November 7, 2012

No one can argue that Princeton has had a rough time this past week. Numerous events in the community were cancelled, with future concerts and lectures in doubt. Princeton Symphony Orchestra put on a Herculean effort this past week to gather its musicians together, and with the cooperation of Princeton University, presented its November concert as scheduled this past Sunday afternoon at Richardson Auditorium. Where the orchestra rehearsed this program remains a mystery, with all the power outages in the area, but with a few adjustments to the repertoire and the tremendous commitment of the players, Princeton residents were offered a musical respite from sitting in dark unheated houses. Sunday afternoon’s concert was originally to include Aaron Jay Kernis’ cello concerto Colored Field, paired with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Because of the limited rehearsal time, Music Director Rossen Milanov replaced the Kernis work with two smaller pieces reflecting the lush, Romantic, yet high-spirited mood of Scheherazade.

Scheherazade tells the story of a brave Persian queen and in keeping with music about women who can stand on their own, Mr. Milanov began the concert with a one-movement “Bacchanale” about one of the greatest women of the Bible. Camille Saint-Saëns “Bacchanale” from his 1877 opera Samson and Delilah suggests debauchery and sensuality and oboist Rita Mitsel opened the piece with a slinky exotic instrumental solo. Ms. Mitsel, English horn player Nathan Mills, clarinetist Alexander Bedenko, and flutist Jayn Rosenfeld provided a transformed opening theme full of such exotic flavor that one expected a snake charmer to appear. Especially light strings came into their own with the full and rich second theme, contrasted by harp. Mr. Milanov led the players through clean transitions among sections, building the complexity of the piece to a closing frenzy.

Refocusing the concert on 19th-century European music with Eastern influence, Mr. Milanov included a work with which he is thoroughly comfortable and which was probably relaxing for the musicians to play in a week full of stress. Alexander Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances” from the opera Prince Igor began with gentler winds than the previous work, and the familiar “Stranger in Paradise” tune elegantly played by oboist Ms. Mitsel. This tune recurred in several solo instruments, including clarinet and English horn, with the orchestra moving smoothly from one dance to the next. Throughout this piece, and certainly in the subsequent Rimsky-Korsakov work, clarinetist Alexander Bedenko showed himself to be an understated yet very intent player, providing very quick phrases in the “Dances.” Percussion plays a large role in both this work and Scheherazade, and the six-member percussion and timpani section was precise with rhythms and exact in punctuating other instrumental playing.

Scheherazade is also full of great tunes, but scored in a much more forceful manner. The brass sections of the Princeton Symphony immediately set the tone of “The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship,” while the character of Scheherazade recurred as a violin solo, played by concertmistress Basia Danilow. Ms. Danilow’s mournful opening solo emerged elegantly out of the orchestral texture, accompanied by Andre Tarantiles on the harp. Throughout the piece, Ms. Danilow took all the time she needed for rubato and ends of phrases, becoming saucier as Scheherazade manipulated the Sultan to spare her own life. Mr. Tarantiles’s delicate harp accompaniment played a large role throughout the piece, and a number of instrumental soloists stepped up with very clean playing. One does not often hear bassoon solos, which Seth Baer provided in the second movement, and Ms. Mitsel and Mr. Bedenko continued their effective playing. An elegant second trombone solo (also unusual orchestration) was heard from Tom Hutchinson, and cellist Alistair MacRae provided very clean solo passages.

In the four movements of this work, Ms. Danilow played with character and style, including numerous double stops in the fourth movement around swirling winds. Mr. Milanov conducted this piece from memory, showing his comfort zone with the work. Getting this performance to the actual stage may have been a challenge, but once performers and audience were in place, everyone seemed to be very glad to be there.


THE BUCK STOPS HERE: The head of MI6 (Judi Dench) accepts full responsibility for the apparent death of Agent 007, aka James Bond (Daniel Craig, not shown), but refuses to step down from her post. Of course, her stubbornness is vindicated when Bond resurfaces alive and well and proceeds to track down the maniacal madman (played by Javier Bardem, not shown) and put an end to his attempts at world domination.

Each new James Bond film is destined to be compared to all the prior movies in the enduring series. Directed by Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes (for American Beauty), Skyfall earns high grades because it pales in the eyes of this critic only in relation to the standard-setting classic films that starred Sean Connery as 007.

Daniel Craig returns for a third episode of savoir faire and derring-do as the legendary British secret agent with “a license to kill” and matches wits with a maniacal madman played by Oscar-winner Javier Bardem (for No Country for Old Men). Besides the obligatory villain bent on world domination, this 007 adventure arrives complete with trademarks such as witty repartee, a bevy of Bond girls (most notably Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe), exotic locales, and a memorable title song (by Adele) that oozes the required combination of danger and sensuality.

The movie wastes little time launching into high gear, opening with a daredevil motorcycle chase across roofs high above Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, that leads to an even more eye-popping stunt atop a careening freight train approaching the proverbial mountain tunnel. The incident ends with a breathtaking plunge into a river that apparently claims Bond’s life.

Back at MI6 headquarters, responsibility for the tragedy is ultimately placed squarely on the shoulders of M (Dame Judi Dench). However, she refuses to turn in her resignation when called to account by her boss (Ralph Fiennes).

Of course, 007 isn’t really dead, and he soon resurfaces to embark, with M’s blessing, on a revenge-fueled, name-clearing, international manhunt with ports-of-call in Macau and Shanghai that ends in a spectacular showdown on an ancestral family estate in Scotland. What makes the roller coaster ride so much fun is a plethora of surprising plot twists.

Brace yourself for the best Bond picture in ages, thanks to Daniel Craig’s coming of age to make the role his own.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, smoking, violence, and intense action sequences. Running time: 143 minutes. Studio: Columbia Pictures.


Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street is showing works by Shiva Ahmadi, Monira Al Quadari, Nezaket Ekici, Hayv Kahraman, and Efret Kedem as part of “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society” series, through November 21. Outdoor sculpture by Mike Gyampo is on view through March 30 on the Michael Graves Terrace. On November 8 at 7 p.m., Ifat Shatzky, Samira Abbassy and Milcah Bassel will speak about their work in the Fertile Crescent show. Visit www.artscouncil
ofprinceton.org.

