Sunday, July 20, 2014
Where the generation before me found daydream crushes in the leading men of the movies, my girlhood stirrings founds their objects of desire squarely on TV.
I fell for my first three when their prime-time shows from the 1960s were shown in syndication in the 1970s, and my older brother and I watched TV together in the playroom as I roller skated during the commercials.
My crushers were: Captain Lee Crane, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; James West, The Wild, Wild, West; and Captain Kirk, Star Trek. I had an active nighttime fantasy life around each of these characters, spinning my own stories of our daring feats together. I even had some crossover episodes, where Captain Kirk and I beamed into the Seaview, and he and Lee Crane would fight over me. (Maybe I should follow my friend Lynn Messina into writing Romance novels. Hmm.)
By the time The Rockford Files came on, I was old enough to stay up and watch it in prime time with the family, and so it took on a deeper emotional dimension in general, but my daydreams about Jim Rockford were still my own personal joy.
The attraction of course was felt by legions and has been well articulated. Both character and actor were handsome, witty, dry sense of humor, smart, and capable. In my personal series of The Rockford Files, I modeled my look on Gretchen Corbett, who played Jim's lawyer and sometimes girlfriend, but my character was a private detective, like him. Because he wasn't married and had no children, it was easy to spin stories of us working together without destroying the narrative of the series [not that I had this structural vocabulary yet] and the romance that naturally ensued. You see, I really understood his inner hurt and pain, and could bring a warmth to the trailer that he secretly yearned for . . . .
The series itself was so very hip and visionary in many ways: using the new technology of the answering machine in the credits; the very look of the credits with the freeze frame photos and quick cutting, which still looked fresh and innovative when Homicide: Life on the Street credits used a similar sensibility 20 years later!
The whole focus on the father/son relationship 20 years before Fraiser, when adult children living with parents and vice verse became a cultural reality. Rockford didn't live with Rocky, but the series focus on their relationship was unique, with an authenticity that made it compelling.
The mad, 70s plaid jacket. Garner made it look good as few men could.
There were a few earlier touchstones before Rockford. I went with my brother to see Support Your Local Sheriff in the theater, and as a family we had watched The Thrill of It All on TV. So I had an idea who James Garner was when The Rockford Files came on.
But TV has that power of intimacy. In your home. Every week. And that's how my guys filled my fantasies, as serialized, episodic daydreams.
I was "over" Rockford by the time the great Polaroid commercials with Mariette Harley started in 1978, but of course loved their banter as TV's best couple. Bruce Weber's appreciation in the NY Times got one thing horribly wrong:
"One of his most memorable roles was as a perpetually flummoxed pitchman for Polaroid cameras in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in droll commercials in which he played a vexed husband and Mariette Hartley played his needling wife."
He was decidedly NOT flummoxed. His voice is always measured and declarative for The One-Shot, and vexed is far too strong a word.
Weber does offer Garner's very best line about his approach to acting:
“I’m a Methodist but not as an actor,” he wrote in The Garner Files. “I’m from the Spencer Tracy school: be on time, know your words, hit your marks, and tell the truth."
* * * * *
There were just a few other fantasy dreams after Jim Rockford: briefly Remington Steele and Sony Crockett in particular. Life and men had gotten real, which was exciting and sometimes disappointing at the same time, and there was less time for daydreaming.
But Jim Rockford was the last of my innocent girlhood crushes, something I hadn't thought about in years until today's news. I'm so lucky. It couldn't have been with a nicer guy.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
It is to-day a hundred years since that sultry afternoon when Edward John Trelawny, aboard Byron’s schooner-yacht Bolivar, fretted anxiously in Leghorn Harbour and watched the threatening sky. The thunderstorm that broke about half-past six lasted only twenty minutes, but it was long enough to drown both Shelley and his friend Williams. . . .
Christopher Morley The Powder of Sympathy
One of my favorite finds from a used book store is Christopher Morley's The Powder of Sympathy, a 1923 collection of essays from this true man of letters, and the godfather of bloggers.
Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron. And so I follow suit, on our July 8, 2014. It is quite a graphic description, so let's pick it up with
Byron could not face the scene; he withdrew to the beach and swam off to the Bolivar. Leigh Hunt remained in the carriage. The fire was so fierce as to produce a white heat on the iron, and to redue its contents to grey ashes. The only portions that were not consumed were some framents of bones, the jaw, and the skull, but what surprised us all, was that the heart remained entire. In snatching this relic from the fiery furnace, my hand was severely burnt.
