Poem of the Week

winter-landscape-2995987_640

A Dust of Snow

by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

 

Bonus Poem:

via A Single English Teacher’s Lament

This poem rings true for so many teachers, especially this time of the semester.

Advertisements

What is Great Books?

One of the most influential experiences in my life was my parents putting me in Junior Great Books. It made me learn to read difficult books and to look more deeply at literature and essays.

Now I’m thankful that Northbrook Public Library offers a monthly Great Books Discussion group. I’ve gone when I can in recent years. Currently we have an exceptional leader who provides excellent background information and keeps us on track. The group includes brilliant people who share perceptive comments and ask intriguing questions that help and challenge me not just as a reader, but as a person.

If you can, give Great Books a try.

The Magnificent Amberson’s

525819
Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Amberson’s witty observations on the Gilded Age. The first passages grabbed me.

Major Amberson had “made a fortune” in 1873, when other people were losing fortunes, and the magnificence of the Ambersons began then. Magnificence, like the size of a fortune, is always comparative, as even Magnificent Lorenzo may now perceive, if he has happened to haunt New York in 1916; and the Ambersons were magnificent in their day and place. Their splendour lasted throughout all the years that saw their Midland town spread and darken into a city, but reached its topmost during the period when every prosperous family with children kept a Newfoundland dog.

In that town, in those days, all the women who wore silk or velvet knew all the other women who wore silk or velvet, and when there was a new purchase of sealskin, sick people were got to windows to see it go by. Trotters were out, in the winter afternoons, racing light sleighs on National Avenue and Tennessee Street; everybody recognized both the trotters and the drivers; and again knew them as well on summer evenings, when slim buggies whizzed by in renewals of the snow-time rivalry. For that matter, everybody knew everybody else’s family horse-and-carriage, could identify such a silhouette half a mile down the street, and thereby was sure who was going to market, or to a reception, or coming home from office or store to noon dinner or evening supper.

The story’s hero is George Amberson Minafer, the most egotistical fool I’ve ever read about. When George is a boy in the small Middle American town his grandfather developed from what seems to have been prairie, he fights with every boy who looks at him the wrong way. He’ll pound the pastor’s son to a pulp and curse at the pastor when he pulls the boys apart. George defines entitlement. From his childhood, he was well aware that as his family is the “First Family” of Midland, that everyone else was riffraff and should kowtow to him.

As a boy terrorized the town with his carelessness and the good citizens could do nothing but raise their fists in anger and shout that one day that so and so would get his comeuppance.

What made George such a public nuisance? His mother. Isabela Amberson Minafer doted on George as no woman ever doted on her child. This was her Achilles’ heel, which like in any Greek tragedy is guaranteed to lead to a character’s downfall. Isabela prized dignity. As a young woman, the most wealthy woman in town, she was humiliated when Eugene Morgan came to serenade her and since he’d been drinking fell flat on his face, a spectacle that Isabela assumed the whole world witnessed. That was enough for her to banish Eugene from her heart and to marry a safe, drab accountant, Wilbur Minafer. As the gossip in town predicted, Isabela would lavish her affection on her child, George as Wilbur wasn’t the sort of man to stir up much passion in a wife.

Continue reading

A View from a Bridge

The Goodman Theater’s production of Arthur Miller’s A View from a Bridge demonstrates why good theater will never die. The powerful performances in this story about Eddie, a longshoreman who’s too attached to his orphaned niece, Catherine.

Eddie’s agreed to allow his wife Beatrice’s two cousins from Italy to stay with them in secret as they get work. The cousins are in the US illegally because the economy in their home country is horrible. The older cousin, Marco, just wants to save up money for his family back home, the younger cousin Rodolfo is enamored with American culture and more interested in starting a singing career and making it big than in working the docks. It’s pretty surprising that Eddie’s okay with illegal workers at the docks as that would undercut his best interest.

Things get sour when Catherine, who from the start of the play has been shockingly affectionate with Eddie, starts to date Rodolfo. Eddie’s jealousy grows to culminate in tragedy as you’d expect from Miller.

The play’s performers were outstanding. The end was provocative and a shock in its depiction. All I’ll say is I didn’t need so much blood pouring everywhere. Nonetheless, A View from a Bridge is a strong opening for Goodman’s 2017-18 season.