Cafe 44, 44 Leigh Avenue, shows “PLAYBACK! Paintings by James Bongartz” November 17-December 16. Call (609) 924-3900.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has in its Milberg Gallery “Woodrow Wilson’s Journey to the White House,” through December 28. “First X, Then Y, Now Z: Thematic Maps” runs through February 10 in the main exhibition gallery. “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” shows in the Mudd Manuscript Library Cotsen Children’s Library through July 31. “Into the Woods: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Brothers Grimm” is on view through February 28.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows “Nantucket” by India Blake, “Cityscapes” by Charles Miller and Richard Trenner, and “Recent Work” by Kenneth Kaplowitz through November 11. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, is showing “Einstein at Home” and “From Princeton to the White House,” which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson, through January 13. At the Updike Farmhouse on Quaker Road, “Call to Action: How a President Used Art to Sway a Nation,” World War I posters from the collection, and “A Morning at Updike Farmstead: Photographs by the Princeton Photography Club” are open November 17 and December 15, 12-4 p.m. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, presents “Portrait of Place: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints of New Jersey, 1761-1898” through January 13. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. Visit www.morven.org.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Root and Branch,” which explores the form of a tree in art and includes several art forms, through November 25. Works by Parastou Forouhar, Mona Hatoum, Sigalit Landau, Shirin Neshat and Laila Shawa are on view through January 13 as part of “The Fertile Crescent” project. “Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom” is on exhibit through February 17. “City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus” is on view through January 20. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

November 6, 2012

A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence ….

—John Keats in letter, Oct 27, 1818

Finally I’ve found an occasion worthy of a column on The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (PEPP) the monumental volume (1639 pages, 700 contributors) just published in the new, greatly expanded fourth edition by Princeton University Press. Halloween may seem an unlikely holiday context for a volume that devotes over a million words and a thousand entries to the unscary subject of poetry, except that October 31 is also the 227th birthday of John Keats (1795-1821), of all poets surely the one most likely to dominate the electoral college of verse should there ever be an election for the standard bearer of English poetry.

Keats the Key

To explore a book this immense it helps to have a key and Keats will be mine. He makes his first appearance in the African American Poetry entry in reference to the conflict between Countee Cullen, who was “extravagantly admiring of Keats” and Langston Hughes, whose major influence was the blues. If you have the genies of the net at your disposal, and if Storming Sandy has not stolen your power, a click of the mouse will give you Cullen’s “To John Keats, Poet, at Spring Time” (“‘John Keats is dead,’ they say, but I/Who hear your full insistent cry/In bud and blossom, leaf and tree,/Know John Keats still writes poetry”). No need to stop there. Every page, every entry in the encyclopedia is freighted with leads to follow online, where Cullen’s bio tells you that no one knows for sure when or where he was born (May 30, 1903, is the best bet), though it could be either New York, Baltimore, or Lexington, Kentucky, the state Keats’s brother George and sister-in-law Georgiana, the recipients of his best and longest letters, emigrated to in 1818. Another virtual side trip and you can learn something of George’s life in Louisville as a civic leader and patron of the arts.

Finding Kunin

The site of Keats’s next appearance further indicates how the encyclopedia extends its reach into the wider world. Located under “A,” the “Poetry as Artifact” is the contribution of one A. Kunin. What to make of that “A”? Not only are the first names of contributors abbreviated in the PEPP, so are oft-used terms like classical (cl.) and modern (mod.) and centuries (cs.). This big book couldn’t breathe without abbreviations. But who and where is Kunin? Male or female, Andy or Ann?

Back in 1993, when PEPP’s third edition was published, the “information superhighway” was still a work in progress, and you’d have worn yourself out tracking down Aaron Kunin, who turns out to be “a rising star in the poetry world.” That’s according to the Holloway Series in Poetry website, where you can see a video of Kunin (thin, glasses, Afro) reading from his work. He teaches 18th century literature at Pomona College and gets good marks on Rate Your Professor (“I love him,” “the sweetest guy,” “oh what a dreamboat!”) except for the complaint that Mr. Kunin “tends to talk too long about small details.” A student in his Milton class (the “oh what a dreamboat” person, in fact) says he “can relate biblical characters to a fashion photograph of a mini skirt without the slightest hesitance.” Clearly this is someone who was born to contribute to a 21st century encyclopedia on poetry and poetics.

Keats’s connection to “Poetry as Artifact” is his sonnet, “On first looking into Chapman’s Homer.” After bringing in Heidegger, “a mod. exponent of humanist trad.,” and “15th and 16th cs. processed knowledge through cl. poetic models,” Kunin comes to the conclusion (hardly a great perceptual leap) that when Keats writes about Chapman’s translation of Homer, Chapman’s text brings him “closer to Homer than to Chapman.” Meanwhile no mention is made of Keats’s “Ode On a Grecian Urn,” arguably the most famous poem ever written about an artifact.

E. Rohrbach’s Capability

The only entry in PEPP that Keats himself generated is, not surprisingly, “Negative Capability,” a term coined in one of those extraordinarily rich letters sent to George and Georgiana in America. Google images of E. Rohrbach, the article’s author, and you find that “E” is for Emily, who is instantly appealing with her long dark hair, intense, intelligent gaze and potent, mysterious smile. It’s refreshing that rather than going off on tangents, Ms. Rohrbach, an assistant professor at Northwestern University, wisely uses much of her modest portion of PEPP to quote from the poet’s letters, including, most effectively, the Oct. 27 1818 one to Richard Woodhouse on the “poetical Character” that contains the line claiming that the poet is the “most unpoetical of any thing in existence.”

All unpoetical bets are off when Ms. Rohrbach merges the man “capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts” with the one who “has no self … is everything and nothing … lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated.” Once you accept the notion of the chameleon poet, the poetical spirit that has “no self” but freely inhabits “everything and nothing,” what’s to keep the poet from an intimate encounter with his interpreter, who as a visiting professor at Rutgers in 2008 lectured on “the Romantic sense of time as a teeming present that produces an excess of what can potentially be known, due in part to the way that knowledge of that present rests on an imagined, dark futurity.” Imagine fair Emily murmuring of “dark futurity” in Keats’s ear at some dinner party in eternal London, she the “soft-spoken professor … a bit quirky but genuinely nice,” as described in Rate Your Teacher.

Understood

I’ll admit that last rendezvous was a bit over the top, but flights of fancy are going to happen when a sane, sensible, well-meaning reviewer confronts a tome of such dauntingly formal proportions with an agenda that “covers the history, theories, techniques, and criticism of poetry from its earliest days,” including comprehensive and in-depth coverage of international poetry, with articles on the poetries of more than 110 nations, regions, and languages, particularly in non-Western and developing areas, as well as an entry on postcolonial poetics. Of the more than 250 new articles, there are essays and descriptions on recent terms, movements and related topics that are either “new or previously under-studied.”

While it can’t be called blatantly unpoetical, PEPP appears to be the forthright opposite of the poetical stereotype, no fancy design elements, no embellishments, no flowery friezes or “leaf-fringed legends.” The cover design seems solid and sensible, at least until you take a closer look at the cluster of miniature uniform spheres reminiscent of the Pac Man video game played obsessively by fathers and sons alike in the early 1980s. Look inside those tiny spheres and there are fingers, toes, noses, eyes, ears, mouths, some with lipstick, smiling, some with teeth bared; there’s even what appears to be a navel. Open the book to the copyright page and you learn that you’ve been looking at a piece of visual or “evident” verse in the form of a collage called “Love Poem” (1964), by the Czech poet and artist Ji í Kolá  (1914-2002).