Morely in 1922 was able to say “There are those still living who have shaken the hard, quick hand that snatched Shelley’s heart from the coals.”
We in 2014 can make no claim. Trelawny gave the heart to Mary Shelley, and it was found among her things when she died and buried with her at St. Peter's Church, Bournemouth. So while Shelley ashes are over in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, his heart is in England.
Morley's other personal commemoration was to reread Francis Thompson’s essay entitled “Shelley,” “which remains in our memory as a prismatic dazzle of metaphor.” That’s one thing to call it. Francis Thompson is an odd, ascetic figure on the literary landscape whom I wrote about because he is on the list of Jack the Ripper suspects. His Shelley essay is here [God bless the Gutenberg Project and all who partake.] It is dense, baroque, almost insanely passionate, and brilliant.
Shelley’s work has, of course, inspired great passion from the actual greats. Here is Yeats: “I have re-read Prometheus Unbound, which I had hoped my fellow-students would have studied as a sacred book, and it seems to me to have an even more certain place than I had thought among the sacred books of the world.”
Morely muses upon a weekend meditation on Shelley and "what he still means to us." A fair question in 1922, even moreso in 2014. What Morely did not have in his day was epic television. Yeats was brought into the pop culture consciousness through The Sopranos and A.J. studying "The Second Coming" at college. And Shelley's "Ozymandias" had a huge resurgence because Moira Walley-Beckett built season 5, episode 14 of Breaking Bad around it. These guys were cultural rebels, I think they would have liked this eschalon of TV, breathing new life and generations into their work.
But on this 192nd anniversary of Shelley's death by drowning, "Ozymandias" and its decay is not the voice to listen to. It's Morley himself, in his closing thought about the poet and what he brings into our lives:
"Though lulled long ago by the blue Mediterranean, that burning, reckless heart survives to us little corrupted by time--survives as a symbol of poetic energy superior to the common routines of life."
And we'll follow Yeats into Prometheus Unbound to see that burning, feverish heart for a momentary break from our daily routine:
To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.
(Top image: Famous, but factually flawed painting of The Funeral of Shelley by Louis Edouard Fournier; my picture of Shelley's grave in Rome. Updated from an earlier post.)
Monday, July 7, 2014
Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn. He cared nothing for boxing, in fact he disliked it, but he learned it painfully and thoroughly to counteract the feeling of inferiority and shyness he had felt on being treated as a Jew at Princeton. The Sun Also Rises
The big news this year for San Fermin aficionados is the upcoming release of a new edition of The Sun Also Rises, first published in 1926, with Hemingway's alternate opening. Not with Robert Cohn, as above, but, as Patricia Cohen in the NYTimes explained: "Originally, Hemingway began his tale of the Lost Generation by introducing its beautiful and heartsick embodiment, Brett Ashley: 'This is a novel about a lady.' ”
Wow. That would have put a whole different perspective on this post World War 1 tale of searing hopelessness.
Each generation finds The Sun Also Rises, which limns the fervor of the Festival of San Fermin as experienced by the brittle, crushed, shredded souls who lived through the Great War. Jake Barnes and Brett Ashley & crew are always talking about water of some sort—to bathe, to drink, to quench the bottomless thirst for humanity & connection that was destroyed in the trenches. They are the Lost Generation, which doesn't seem as much of a cliche this year, the centennial of the start of World War 1, when attention is focused on just how devastating that world event was.
The Feast Is Not in Honor of Bulls
The festival's roots are in Roman times. Wiki tells us:
Fermin is said to have been the son of a Roman of senatorial rank in Pamplona in the 3rd century, who was converted to Christianity by Saint Honestus, a disciple of Saint Saturninus. According to tradition, he was baptised by Saturninus (in Navarra "San Cernin") at the spot now known as the Pocico de San Cernin, the "Small Well of San Cernin." There is no written record of veneration in Pamplona of the Saint until the 12th century. Saint Fermin, as well as Saint Francis Xavier, are now the two patrons of Navarre.
Bullrunning appears in 17th and 18th century chronicles together with the presence of foreigners and the first concerns on the excessive drinking and dissolute behavior during the event. The Giant's Parade was created by the end in the mid of the 19th century. The first official bullring was constructed in 1844.
