Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Keats's Birthday

On this day in 1795 the great English poet John Keats was born. His life was a tragedy. He was orphaned by the age of 15 and died in Rome at the age of 25. But his slim body of work lives on, often held to be second only to Shakespeare.

I post the following chilling poem in the spirit of Halloween. It's thought to be a fragment from a longer work that Keats never completed.

This living hand, now warm and capable...

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed -- see here it is --
I hold it towards you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rilkean Dance

A new London staging of the French ballet Giselle, the brainchild of 19th-century intellectual Théophile Gautier, incorporates Rilkean thoughts and images. As reported in the Guardian:

"The clue to the piece's real agenda lies in the title, a sly borrowing from a collection of poems and essays by German writer Rainer Maria Rilke. What [choreographer] Miller is actually doing is using the Giselle story to express aspects of Rilke's philosophy...Throughout his life, Rilke insisted that 'one is alone' and that lovers are, at best, 'the guardians of each other's solitude'. Miller graphically illustrates this in a tableau in which Giselle and Albrecht are slumped on child-sized chairs in tender mutual incomprehension. Giselle is in her wedding dress, he is carrying flowers. Rilke constantly returned to the idea of death as transformation and to the image of flowers, particularly roses, as a metaphor for both.

So this is really a piece about life-change. In Miller's version of the ballet, Giselle's mother encourages her daughter to dance (rather than forbidding her because of her weak heart), because only by risking death, metaphorical or otherwise, can transformation be effected. As Rilke writes: 'Only someone who is ready for anything, who excludes nothing, can relate fully to another.'..."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Listen Online: A Reading from LOST SON

Back in August, I recorded a 20-minute reading from Lost Son for The Writer's Block at KQED radio in San Francisco. I chose the section in which Rainer Maria Rilke first meets Lou Andreas-Salomé.

You can now listen online.

Rilke Week

It's "Rilke Week" over at the literary blog, Chekhov's Mistress.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cormac & the Coens

A suprising second public "appearance" by Cormac McCarthy in a single calendar year, this one in Time Magazine, where he chats with filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, whose adaptation of No Country for Old Men opens November 9.
If only the editors of Time had been wise enough to publish the full conversation, and not just this edited version...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The New York Prodigal Son

The New York Sun, in an October 5 description of a Manhattan art exhibit called "The Art of Forgiveness: Images of the Prodigal Son," deploys a number of literary references, including a mention of Rilke's own rendition of the Biblical parable:

"In his semi-autobiographical "Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge" (1910) writer Rainer Maria Rilke, (1875–1926) argues that the story of the prodigal son is about a young man "who did not want to be loved," and who therefore rejects suffocating family affection in order to express his own personality: "Shall he stay and pretend to live the sort of life they ascribe to him, and grow to resemble them in his whole appearance?" By fleeing family smothering, Rilke's prodigal son obtains special powers: "I believe that the strength of his transformation consisted in his no longer being the son of anyone in particular. This, in the end, is the strength of all young people who have gone away." "

Sarkozy et Rilke

This recent Newsweek article, Sartre, Meet Sarkozy, mentions that the new French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a self-proclaimed man-for-the-common-man, was unsure how to pronounce "Rainer Maria Rilke." (Not an uncommon problem, but interesting to note an occurrence of Rilke's name in the realm of national politics and major media. Incidentally, it's "Rīner Maria Reelk-uh").

"The acclaimed novelist and playwright Yasmina Reza (best known, perhaps, for her play "Art") was allowed to follow [Sarkozy] throughout the campaign and write an unexpurgated book about it. Even if she were to massacre him, he said, he'd come out of it with his reputation enhanced. Now a best seller, Reza's "L'Aube le Soir ou la Nuit" is not always complimentary. (In one passage, Sarkozy calls Reza just before a big speech and asks her how to pronounce the last name of the great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. She says he has it right. He's not sure and drops the name altogether.) But Sarkozy was correct about the overall effect of the book. It makes him look like a down-to-earth man of action even as it associates him with a French intellectual world he eschews: a neat trick indeed."