The truth is, when you look through The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, you find interspersed with categories like “Catalepsis” and “Catachresis,” “Ictus,” and “Prosimetrum,” entries on “Emotion” and “Empathy and Sympathy” (Keats makes appearances in both). Terms suggestive of the deepest expressions of human nature seem at first appealingly foreign to the informative function associated with and expected of encyclopedias, which of course is what poetry is all about. I can’t imagine what Keats would have done if faced with this mountainous prospect, but my guess is that another October poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (born ten days and 23 years before Keats) would treat it with the most eager attention, as if it were a ten-day hike through the Lake Country whereon he would plant as he walked whole fields and gardens of marginalia.


The editor in chief of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, which is also available online, is Roland Greene, a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Stanford University. The general editor, Stephen Cushman, is a professor of English at the University of Virginia. Associate editors include Clare Cavanagh, a professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature at Northwestern University; Jahan Ramazani, an English professor at the University of Virginia; and Paul F. Rouzer, who is associate professor of Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Minnesota.

 

Thirty-three years is a long time for a chorus to be under the leadership of one person, and when the reins change hands, there are surely adjustments all the way around. Ryan James Brandau, the new artistic director of Princeton Pro Musica, wisely chose for his first concert with the ensemble pieces which were right in the chorus’s wheelhouse. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem is a work well in the comfort zone of Pro Musica, as is the music of J.S. Bach, and both composers are a good vehicle for the chorus and conductor to become acquainted. Dr. Brandau and the 100-voice Pro Musica presented the first fruits of this collaboration on Sunday afternoon at Richardson Auditorium with a concert of Mozart and Bach which showed that this new relationship is clearly working out.

A work originally composed for a funeral might not seem a good piece to celebrate Brandau’s beginning tenure with Pro Musica, but the one-movement O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht is vintage Bach, especially in the composer’s own second “arrangement” including trumpets. Conducting without a baton, Brandau presented a smooth and peaceful interpretation of this piece, blending strings and trumpets well. He kept the sopranos of Pro Musica restrained with the chorale tune, with the tenor section sounding particularly unstressed. Brandau brought out the lower voices of the chorus, effectively eliciting relaxed phrase cadences from the ensemble, aided by the small and precise orchestral ensemble. Especially subtle trumpet parts were provided by Rodney Mack and Thomas Cook.

As a nod to his predecessor, Brandau programmed an instrumental work to give the chorus a rest and show the more virtuostic side of Bach. Solo violinist Elizabeth Field, well-versed in 18th-century performance practice, joined the orchestra for Bach’s three-movement Violin Concerto in E Major, which could easily have been a seventh “Brandenburg” concerto, containing the same chipper spirit in a bright key. As with concerti of the time, soloist Ms. Field played with the ensemble for much of the time, coming out of the instrumental fabric with clean sequences, rhythms, and melodies. Phrases had elegant direction from all players, and Ms. Field added color to the solo line on cadenzas. In the second movement, Ms. Field played the countermelody with more richness and a bit of Romanticism, showing that Bach was not all about virtuoso playing. Ensemble and soloist maintained a graceful lilt to the third movement rondo, showing especially delicate endings to the instrumental refrains.

Pro Musica had its chance to shine in Mozart’s Requiem, performed from an edition which may not have been familiar to all chorus members and which added new fugal passages to the score. As Mozart aficionados know, the composer died in mid-composition of the piece, and “how would Mozart have finished this” has been one of the great musicological mysteries for the past two hundred years. In the 1990s, scholar Robert Levin presented his version, which gave the chorus additional challenging music, but which may have taken some drama out of the orchestral writing, particularly in the “Benedictus.” This was the version performed by Pro Musica on Sunday afternoon, challenging the audience to pay a bit more attention to a piece they may have thought they knew backwards and forwards.

Throughout the piece, Brandau maintained a well-balanced sound from the chorus, with cleanly articulated fugal lines in the “Kyrie,” “Amen,” the “Lacrymosa,” and “Cum Sanctis Tuis” which closed the work. He is clearly a stickler for detail, and there were very few false entrances or final consonants spilling over. His approach to the piece, with attention to word accents and gradual dynamic builds within the movements would make the work easy to sing for the chorus, with a great deal of musical variety within a well-contained scope of sound. The orchestra continued its precise approach to the music, with especially clean playing from cellists Jodi Beder and Elizabeth Thompson and clarinetists Daniel Spitzer and Rie Suzuki in the Recordare quartet. A trio of trombones, played by Brian Mahany, Richard Harris, and Pat Herb, subtly balanced the lower registers of the orchestra and reminded the audience that Mozart was on his way to the 19th century when he wrote this piece.

The chorus was joined by a quartet of vocal soloists, several of whom have local connections. Soprano Justine Aronson possessed a youthful and clear voice which matched the clarinet color perfectly in some of the quartet passages. Ms. Aronson also showed particular sensitivity to the text, especially on the words “supplicanti parce” (“spare the supplicant”). Mezzo-soprano Amanda Quist blended well with Ms. Aronson, showing the strength of her sound in the “Benedictus” quartet, as did tenor Christopher Hodson. The most unique singer to appear on the Richardson stage recently by far was bass-baritone Dashon Burton, who easily is headed for a great career. With a terrific set of waist-length dreadlocks which breaks the traditional “classical singer” visual mode, Mr. Burton combined self-assuredness, a commanding voice, and precision gained from singing in top-notch choral ensembles to provide a solid foundation to the vocal quartet. One definitely wants to hear more from this singer.

Ryan James Brandau and Princeton Pro Musica performed this concert on the eve of the “frankenstorm” threatening New Jersey. Brandau did not announce his arrival like a hurricane, but rather with a solid performance which foretells great things to come with the chorus.


THANK GOODNESS HE WAS FLYING THE PLANE: Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) confidently boards his airplane even though he is legally drunk and has stayed up all night drinking and snorting coke together with a stewardess (Nadine Velazquez, not shown). In spite of these grave infractions of the rules, Whip is able to land the plane after a disastrous failure of its hydraulic system. The subsequent investigation reveals Whip’s shortcomings and the question is, will he be able to cover up his criminally liable actions.

Co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) is at the helm of SouthJet Flight 227 from Orlando to Atlanta because the plane’s captain, Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), has passed out after a night of debauchery in which he drank booze and snorted coke while carousing with a stewardess (Nadine Velazquez). However, when the plane unexpectedly encounters severe turbulence and starts losing altitude the concerned rookie immediately rouses the senior officer out of a deep sleep.

Despite a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, the veteran aviator assumes control and quickly ascertains that the plane’s plunge is due to a complete failure of the hydraulic system. He further surmises that the only hope of pulling out of the precipitous nosedive requires that he lower the landing gear prematurely, dump fuel, and fly the aircraft upside-down.