Here is a schedule of these year's ceremonies that are held from July 6 to 14. The "run" started because bulls to fight in the evening were kept in off-site corrals, and had to get from point A to point B. Good overview article in Newsweek.
I Happen Upon Pamplona, Iruna in Basque
I did not know that some of the group was planning to get up at 4:00 am to drive over from San Sebastian, Donostia in Basque, and I went along.
This was quite a journey for me. The Sun Also Rises startled, rattled, and rocked my college world. And now I was making my way through the endless sea of red and white, looking for the sophisticates of Jake and Lady Brett, only to find hordes and hordes of drunk English college boys.
My friends and I didn’t even try to see the actual run, but went to the bullring, where they enter at the end of the three minute run.
We found good seats right above the door of the ring, and saw the bulls charge in at incredible speeds to a deafening roar from the crowd. The pulse of the entire scene is enormous. Blood is hot and pumping everywhere. When the fever of the run is over, there is a playful time with baby bulls and cows in the ring. The sun rises further and further, and it gets hotter and hotter still until you find a cool wineskin to drink from.
The Festival of San Fermin is so much more than the bulls. It is a mélange of folklore and Catholicism--people go to the main Mass each day, and the procession of the saint is important. I was struck by how many families were there. The Basques and the Spanish are very elegant people, with strong family bonds.
Hemingway took it all in, and couldn't let it go. He did what he could: he wrote to underscore the frailty of our lives:
“Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.
“Yes.” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so.”
(My photos of The Feast of San Fermin, Pamplona)
Friday, July 4, 2014
Happy Birthday, USA. Another Independence Day when we stop commerce, close the Stock Market, hit the beaches, go to baseballs games, gather in backyards for the very idea of our Declaration of Independence.
It's the anniversary of our legal separation from Great Britain, but not the anniversary of our independence—though we call it that—because we were still fighting the Revolutionary War. There were many points after this legal separation when the tide turned toward a Redcoats victory. It is possible that the Continental Congress would have written and adopted the masterpiece that is
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
but it would have been no more than a poetic moment and not the start of a nation that has meant a great deal to so many if the brave farmers and craftsmen who fought hadn't won. And the odds were definitely stacked against the rebels, as Wiki so succinctly puts it:
The Americans began the war with significant disadvantages compared to the British. They had no national government, no national army or navy, no financial system, no banks, no established credit, and no functioning government departments, such as a treasury.
The Revolutionary War went on for a brutal 8 years, 1775 to 1783, marked from the date of the Boston Massacre on April 19, and for us ending with the Siege of Yorktown, when Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781. Fighting continued in Gibraltar and the East and West Indies, reminding us of the international complexities as the war grew, which finally ended on September 3, 1873, with the Treaty of Paris. That other masterpiece, the US Constitution, is adopted on September 17, 1783, and went into effect on March 4, 1789.
I went on a four-hour tour of Revolutionary sites in lower Manhattan, organized by Fraunces Tavern. They run it in the middle of the night, from 3:00am to 7:00 am, just to make it extra special. The guide paints a picture of lots of history that New Yorkers walk by every day.
Remembering Evacuation Day Hijinx
The flagpole at Bowling Green, behind the Wall Street Bull, has a plaque commemorating this original Evacuation Day, just another part of hidden New York.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
I wrote this post two years ago, before the Olympic Games began in England. I was struck that two Englishmen I had recently encountered on my travels both did not know the we Americans fought in WWl. As Europe & the Commonwealth embarks today on a four-year long commemoration of the Centennial of the Great War, I offer it again to keep the fullest picture possible of this enormous world history.An American Doughboy receives a medal from King George V, World War 1
An odd occurrence connects my recent trips to Italy and England. It concerns two conversations with Englishmen of a certain age (let's say somewhere 60 to 70) in both places.
In general chit chat with each man I asked if he had seen the play War Horse. Neither had, though both knew of it and had read about it.
I was interested to pose an observation to the play—which I've seen both in London and New York—to each: that it was an extraordinary theatrical experience, but I was surprised that there was no character, or piece of dialogue, or even hint that the Americans fought for the Allies in World War 1. There is a battle scene in France, with the Brits, French, Germans, and then all of a sudden, it's Armistice, Victory, end of the war.
