Monday, May 17, 2010

Stand Up and Be Counted!

How many times have you picked up a book or gone to a movie and read about or watched a character and said, “That is me,” or better yet gone to a museum and looked at a portrait or a sculpture, say Michelangelo’s David or Rembrandt’s portrait of his son Titus, and said, “Yup, that’s me”? Are you Sinclair Lewis’s Babbit, are you Alyosha Karamazov, are you David Copperfield? Are you Sherman McCoy from Bonfire, are you Jamie from Bright Lights, Big City, are you Gatsby, or Dick Diver from Tender is the Night? Are you Yourcenar’s Hadrian, are you Bardamu from Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night, or better yet are you Robin Vote in Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood? OK, let’s get to the point, are you Jake Barnes or Brett Ashley from The Sun Also Rises, or a little of both? Are you Casaubon or Humbert Humbert, Ulrich from The Man Without Qualities, or Franz Biberkopf from Berlin Alexanderplatz? Are you Hans Castorp from Zauberberg or Leverkuhn from Doctor Faustus? Alas, are you Swann? Are you Vronsky or Levin from Anna Karenina? Come on, tell the truth. Are you Pierre or Andrei from War and Peace? Eventually you’re going to have to make a choice. Are you Molly, Leopold or Stephan from Ulysses, or Gabriel Conroy—yes everybody, man, woman or beast, has a little bit of Gabriel Conroy in them. Isn’t that Joyce’s achievement? Just like there is a little bit of Odysseus returning home unrecognized by all except his faithful Argos in all of us who have ever left and returned. Have you ever dreamt you were Kirk Douglas’s Spartacus, Antoine Doinel from The Four Hundred Blows, John Osborne’s Jimmy Porter, Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass, Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot, Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman, or James Dean’s Cal in East of Eden (and even Health Ledger’s Joker if we’re being totally honest)? There’s a little bit of Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan in all of us (who hasn’t given some thought to holding a .357 magnum?), a touch of Meryl Streep’s Silkwood, and naturally we all want to stand up and be counted like Marlon Brandon in On the Waterfront. Or maybe you just want to accept the benign indifference of the universe like Estragon, who inaugurates Waiting for Godot with his famed pronunciamento, “Nothing to be done.”

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

.44 magnum. Just, FYI.