Against all odds, he executes each step flawlessly, unless you count clipping the top off a church steeple moments before making an emergency landing in an open field. 96 of the 102 passengers survive, and Whip’s astonishing feat is soon the subject of the national media.

However, during its routine investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) uncovers evidence that the pilot had a blood alcohol level of .24 at the time of the accident. Since six people perished in the crash, Captain Whitaker could be held criminally liable for their deaths.

Will the hero’s image be tarnished by scandal? Not if his defense attorney (Don Cheadle) and the union representative (Bruce Greenwood) have anything to say about it. The two hatch a plan to suppress the toxicology report and to sober Whip up by the time of the NTSB hearing.

Directed by Academy Award-winner Bob Zemeckis (for Forest Gump), Flight is a riveting thriller with spellbinding special effects and an unparalleled performance by two-time Oscar-winner Denzel Washington (for Glory and Training Day). After the spectacular opening scene plane crash, the picture shifts in tone to a portrait of a self-destructive addict who is in denial and plagued by demons.

The supporting cast features Kelly Reilly as Whip’s love interest, John Goodman as his drug dealer, Melissa Leo as a snoopy NTSB bureaucrat, as well as Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood. This movie is as much a star vehicle as Zemeckis’s Cast Away, where Tom Hanks was the only actor on screen for over an hour.

Excellent (****). Rated R for drug and alcohol abuse, nudity, sexuality, and an intense action sequence. Running time: 139 minutes. Distributor: Paramount Pictures.


October 24, 2012

“No one is beyond the reach of Bruce!”

—Governor Chris Christie

The day after the second debate I’m at the library to return the DVD of Season 3 of Breaking Bad when I spot Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball on display among the CDs. While I don’t lie in wait for the new Springsteen the way I do for the new Dylan, the Boss’s recent decision to endorse President Obama makes me curious to hear what he has to say in his latest album. It turns out that the people in Bruce’s songs, “trudging through the dark in a world gone wrong,” have some recession-driven issues in common with Breaking Bad’s Walt White, the cash-strapped, cancer-stricken high school science teacher who moonlights at a car wash and finds a way to provide for his family and cover over-the-top medical expenses by cooking to-die-for crystal blue methamphetamine.

In spite of his recent appearances in Ohio and Iowa on behalf of Obama, Springsteen’s appeal cuts across party lines and what better or bigger embodiment of the fact than Governor Chris Christie, who has been to 129-plus of the Boss’s concerts. As Jeffrey Goldberg puts it in the July Atlantic, containing Christie at a Springsteen event is “an exercise in volcano management” for his communications director. After dancing around “in front of many thousands of people without giving a damn what they think” and shouting the words to “Badlands” along with Springsteen (“Poor man wanna be rich/Rich man wanna be king”), Christie is fed a “trick question” from Goldberg. Asked if Mitt Romney “could relate to this,” Christie “screams over the noise of the crowd,” twice: “No one is beyond the reach of Bruce!”

The Big Chill 

Rolling Stone gave “We Take Care Of Our Own,” the lead track on Wrecking Ball, four stars when it was released as a single January 19. Driving down Witherspoon with the song playing at top volume on Moby, my four-wheeled CRV stereo unit, I’m thinking it’s way better than four stars. For Springsteen, I have my own rating system, call it the Chill Chart. Five degrees of chill means an instantaneous tingle on the back of the neck, radiating out to the extremities, accompanied in this case by a surge in acceleration from the mobile stereo, which longs to hit the highway, even though the song says “The road of good intentions/has gone dry as a bone.” Moby doesn’t care. A road is a road to this 12-year-old totally apolitical Honda. Moby doesn’t need to know who the “We” is or whether it’s actually truly taking care of its own or if it’s a good or an evil “We” or a conflicted, hopelessly compromised, and ultimately inadequate “We.”

But Bruce is singing his heart out, and in the now and forever of the moment the message is “We Can Do It” because everything in the music is UP and straight ahead. It’s got the blast-off-for-the-territory excitement of “Born to Run” — it’s that exhilarating.

If a song hits five on the Chill Chart at the outset, what do you do when it rises to an even higher level, as the great Springsteen anthems do? When Bruce asks “where’s the promise from sea to shining sea,” and answers, loud and clear, “wherever this flag is flown,” the music is driving, pounding, soaring as it redeems and redefines words long since drained of their original force. The stirring poetry of “sea to shining sea” is fresh again when Springsteen sings it, and the flag isn’t the tiny item politicians dutifully pin to their lapels; it’s another breed of flag, the real thing. This flag is the one you want to believe in, as the music tells you to in spite of the words. It’s the tattered flag of the American Dream, the same flag waved by Emerson and Whitman and Ginsberg and now Obama.

Think back to Charlotte, N.C., September 6, the president’s going strong, steaming down the finish line to the closing crescendo of his acceptance speech, the convention faithful roaring. “We don’t turn back!” the preacher’s telling the congregation. “We leave no one behind! We pull each other up!” On the verge of actually singing Springsteen’s line, Obama God Blesses the nation, the balloons soar, and the music explodes from the DNC amps, Springsteen coming on like thunder, saying it for him, “We Take Care Of Our Own!” Was it mere happenstance that the rhetoric of the speech segued so neatly into the rhetoric of the song? And did the president sneak a listen to Springsteen during his prep time for the second debate, channeling the words and the music and the energy in the hours before the CNN clock struck nine on October 16?

According to the Huffington Post, Springsteen’s anthem got a huge post-convention bounce online, jumping 400-plus percent with 2000 downloads. If Springsteen had not yet officially endorsed Obama, he’d at least provided him with a rousing fight song.

But the big bounce, the inspirational jumpstart, came the Saturday before the second debate when, as if to put to rest the fight song’s complaint, “There ain’t no help, the cavalry stayed home,” the Obama campaign announced that the Boss was on board and here he comes, galloping into view with bugles blowing as Obama comes out swinging for the third debate.

“If I Had Me a Gun”

As inspirational as it is musically (it’s produced by Ron Aniello), Wrecking Ball is not something the Democrats would want to fold into the campaign of a candidate determined to avoid being tagged with the “angry black man” label. Most of the album’s strongest songs pulse with passion and outrage, despair and desperation leading to criminal acts, theft, murder, and mayhem. Even the opening anthem, with its devious, at best ambiguous “We,” has no hope in it but the music: “good hearts turned to stone …. From the shotgun shack to the Super Dome.” When good intentions and good hearts are no more, you get the next song, “Easy Money.” Sung with savage gusto, it picks up and acts on the kinetic force of the “shotgun shack” line: “And all them fat cats they just think it’s funny,” so the singer’s “going on the town now looking for easy money” and he’s packing “a Smith & Wesson .38.” And inside him, he’s “got a hellfire burning.” Yet he sings like his belly is full, his energy is high, his spirit bold and unbowed.