I was simply surprised that there wasn't one line of dialogue about the Yanks coming over. I don't mean that there should have been a whole scene, or even American character, just a reference to the forces that entered and helped to bring the war to its end. (I know the play doesn't reference the Russians, Austrians, or Italians either, but that little Second Battle of the Marne turned the tide of the war, so we're not just a footnote.)
Then each Brit—in two different countries—said the same thing to me in response:
"Oh, were the Americans in World War 1?"
Wow. Ouch. There was no irony here, it was not leg pulling. These men were highly educated guys. How could they not know that we went "over there." It's a George M. Cohan song: "and we won't come back 'til it's over, over there" sung at the end of the James Cagney film Yankee Doodle Dandy. On the actual battlefields it was the Doughboys, remember?
Service & Sacrifice
It is notable, to an American visiting France, England, Italy, to see the names of the war dead cut into stone memorials in every town, no matter the size, as well as into churches and colleges across the country. (That is not our way, even though towns across the midwest lost tens of thousands of boys to the foreign fields during WW1 & WW2.)
I was reminded of this again at my recent visit St. John's Chapel, Cambridge, and in the Uppingham parish church, each of which had the all too-long list of a generation of young men, killed during WW1 and remembered by name.
The number of American lives lost---around 116,000---does not compare in number to the almost 3 million British lives lost. But remember that the US was no super power in 1914. We were a nation of teaming, recent immigrants from Germany, France, and Ireland, which argued for US neutrality, something Woodrow Wilson fought hard to maintain.
Lest we forgot, here's a quick recap if WW1, courtesy of lots of Wiki pages:
•Serbian terrorist assassinates the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914.
•On 28 July, the fighting starts with the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia, followed by the German invasion of Belgium, Luxembourg and France—which brought Great Britain into it—and a Russian attack against Germany. After the German march on Paris was brought to a halt, the Western Front settled into a static battle of attrition with a trench line that changed little until 1917.
•German U-Boat's dominated the early part of the war. The Lusitania— a passenger liner which later was proved to be carrying ammunition—was torpedoed and sank on May 7, 1915, in 18 minutes.
1,959 crew and passengers; 1,198 died, 761 survived. 139 of the dead were Americans, 9 survivors.
Unlike the attack on Pearl, this was not enough to pull the US into the war immediately, although it was something the country remembered.
•President Woodrow Wilson worked hard for American Neutrality, following contemporary leaders from all walks of life who descried the war and insisted the US stay out of it: Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, Henry Ford, Samuel Gompers, and the Progressive Movement Jane Adams, just to name a few
*In 1917 Germany stepped up the Uboat activity even further, threatening passenger liners directly with the hopes of bringing the US in the war. That combined with the Zimmerman Telegram--a proposal from German Empire to Mexico to declare war against the US that was intercepted and decoded by the British---finally tipped the scales.
•President Wilson asked Congress for "a war to end all wars" that would "make the world safe for democracy," and Congress voted to declare war on April 6, 1917.
By June 1917, 14,000 U.S. soldiers had arrived in France, and by May 1918 over one million U.S. troops were stationed in France, half of them on the front lines, with troops arriving at a rate of 10,000 a day at a time Germany could not replace its losses.
In total we mobilized 4 million military personal and fought in 13 campaigns
Cambrai, November 20 to December 4, 1917
Somme Defensive, March 21 to April 6, 1918
Lys, April 9 to 27, 1918
Aisne, May 27 to June 5, 1918
Montdidier-Noyon, June 9 to 13, 1918
Champagne-Marne, July 15 to 18, 1918
Aisne-Marne, July 18 to August 6, 1918
Somme Offensive, August 8 to November 11, 1918
Oise-Aisne, August 18 to November 11, 1918
Ypres-Lys August 19 to November 11, 1918
St. Mihiel, Sept. 12 to 16, 1918
Meuse-Argonne, Sept. 26 to November 11, 1918
Vitto Veneto, October 24 to November 4, 1918
The American World War 1 Cemeteries
From some of the close-ups on the tombstones you see Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Ohio et al., reminding us that it was the farm boys who left the farm to fight against the strange sounding Kaiser, and died so many miles from home.
Belgium: Flanders Field American Cemetery & Memorial
John Mcrae wrote his haunting "In Flanders fields the poppies grow/Between the crosses, row on row" in 1915, after burying a friend following the second battle of Ypres. McCrae himself is buried in Wimereux Cemetery, in the Commonwealth War Graves section. He died of pneumonia at a field hospital in Boulogne.
