'd read elsewhere.

The first was Anthony Lane's review of The Wrestler. It jumped out mostly for his reference to DeNiro; and not knowing very much about Mickey Rourke, Lane's reference to DeNiro was striking mostly for my having just seen Rourke compared to DeNiro in Bill Simmons' piece on ESPN.

Here's Lane:
As for the body of the man, it swelled from taut and slender to something so bulbous and spongiform that those of us who had thrilled to Boogie, his cocky romancer in “Diner,” could only wince and look away. Yet I insist: there was a time when Rourke demanded to be looked at, catching and holding your eye no less grippingly than the young De Niro. Sweetness and menace were folded up in him—in the way that he angled himself at the world, as if both sure of his place within it and, deeper down, afraid that it might still spit him out.
And Simmons:
Yes, he is. And if he hadn't been such an insufferable jerk, if his life hadn't fallen apart, if he had valued his gift instead of running from it—shunning the spotlight, carousing, disfiguring his face during a bizarre boxing career, pushing away everyone who cared about him—maybe Rourke would have been the next DeNiro instead of a cautionary tale. But for years, he was no different from Doc Gooden or Derrick Coleman, someone blessed with prodigious talent who simply refused to foster it.
The second article that jumped out was Alex Ross' evocative appreciation of Leonard Bernstein. Ross' article begins with his experience of listening to Mahler's 2nd Symphony, a symphony in the front of my mind on account of a recent NYT article. The Times article detailed a recent performance guest-conducted by one Gilbert Kaplan. It didn't go so well, as the article notes:
But to some of the musicians who perform for Mr. Kaplan, he remains an unclothed emperor, a talent-free conductor who brings little to the work. Such a view bubbled into rebellion at the New York Philharmonic when Mr. Kaplan led the work on Dec. 8. The day of the concert, the players demanded a meeting with Zarin Mehta, the orchestra’s president, and complained about Mr. Kaplan’s conducting for an hour.
Such a marked contrast from Ross' description of Bernstein's genius:
The moment exemplifies Bernstein’s ability to render almost any abstract sequence of notes or chords as a physical act, a sweatily human gesture. The effect is difficult to achieve. Musicians must be cajoled into creating a particular kind of unison: not a robotic sameness of execution but a deeper unanimity in which spontaneous activities on the part of each player viscerally realize the conductor’s vision. There are videos in which you can see Bernstein striving for that unanimity, and it is not always pleasant to watch. When the feeling is absent, he exhibits irritation, rage, or—most unsettlingly—an unhappiness that threatens to spiral into despair. He tells members of the august Vienna Philharmonic that unless they try harder “there will be no Mahler,” and then he hangs his head, as if averting his eyes from an unspeakable crime. Usually, things turn around. The players fall in line—that trembling, hurtling line in which Bernstein seemed the most inspired follower rather than the leader. Although he basked in fame, he never accumulated power: each night, he gave away everything he had.
All of which means nothing and makes no argument, but that's the New Yorker.


jenny said…
If you skip over Lauren Collins' Tables for Two, you're missing out--she's one of the best writers they've got.

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