“Shackled and Drawn” carries the narrative further, as if the character who went to town with a gun got himself caught and is serving time: “Gambling man rolls the dice,/working man pays the bill/It’s still fat and easy up on banker’s hill,” where “the party’s going strong” while “Down here below we’re shackled and drawn.” Once again Springsteen balances the vehemence of the singing and the lyrics with music that makes you want to run around waving your arms when you should be shooting your way out of prison. No need when the Irish-jig-infectious melodic riff has already set you free.

The next five-star hit on the Chill Chart is “Jack Of All Trades.” Your first thought is that this is one man’s voice from the jobless multitude victimized by the recession. This guy’s out of work, his wife needs consoling (“Honey we’ll be all right”), so he’ll mow your lawn, clean your drains, mend your roof, fix your engine until it’s running good. So far it’s tough but tender, spare but musically grandiose, even at times symphonic, with soulful trumpets and Tom Morello’s equally soulful guitar coda at the end. But then, like the songs before it, “Jack Of All Trades” takes a dark turn as “the banker man grows fat/working man grows thin/It’s all happened before and it’ll happen again.” And “If I had me a gun/I’d find the bastards and shoot ‘em on sight.”

Springsteen sings “Death to My Home Town” like a no-nonsense Irish sergeant -major briskly commanding his troops while a marching band backs this call-to-arms revision of Bruce’s signature lament, “My Home Town.” Where the town in the early song had “fights between the black and white,” shotgun blasts and vacant stores, in the later one the devastation is total: “They destroyed our families, factories/and they took our homes/They left our bodies on the plains/The vultures picked our bones.” So there’s nothing for it but to march into battle against the monied enemy with a rousing chorus: “Sing it hard and sing it well/Send the robber barons straight to hell.”

In the Springsteen repertoire since 1999, “Land of Hope and Dreams,” is the most purely inspirational song on the album, with the late Clarence Clemons powering “this train” of “saints and sinners.” While a special feature of the Wrecking Ball liner notes is Springsteen’s elegiac appreciation of the Big Man “and the force of nature that was his sound,” the finest tribute is the closing song, “We Are Alive,” where Bruce sings, “Sleep well my friend/It’s only our bodies that betray us in the end,” “the dead come to life/well above the stars” and “Our spirits rise/to carry the fire and light the spark/To stand shoulder to shoulder and/heart to heart” (the liner notes contain a for-the-ages photo of Springsteen and Clemons doing just that). Here the performance, the music, and the lyrics enter a realm of art beyond rankings, politics, and events of the moment. When the dust of the 2012 campaign has cleared, whatever happens, this song and this album will be played and played and played, doing for listeners what Bruce says music did for him, providing “a community, filled with people … who I didn’t know but who I knew were out there.”

The quote is from an in-depth conversation with Will Percy that ran in the spring 1998 issue of Double Take magazine and can be found in Racing In the Street: The Bruce Springsteen Reader (Penguin 2004). A decade later the election to New Jersey’s highest office of one of the Springsteen community’s most devoted members has forced the Boss to confront what his power hath wrought, given Goldberg’s claim that “the people whose lives Springsteen explores in his songs” were among the 63 percent “of white voters with only high school diplomas” who went for Christie in 2009.

———

Soon after checking out the library copy of Wrecking Ball, which lacks the liner notes, I went to the Record Exchange and bought the deluxe edition that also includes two exceptional bonus tracks, “Swallowed Up (in the Belly of the Whale)” and “American Land.”


Alfa Art Gallery at George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, presents “The Message,” a solo exhibition by Vesselin Kourtev, through November 20. Visit www.AlfaArt.org.

Art for Healing Gallery, University Medical Center of Princeton, Route 1, Plainsboro, is showing watercolors by Joel Popadics from October 26 through January. The opening reception is October 26, 5:30-8 p.m.

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents “Energy in Mind: Picturing Consciousness,” works by Jennifer Cadoff, Debra Weier and Andrew Werth, November-April. The opening reception is November 8, 5-7 p.m. After that date, view by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, presents “Patterns & Meaning: Alan J. Klawans and Andrew Werth,” November 9-December 2. Both artists use the computer as a tool in creating their work. The opening reception is November 10, 3-6 p.m. Visit www.lambertvillearts.com.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street is showing works by Shiva Ahmadi, Monira Al Quadari, Nezaket Ekici, Hayv Kahraman, and Efret Kedem as part of “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society” series, through November 21. Outdoor sculpture by Mike Gyampo is on view through March 30 on the Michael Graves Terrace. Visit www.artscouncilof
princeton.org.

Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, has paintings by Hanna von Goeler October 29-December 6. The reception is November 2 from 7-9 p.m.

Bucks County Gallery, 77 West Bridge Street, New Hope, Pa., presents a solo exhibit by Christine Graefe Drewyer through October 28. From November 2-30, five artists including Dot Bunn and John Murdoch will show their paintings. Visit www.buckscountygal
leryart.com.

D&R Greenway, Johnson Education Center, 1 Preservation Place, presents “Sustainable Harvest: Creating Community Through the Land,” a mixed-media show about farmland, iconic farm structures, and new perspectives on crops and creatures, through November 9. Winners of the “Species on the Edge” art and essay contest, devoted to New Jersey’s endangered and threatened species, is in the Olivia Rainbow Gallery, also through November 9.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, is showing “Naturally, Man-Made, in Full View: The Art of le Corbeau” through November 4. Showing through January 13 is “James Rhodes, Trenton Stoneware Potter, 1773-1784” and “Contemporary Art from the TMS Collection.” Call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.ellarslie.org.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has in its Milberg Gallery “Woodrow Wilson’s Journey to the White House,” through December 28. “First X, Then Y, Now Z: Thematic Maps” runs through February 10 in the main exhibition gallery. “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” shows in the Mudd Manuscript Library Cotsen Children’s Library through July 31. “Into the Woods: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Brothers Grimm” is on view through February 28.

Gallery and Academy of Robert Beck, 204 North Union Street, Lambertville, shows paintings by Mr. Beck and hand-wrought clocks by Raymond Mathis through November 18. Visit www.robertbeck.net.

Gallery at Chapin, 4101 Princeton Pike, has drawings and paintings by Dot Bunn through October 26. From November 1-December 14, “Abstract Drawings and Paintings” by Pat Martin will be shown. The opening reception is November 7, 5-7 p.m. Call (609) 924-7206.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows “Nantucket” by India Blake, “Cityscapes” by Charles Miller and Richard Trenner, and “Recent Work” by Kenneth Kaplowitz through November 11. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Garden State Watercolor Society presents its 43rd Annual Juried Exhibition through October 28 at Prallsville Mills in Stockton. For times and details on special events, visit www.garden
statewatercolorsociety.net.

Gelavino Gelato Shop at Princeton Shopping Center, North Harrison Street, is showing 12 prints by Princeton High School junior Jane Robertson through October 31.

Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A Main Street, Cranbury, hosts Colleen Cahill, who will show her pastels, watercolors and mixed media pieces in a show called “Transitions” through October 28. “Quiet Dignity,” the art of Cyndi Girardet,” is on view November 4-25. The opening reception is November 4, 1-3 p.m. Visit www.cranbury.org.

Grounds for Sculpture, Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery through February 15. Sculptor Mark Parsons will speak about the inspiration for his work and the process of creating sculpture as a community undertaking on October 27 at 1 p.m. Admission to the talk is $5. Visit www.grounds
forsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, is showing “Einstein at Home” and “From Princeton to the White House,” which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson, through January 13. At the Updike Farmhouse on Quaker Road, “Call to Action: How a President Used Art to Sway a Nation,” World War I posters from the collection, and “A Morning at Updike Farmstead: Photographs by the Princeton Photography Club” are open November 17 and December 15, 12-4 p.m. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

JB Kline Gallery, 25 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing “At the Same Place at the Same Time,” paintings by S.L. Baker, through October. Visit www.slbakerpaintings.com.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Story, Symbol, Self,” through December 30. “Parting Gifts: Artists Honor Bruce Katsiff” is on view through December 9. Visit www.michener
artmuseum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” through June 23, 2013. Through January 6, “Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists” will be on view, from the collection of drawing collectors Wynn and Sally Kramarsky. “In the Company of Women: Prints by Mary Cassatt” runs through March 3. “Le Mur’ at the Cabaret des Quat’z Arts” is on view through February 24.

Lawrence Art & Frame Gallery, 2495 US1, Lawrenceville, presents new paintings by Bill Plank November 9-December 9. The artist will work on a new landscape painting in the store window November 9 and 10 from 12-4 p.m.

Lawrenceville School’s Marguerite & James Hutchins Gallery, Gruss Center of Visual Arts, Lawrenceville, has a Faculty Exhibition 2012 through October 27. Visit www.law
renceville.org.

Lewis Center for the Arts’ Lucas Gallery, 185 Nassau Street, opens its season with a drawing show by more than 40 students, through October 26. The gallery is newly renovated and will feature work by ceramics students November 13-21, and by those studying sculpture, graphic design, and photography December 4-14. Free public lectures by faculty members continue with painter Josephine Halverson on November 7, and filmmaker Su Friedrich on December 5. Visit www.princeton.edu/arts.

Mariboe Gallery at Peddie School, Swig Arts Center, Hightstown, presents “Nuits Blanches,” recent paintings by Frank Rivera, through November 12. Visit www.ped
die.org/mariboegallery.

MCCC Gallery, Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor, presents “MCCC Faculty Exhibit 2012” through November 8. Call (609) 570-3589 or visit www.mccc.edu/gallery.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, presents “Portrait of Place: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints of New Jersey, 1761-1898” through January 13. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

New Hope Sidetracks Art Gallery, 2A Stockton Avenue, New Hope, presents its Sixth Annual Naked in New Hope exhibition, a group show about the human body, through November 3.

Outsider Art Gallery, 10 Bridge Street, Suite 4, Frenchtown, has a show of work by artists from the Canary Islands and England through November 1. Additional venues are the first floor of New Hope Arts, next door, and The Raven, New Hope Lodge, 400 West Bridge Street. Call (215) 862-4586.

Plainsboro Library Gallery, 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro, presents portraits by artist/architect Pablo Riestra, through October 31. For the month of November, an exhibit of ArtSpace, a program of HomeFront, will be on view. Client artists will be on hand November 11 from 2-4 p.m. to discuss their work at a reception. Call (609) 275-2897 for more information.

Present Day Club, 72 Stockton Street, presents “From Oysters to Artichokes: a new look at still life paintings,” October 29-December 20. Artists Heather Barros, Betty Curtiss, Meg Brinster Michael, Stephen S. Kennedy, and Mary Waltham are in this show. The opening reception is November 2, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Call (609) 430-0897.

Princeton Art Gallery, 20 Nassau Street, will hold a reception for painter Xinle Ma on October 27 from 3-5 p.m. Call (609) 937-5089 for information.

Princeton Day School’s Anne Reid Art Gallery is showing a photography exhibit by Dan Mead and Sally Eagle, “Bhutan: Land of the Thunder Dragon,” through November 11. The school is at 650 Great Road. Visit www.pds.org.

Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, is showing photography by Mary Cross (“Egyptland”) and painter Ifat Shatzky through December 31 as part of “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society” series taking place in nine area venues. (609) 924-9529 or www.prince
tonlibrary.org.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Root and Branch,” which explores the form of a tree in art and includes several art forms, through November 25. Works by Parastou Forouhar, Mona Hatoum, Sigalit Landau, Shirin Neshat and Laila Shawa are on view through January 13 as part of “The Fertile Crescent” project. “Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom” is on exhibit through February 17. “City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus” is on view through January 20. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Princeton University League Art Gallery, 171 Broadmead, second floor, shows “Lifeline,” acrylics by Jeanne Calo, November 17 and 18, 1-5 p.m. The opening reception is November 16, 5-8 p.m.

Rider University Art Gallery, Bart Luedeke Center, Rider campus, Lawrenceville, presents “Alterations: A Retrospective,” sculptures by Joan B. Needham, October 25-December 2. The opening reception is October 25 5-7 p.m. Visit www.rider.edu/arts.

Straube Center, 1 Straube Center Boulevard, Pennington is showing “Ataractic Themes,” an exhibit of landscapes, portraits and still life work capturing a sense of calm and tranquility, through December 1. Visit www.straubecenter.com/art_at_straube.php.

Triumph Brewery, 138 Nassau Street, presents a solo exhibit of portraits and abstracts by Jannick Wildberg, through November 25.

West Windsor Library, 333 North Post Road, Princeton Junction, shows a solo exhibit of watercolors and acrylics by Elizabeth Peck during the month of October.

THE FILM MAKERS’ VIEW OF THE FUTURE: Shown here is a scene from “Cloud Atlas” which depicts the directors’ (Tom Twyker, and Andy and Lana Wachowski) interpretation of the author David Miller’s vision of what Korea will be like in the year 2140 as described in his bestselling book of the same name.

Based on David Mitchell’s novel of the same name, Cloud Atlas offers an intriguing and visually captivating cinematic experience that’s well worth seeing, if only for its unorthodox narrative. However, you would be well advised to familiarize yourself with the bestseller’s cryptic plot structure, if you want to have an idea about what’s going on.

Since I hadn’t read the British Book Award winning novel, I initially found myself quite baffled by the surrealistic elliptical storyline. Still, I was able to enjoy it immensely after gradually discerning the underlying method to the time-shifting madness.

