Ten books that influenced me

Sappho

Sappho

I was challenged on Facebook by George Beck to compile a list of 10 books that have influenced me.  The books below aren’t necessarily the ones that were the best pastimes, but they have all had an effect on my life. The first five contributed to my thinking when I was writing my dissertation.

La Divina Commedia, Dante Alighero. Reading this account of the afterworld and its inhabitants introduced me to the richness of medieval Italy and it led me to the next book,

Aeneid, Virgil. Familiarity with Virgil adds immeasurably to the understanding and enjoyment of Dante’s work. Because of these two books, I went to grad school, eventually earning a Ph.D. in medieval literature. It’s fair to say that these two books changed the direction of my life. Continue reading

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Wynton at Water Mill

IMG_2266Magic.

Winton Marsalis — rightly called a national treasure — playing his heart out for us. Well, even if “us” was a few hundred people in the garden of a Hamptons estate, Wynton played as we had never heard him play before.

My favorite was “Comes love, nothing can be done” – you could hear the words flowing from his mouth through the trumpet. “Nothing can be done” he repeated mournfully, staccato, wistfully, forcefully, whispered, trumpeted . . . Jazz at its best.

It all began in Anacapri a few weeks ago.

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“You know how to whistle, don’t you?”

Lauren_bacall_promo_photoIn a sultry voice, looking back with her famous “Look,” Lauren Bacall  instructed Humphey Bogart to “put your lips together and … blow.”

That scene firmly affixed Bacall’s star in the Hollywood firmament.  She was only a teenager at the time, and it was her first movie, “To Have and Have Not.”  Bacall captivated a generation and her costar as well. From that time forward, she and Bogart became an item, then costars and partners in a marriage  that lasted until Bogart’s death.

I’ll never forget Bacall in her Tony-Award winning role as “Woman of the Year.” She was 56 and she dominated the stage. She played a beautiful, competent woman caught in the classic cliché: professional career or satisfying love life.  She says she can have both: “I’m one of the girls who’s one of the boys.”

RIP, Lauren Bacall.

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Robin Williams and the relentless grip of depression

Robin_WilliamsRobin Williams died four days ago, and tributes to his comic genius and his generosity continue to feature prominently in the news, competing with the atrocities in Gaza, Ukraine and now Ferguson. The  New York Times reports that the announcement of his death drew a greater number of readers than any other news event this week.

We knew Robin Williams. He was a lot closer to us than the Yazidis stranded on a faraway mountaintop or the tanks in Ukraine. Apparently he resonated with NYT readers even more than the crisis spurred by the murder of an unarmed teenager by militarized local police in Ferguson, Mo.

The outpouring of grief has predictably led to the examination of a familiar topos — the pain behind the comedian’s jokes — but also to discussions of debilitating depression. Continue reading

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“I don’t do easy” -Robin Williams

358px-Robin_Williams_2008Shocked.

That’s how everybody reacted to the news of the suicide of Robin Williams, the comic genius who so brilliantly made us laugh. Comedy so easily turns into tragedy.

My most vivid recollection of Williams the comic actor is watching him play the ghost of a tiger, slaughtered in the first scene of “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.” The tiger roars impotently from his cage in a heaven he doesn’t believe in. Bombs and explosions continue the relentless massacre while the tiger considers his own place and reason for being in the cosmos.. Humanity baffles him. Williams provides plenty of laughs, but they can’t dispel the savagery of war.

“It’s a bit like ‘Godot’ in Iraq,” Williams told an interviewer. “It’s not an easy play, but I don’t do things easy.” The drama was Williams’ Broadway debut.

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RT @timkmak: Tim Howard: American badass

RT @timkmak: Tim Howard: American badass http://t.co/NMwzv4nKZH

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What a nail-biter! #Ger usu in possessio

What a nail-biter! #Ger usu in possession, but #USA defense tops-esp goalie Tim Howard

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