Oise-Aisne, it's where the poet Joyce Kilmer is buried
Somme American Cemetery
Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery
14,246 Americans are buried there, the largest interment of U.S. war dead in Europe in one cemetery
As I said, I just want to clarify: the Americans fought, and died, in World War 1. The Centennial is important to us too. If that Archduke just hadn't been shot . . .
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world.
Ada Louise Huxtable
We are passing through the magical force field of the Solstice, landing straight into summer 2014, where we all hope to find that "jeweled balm" for our "battered spirits."
One of the great attributes of the season for me is the resonance of rum, which captures all the languid heat and dreaming quality of these days.
When James Bond walked into history in Casino Royale he asked for Mount Gay Rum and soda. That says it all.
Mount Gay is sweet and smokey, but not too sweet. It’s a preferred drink of sailors of all stripes, a nod to the beverage that was the backbone of British Navy for centuries.
These days I am enjoying Santa Teresa rum, from Venezuela, particularly the Claro.
And now we will consider the Mojito.
For there is also a place in our hearts for light rum
For fresh mint is heady and clarifying
For the sparkling is sparking indeed
(top photo: My very own pic of Stonehenge, from my university days at Southampton.)
Sunday, June 15, 2014
This year's Bloomsday, Monday, June 16, is seeing a worldwide salute to Jame Joyce's more accessible work, Dubliners, which was published 100 years ago on June 15, 1914, just months before The Great War would ignite. It is a sobering thought that Joyce finished writing the stories when he was just 25.
I once felt a great connection to this collection of short stories, and was greatly encouraged to do more writing about it by my Irish Lit professor at Rutgers, Julian Moynahan. The centenary made me think of Prof. Moynahan, and I was saddened to learn he died just a few months ago.
Professor, this post is for you.
Here's why Dubliners is a masterpiece. Each story captures a place and time and people with astonishing depths of understanding of human nature, and each story can be deeply savored as such.
But Joyce is a master composer of literary polyphony: while each story, or line, is independent, these stories stack vertically: the a capella voices complement each other, echo each other and create startling chords when you listen to the collection as whole. And the theme that emerges the loudest for me from this exquisite sonority is the age old thing about men and women: just how are the sexes getting along?
Let's start with ARABY, the first story where the main character interacts with the opposite sex. Joyce captures the first throbs of sexual passion as a young man describes seeing Mangan's sister, "My body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires." She occupies his mind "I hardly had any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me an my desire, seemed to me child's play." He decides to buy her something at the exotic Araby bazaar, because she can't get there herself. Surprise, surprise, it doesn't go well at all, and the story ends with "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger."
In terms of the relation between the sexes, this young man's desire for a girl has become self-loathing and calling himself as a creature. See, that's not good. Whether he does it consciously or not, he will hold that girl, and probably other females along the way, responsible for this self-loathing.
Next we have EVELINE, who decided that "she wouldn't be treated as her mother had been." Her father was a violent man who went after her brothers and her mom. Eveline is engaged to a kind man, and on her way to starting a life together in Buenos Ayres, when we find her on the dock, completely frozen, unable to get on the boat.
"She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition."
My take: her fear of men will not let her choose to trust one--even a kind loving man--after seeing how her father treated her mother. All she can do is to passively remain in her situation. So now it's a young woman negatively affected by the opposite sex.
Next Joyce gives us AFTER THE RACE, a story free from the problems of the sexes interacting because it's only men. This is a man's story filled with Hemingway initiates who are striving for the vibrance of Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d'Artagnan: "What jovial fellows! What good company!" "flinging themselves boldly into the adventure" of a card game.
The great thing about this story is Joyce's attitude to his four musketeers: it's one of ridicule, draped in terrible writing:
"The journey laid a magical finger on the genuine pulse of life and gallantly the machinery of human nerves strove to answer the bounding courses of the swift blues animal."
"The resonant voice of the Hungarian was about to prevail in ridicule of the spurious lutes of the romantic painters when Segouin shepherded this party into politics."
Joyce's condescending attitude toward this type of male bonding may be because he sees testosterone-fueled exclusion of women as a bad thing for the sexes getting along.