The story consists of a half-dozen insular adventures which ultimately interlock despite unfolding over the course of past, present, and future eras. They transpire in locales as far afield as a Pacific atoll in the 1840s, Cambridge, England in the 1930s, San Francisco in the 1970s, present day London, Korea in the 2140s, and a post apocalyptic Hawaii in the 2340s. Meanwhile, the adventures’ themes range from slavery and gay love, to corporate mind control.

It took a collaboration by a trio of noted directors, Tom Twyker (Run Lola Run) and Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix), to create this ambitious $100 million screen adaptation. In addition, the principal cast members, including Oscar-winners Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Jim Broadbent, each play multiple versions of reincarnated characters.

Cloud Atlas is a morality play about human fears, frailties, and failings as well as a mind-bending science fiction mystery. While you’re busy deciphering complicated clues, the picture intermittently indulges in fortune cookie type philosophy about the deeper meaning of life.

The dialogue is diminished by preachy poster speak such as “separation is an illusion,” “to know yourself is only possible through the eyes of another,” and “from womb to tomb we are bound to others” that is designed to deliver a simplistic New Age message. Another minor flaw is the film’s almost three-hour running time, which can easily be explained by the directors’ desire to remain as faithful to the 544-page source material as possible, rather than conflate characters, condense chapters, and make other concessions for the sake of a Hollywood formula.

Very Good (***). Rated R for violence, profanity, sexuality, ethnic slurs, nudity, and drug use. In English and Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 172 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers.


October 17, 2012

Game 4 of the 2011 National League Division Series was do or die for St. Louis Cardinal manager Tony La Russa. None of his players knew it, but La Russa had made up his mind to retire at the end of the 2011 season. All the Phillies needed was a win and they would take the series 3 games to 1 and La Russa’s Hall-of-Fame-worthy career would be over. The facts say that the Cardinals won that game because of timely hitting and strong relief pitching: “our bullpen came through for us,” as La Russa makes clear in his new book One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and a Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season (Morrow $27.99). The Cards went on to beat the Phils in the NLDS, the Brewers in the National League Championship Series, and the Texas Rangers in the World Series, after turning it around with a crushing three-time come-from-behind win in Game 6.

Facts are facts and myths are myths, however, and the mythic version says the Cardinals’ fortunes changed in that key game 4 when a squirrel romped across home plate, so distracting pitcher Roy Oswalt that the Phils manager Charlie Manuel protested to the umpire. When questioned about the incident after the game, La Russa suggested an amorous relationship between the Rally Squirrel, as it was by then already known to Cardinal fans, and Torty, slugger Alan Craig’s pet tortoise (whenever Craig came up to hit, his teammates would shout, “Do it for Torty!”). After Phillie fans threw a stuffed squirrel into the Cardinals’ bull pen, the relief corps made a good luck mascot of it, and were all but unhittable as the Cards proceeded to take the NLCS against the Brewers. During the celebration, the stuffed squirrel was sprayed with beer and champagne.

To say that the Rally Squirrel impacted the Cardinals’ 2011 championship run might sound a bit fanciful, but in the realm of the Net, strange things were happening. A Twitter account was started for the Rally Squirrel on the day it raced across home plate and within two days it had 11,000 followers. By late October the number had more than doubled. Soon the squirrel had its own theme song, its own Topps baseball card, and t-shirts were being sold in the thousands. Three days after the Cardinals won the World Series, St. Louis kids were trick or treating in Rally Squirrel costumes. And if you look closely you can see the Rally Squirrel in mid-romp engraved onto the Cardinals’ World Championship rings.

Can squirrels romp? Google Rally Squirrel on YouTube and see for yourself. This squirrel is an athlete, romping, jumping, as close to flying as grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) can get.

There’s no mention of the Rally Squirrel in La Russa’s book, but don’t let that fool you. What other baseball luminary would attract such a creature but the one who started the Animal Rescue Foundation with his wife, Elaine, in 1991 after a stray cat wandered onto the field. “The cat was threatened with being put down,” La Russa says in One Last Strike, so “Elaine and I found a home for her.”

La Russa is also seriously into music. Among his friends are Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Hornsby, jazz bassist Christian McBride, and Carlos Santana, who gave the Cardinal skipper a medallion necklace he’d worn during a September 2011 concert La Russa attended. “It had two dragons etched into the surface,” La Russa writes, “and Carlos told me that it would give me good spirit. I wore that thing every day from that point on, through the end of the World Series.”

So here’s this guy, he’s won two World Series titles in five years, he’s conversant with rock and roll, and loves animals (he travels, he admits, with a menagerie), he’s a voracious reader, has a law degree, and manages to keep all those player egos in a fine balance through unthinkably high-pressure situations — why is he so hard to like? Why does he radiate uptightness? Why do his expressions perennially hover somewhere between dour and dire?

It took me, a lifelong Cardinal fan, 15 years to begin to warm to Tony La Russa, and it wasn’t until reading One Last Strike that I really began liking him.

In Hemingway’s Time

In Ernest Hemingway’s story, “The Three Day Blow,” Nick Adams and his pal Bill are drinking Scotch and talking of books, baseball, and thwarted love. When Nick wonders if the Cards will ever win a pennant,” Bill says, “Not in our lifetime,” and Nick says, “Gee, they’d go crazy.”

In 1926, two years after the story appeared in the small press edition of In Our Time, the Cards won not only their first National League pennant but the first of eleven World Championships. You know St. Louis went crazy in 1926, but in 1985 for baseball fans everywhere and especially St. Louis Cardinals fans, Nick’s words were echoed by Cardinal-play-by-play announcer Jack Buck’s cry of “Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!” when the most unlikely of sluggers, Ozzie Smith, hit the walk-off home run that deflated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1985 playoffs.

Stunning Washington

Though the title, One Last Strike, refers to last year’s dramatics, it works as well for what happened in the elimination game of the 2012 NLDS around 12:30 a.m. October 12, when the Cardinals were down to their last strike twice. The Washington fans were on their feet, ready to explode in a perfect storm of joy; ready to, yes, go crazy. The stadium was roaring, their team a mere strike or pop up or ground out or fly ball away from surviving to play in the League Championship Series.

Cardinal fans meanwhile are about to experience what Nick Adams and Jack Buck were talking about; but they don’t know it yet; they’re waiting for the axe to fall, hopes dashed, elimination looming. If you want to truly experience going crazy, it helps if your team is down to the last strike, your heart’s in the basement, one level above the abyss. As high as the home crowd is, you’re way low, way way down, hanging on to a feather-faint thread of faith. At the same time, the memory of last October’s miracle has you feeling an irrepressible surge of it-could-happen-again-ness.

And then it does. Happen. Again!

