— From CB —
Obsessed with Lear. Eighteen puppet heads are lined up on our dining table with their base coat of acrylic. I’ve cast the fourth set of hands. We’re engineering temporary attachments of heads to bodies so we can rehearse with them but detach heads when their costumes are ready. Ninety percent of creativity is very boring.
And exploring the character of Edmund, Gloucester’s bastard son, I’m startled to find his voice derives from his father’s, despite his having been abroad for nine years. The old man has a kind of querulous astonishment in his inflections, whether in good humor or in rage; Edmund echoes this, though in a sharper timbre. Gloucester is immediately adaptable to circumstance; Edmund likewise. Edmund is utterly amoral, yet shares his father’s obsession with meditating on these issues. Gloucester and his legitimate son Edgar are among the “good guys” of the play, yet Edmund is more truly his father’s son.
Edmund’s objective, on the surface, is land and power. More fundamentally, it’s recognition, self-respect, legitimacy — no accident that Shakespeare starts the play with Gloucester jovially belittling his “whoreson.” At the core, though: when news comes of the death of both sisters, he says, “I was contracted to them both, all three/Now marry in an instant. Yet Edmund was belov’d.” Love is an odd word to use in relation to two women of whom he’s said, “Neither can be enjoy’d/If both remain alive.” If his notion of love is as solipsistic and distorted as Lear’s, the thirst is as intense. And it leads him to his fatal over-reach. He is motherless and rootless, with no way to know when he’s achieved enough.
Peter Brook’s staging of the climactic Edgar/Edmund duel is the truest rendition I’ve seen. No elaborate fight choreography. They face each other with battleaxes, Edgar raises his weapon and comes down on his adversary: one chop and that’s it. To me, it’s true because at this point Edmund is utterly bereft of hope. Richard the Third will fight till he’s chopped in bits because he lives for the challenge, but Edmund’s in over his head and knows it. The one Shakespearean villain, I think, who simply gives up.
— From EF —
This being Sabbath for us (nothing other than creative/pleasureful), we went to our local movie theatre to see Boyhood, and got blown wide open.
It made me think of our process of writing Co-Creation and our decision to avoid more than the bare-bones facts of our children’s stories over the span of the book. Their stories are their own, to be told or not as they choose.
But it brought back to vivid presence the whole panoramic sweep of the years with our two extraordinary best friends, Eli and Johanna, who happen to be our children. The lens of this remarkable film gave me a gateway to looking at their stories, much like a speeded-up experience of riffling through the hundreds of snapshots taken by Conrad’s mom. She was our documentarian.
The babies, the toddlers, the awkward middle-school years, the triumphal graduations, and then the beginning of the work of crafting the adult selves. It’s all there in those snapshots, and you just have to ignore the predictable recurrence of the car and the Christmas tree. Whenever I see baby pictures of famous people, I always marvel at how absolutely visible their mature selves are, muffled in those chubby cheeks.
In May, Eli and Meg made a wedding. Three years ago, Johanna and Francesco bought a 14th-century stone mill house in Tuscany. All four are well-mated, as far as can be known, and all are sumptuous people. What a long strange trip . . .
And then that makes me think of the little Conrad and Linda (born as Elizabeth, now Elizabeth once again), whose childhood stories we only sketched in Co-Creation. That memoir is about our creative lives together since we met as undergraduates.
But the journeys we made before that meeting were stories in their own right, with the pain and disappointment and changes that are part of any story. Boyhood made me think about that, too. And how about our own parents? The indomitable single mom fighting like a tigress to raise her son, the ex-comedienne exiled to a country home, taking refuge in gin. And you can go a generation back from there, and back again, and back again.
We’re all a hall of mirrors, a dizzying vista where you see reflections of reflections, back to a vanishing point. The wonderful thing is, it doesn’t vanish if you can see it.
— From the Fool —
The good thing about Democracy is you get to talk about it a lot. The bad thing is trying to do it.
It was a lot better, they say, when they all wore white wigs. It made them all look old and wise. Women and slaves didn’t wear white wigs, I don’t think, so they couldn’t vote. Maybe it wasn’t the wig, it was more the attitude.
It’s not so easy to get people to vote the right way, it takes billions of dollars for thinkers to think up ads, and that’s better than if all those thinkers were sticking up liquor stores. You’d run out of liquor stores.
It’s hard to decide whether to make people smarter so they’ll vote the way you want or to do it by making them dumber. And they say keep money out of politics but that’s like keeping the ocean away from the fish.
My mom always said she voted for the biggest crook so he’d keep an eye on the other crooks. My sister votes for the candidate with the cutest cat. My brother just gets drunk.
I guess the idea is to export Democracy. Then we can keep it out of this country. But that’s not so easy. If we blow people up it’s hard to get them to vote. And then they vote for an Enemy of Democracy so you have to put in a dictator to lead them back to Democracy but then the dictator gets dictatorial so we have to blow more people up and it goes around in a circle.
There’s not a whole lot of Democracy out there, but there’s a lotta laughs.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2014