This passages leads us to THE TWO GALLANTS, a title that invokes the gents above. Lenehan, with "his adroitness and eloquence," "vast stock of stories, limericks, and riddles," and his sack "slung over one shoulder in toreador fashion," should be in the back seat of the racing car. But because of his poverty he is forced to leech off of Corely, and their life is very different from the life of the initiates. Corely has seduced a woman who steals for him, and pays his tram fare. "You're what I call a gay Lothario," said Lenehan." Yeah, these charmers are getting whatever they can from the woman, who is not heard from directly. Again, not so good for the disposition of the sexes.
"She's on the turf now. I saw her driving down Earl Street one night with two fellows with her on a car."
"I suppose that's your doing," said Lenehan.
"There was others at her before me," said Corley philosophically.
The Two Gallants is then in counterpoint to THE BOARDING HOUSE. Polly, the daughter of Mrs. Mooney, who runs a boarding house, initiates an affair with lodger Mr. Doran. Mrs. Mooney lets it go a bit until she's ready to declare to Mr. Doran that "there must be reparation made," leading to an upwardly mobile marriage for her daughter.
Mr. Doran: "He could not make up his mind whether to like her or despise her for what she had done. Of course he had done it too. His instinct urged him to remain free, not to marry. Once you are married you are done for, it said."
Here the women are doing the manipulation. It's as if a choral motif started by The Two Gallants (tenors and basses) has been passed to the altos and sopranos. And the theme continues to build: men and women use each other.
The Boarding House leads to resonance in A LITTLE CLOUD, which fully plays out the theoretical trapped feelings of Mr. Doran, and combines them with the frustrated feelings of wanting to be a wild and crazy guy in a racing car.
Little Chandler's problem is his dream of wanting to be like Gallagher in the literary world, but being trapped by his own incapacitating timidity. Chandler is married with a child, with the domesticated burdens of buying new furniture that must be paid for, all of which frustrates his dreams further. "Why had he married the eyes in the photograph?" In the last sentence of the story Joyce sums up the man's life and pain: "He listened while the paroxysm of the child's sobbing grew less and less; and tears of remorse started to his eyes."
Newflash: Men don't particularly want to be domesticated.
COUNTERPARTS amplifies the stifled anger of A Little Cloud, in another example of male bonding. Farrington is a man wrought of anger and rage who frequently indulges his violent nature. He has no sense of duty, no maturity, and little common sense, yet he has a wife and five children. At work he his humiliated because he does such a bad job, and with his friends he is humiliated because he loses an arm wrestling match. And that leads to the violence against his son: "O, pa!" he cried. "Don't beat me, pa! And I'll... I'll say a Hail Mary for you....
Farrington feels the same anger and anguish that the young man felt in Araby; we see he is the same brute as Eveline's father; he has the same need for male camaraderie as the men in After the Race; he looks at women in the same way as The Two Gallants, infrequently, and only to get something from them; he knows too well the foreboding feelings of suffocation by marriage which are but shadows of a thought to Mr. Doran in The Boarding House; and he acts out all the violence that Little Chandler in A Little Cloud is too afraid to do. This is the polyphony of Dubliners.
And in all this human weakness, human fear, there is not much hope nor happiness between men, and women.
However. The composition ends in a glorious tour de force of language and emotion in The Dead, with a husband's epiphany about his wife's early lover.
“While he had been full of memories of their secret life together, full of tenderness and joy and desire, she had been comparing him in her mind with another. A shameful consciousness of his own person assailed him. He saw himself as a ludicrous figure, acting as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous, well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealising his own clownish lusts, the pitiable fatuous fellow he had caught a glimpse of in the mirror. Instinctively he turned his back more to the light lest she might see the shame that burned upon his forehead.”
Oh Gabriel—all that self doubt, all that horrible self criticism because you think that Gretta is comparing you to another. It’s not about YOU. She’s simply filled with a memory of her own past. Please let her have that part of her life, and don’t punish her for it.
And then, Gabriel does just that.
“Gabriel, leaning on his elbow, looked for a few moments unresentfully. . . So she had had that romance in her life: a man had died for her sake. It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life.
“He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover's eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.
“Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love.”
From that realization, Gabriel’s soul is opened, and once that happens, anything is possible.
Joyce leaves us in silver shadows, in the peace of falling snow that unites the living and the dead. Critics disagree as to whether Gabriel is spiritually dead at the end, or if now that he realizes he has never fully lived, something more is possible.
At each year’s reading, I like to think that Garbriel and Gretta go on to happier, more deeply conscious lives with each other.
It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight... It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.