In the top of the ninth, two runs behind, post-season miracle worker Carlos Beltran leads off with a double, and here it comes: two quick outs, two masterfully drawn walks, a pair of two-run singles, and it’s all over, and so suddenly that your joy more than overwhelms you, it runs past you, you can’t keep up with it, all you have breath to say is “I don’t believe it!” Because the very thing you’ve been wishing for, urging, willing, aching for with everything you have, has been given to you and to thousands of friends you’ll never know, those multitudes of Cardinal fans in and out of St. Louis you’ve bonded with in this moment, all sharing the same ecstasy, just as you did last October 27 and 28.

La Russa Smiles

I doubt that even Hemingway could have done justice to the sixth game of the 2011 Series, already being touted as one of the most, if not the most, exciting ever played. How then does the manager deal with what’s happening on the field in the late innings of an historic game? Aware of what he’s up against, La Russa titles the chapter, “You Had to See It for Yourself” and prefaces it by describing how he dealt with the disaster-divided World Series of 1989 when he was manager of the Oakland Athletics. In fact he’s making the Loma Prieta earthquake the opening act for David Freese’s two big moments, the first a game saver, the second a game and Series winner, given its impact on the opposition’s morale.

So, welcome to brink of elimination, “potentially the last hope for Cardinals Nation,” Texas having just taken a two-run lead, it’s the existential moment: “One strike left in the season.” At this point, with the game on the line, La Russa inserts a prosaic managerial observation: “I hoped that David would get his front foot set sooner. On the swinging strike he hadn’t.” If you could see his face as he thinks this thought, you would witness Grimness and Glowering writ large, which is why fans familiar with La Russa’s perennially thorny demeanor will appreciate the way he prefaces Freese’s game-saving hit: “David Freese then did what many people don’t think is possible. He made me smile.”

Freese made La Russa smile! Whee! Be still, my heart! The man has just saved the season by lining a triple off the wall. For that he gets a smile? How about a Thomas Wolfian goat cry? Walt Whitman’s barbaric yawp? How about “an outburst of profane joy” like Stephen Dedalus in Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man? How about going crazy?

But La Russa maintains his managerial cool. “When Freese extended his hands and stepped slightly toward the outside corner, setting that front foot,” he continues, letting us know that Freese has done exactly what his manager hoped he would, “he hits a fastball,” the “sound of the contact … so pure” that La Russa first thinks it might be a walk-off home run instead of a game-tying triple.

Finally, after the Cards come unbelieavably back from another two-run deficit, it’s the 11th inning, with Freese leading off. La Russa writes: “I sensed in the ninth inning when we’d tied it that people were going to talk about this game for a long time. When we did it again in the tenth, I knew that people were going to talk about this game forever.” Now comes the coup de grace. As La Russa describes it, Freese “hit a fastball on the inner half and crushed it to straightaway center field onto the grass of the hitters’ backdrop. In situations like that, it’s almost as if the ball has some gravitational pull on you. As it climbs, it lifts you up, body and spirit. The guys at the rail rose up on their feet, craned their necks, and raised their arms above their heads.”

What we see, what we feel, is pure baseball euphoria. Like La Russa and everyone in the dugout, we jump to our feet when Freese connects, knowing it’s gone, it’s over, once again joy outruns us, flying, soaring beyond us, we can’t keep up with it, but when the small white object hits the brilliant greensward of the “hitter’s backdrop” above the center field wall and four or five kids or grown-up kids come tumbling out of the stands after it, we’re out there rolling around with them, kids again, like David, the big kid who grew up in St. Louis, rounding the bases and then charging, dancing a modified horn pipe down the third base line, flinging his cap at his feet as he runs the happy gauntlet of his teammates.

La Russa admits wanting to join the mob jumping and dancing. Instead he hugs Dave Duncan, his longtime pitching coach and confidant, “marveling at the wonder of it all.” And then he smiles. A big smile, a smile to remember.

———

One Last Strike features an introduction by third-generation Cardinal fan John Grisham, whose first baseball novel, Calico Joe, has just been published. You can see Hemingway in his Nick Adams up-in-Michigan days in “Picturing Hemingway: A Writer in His Time,” which is on the second floor of the Princeton Public Library through October 31.


Music aficionados in this area tend to think of New York City when venturing out of home range for high-quality performances, however, equally high level (and often less expensive) ensembles can be found an hour south in Philadelphia. One of the most venerable of these organizations decided that if Princeton would not come to them, they would come to Princeton. The Curtis Institute of Music presented its symphony orchestra in Richardson Auditorium last Friday night in a concert which filled the downstairs of the hall but could easily fill the entire space once the community realizes how extraordinary this orchestra is.

Most colleges and universities have orchestral ensembles to provide training and performing opportunities to their students, some of whom go on to careers in music, and then there is Curtis. It is understood at Curtis that every student in the orchestra will go on to play professionally (many as first chairs nationally and internationally) and the collective discipline, dedication, and commitment to music was clear from the stage, through to the last chairs of the more than thirty violins who played Friday night. Friday night was the Curtis Symphony Orchestra’s first foray into the Princeton area, made stronger by the choice of guest conductor — Carlos Miguel Prieto, who graduated in the class of ’87 and was clearly pleased to share his feelings about being back on the Richardson stage.

Curtis’s first mission is to train “extraordinary gifted young musicians,” and the symphony orchestra wasted no time introducing a young conducting student to the musical community. Kensho Watanabe holds two degrees from Yale and has already several premiere performances under his belt as a conductor. It was clear even from the “Star-Spangled Banner” arrangement which opened the program that Mr. Watanabe is a thoughtful and meticulous conductor, leading the orchestra with easy flowing strokes. It was also clear from the outset that the Curtis Orchestra has a young fresh sound, especially from the brass.

This concert was a collaborative effort with the Curtis Opera Theatre, and Mr. Watanabe led the orchestra in a Tchaikovsky duet based on his orchestral fantasy Romeo and Juliet featuring soprano Sarah Shafer and tenor Christopher Tiesi. Ms. Shafer possessed a lovely presence onstage, conveying a certain frailty as she bid her lover farewell. She communicated well with Mr. Tiesi, who showed intense command of his role and moved through the vocal registers well. The two singers blended particularly well, especially in the unison passages toward the close of the piece, with vibratos that were well matched. Mr. Watanabe varied conducting styles with the different moods of the music, building intensity slowly and bringing out the lighter side of Tchaikovsky when appropriate.

This concert appeared to reflect three of the best assets of Curtis: its singers, instrumentalists, and musical education. Singing was well represented by Ms. Shafer and Mr. Tiesi, the instrumental playing by the orchestra musicians themselves, and music education by the orchestra’s presentation of one of the great pedagogical pieces of the 20th century. Conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto joined the orchestra for a spirited performance of Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, narrated by Philadelphia actor John de Lancie. The son of a former Curtis director, Mr. de Lancie has strong ties to Philadelphia music organizations to go with his impressive acting credits, and provided a lively narration to a piece which might be geared toward children but still must be played accurately.

Mr. Prieto led the orchestra in a quick and decisive presentation of the Henry Purcell theme on which the works is based, and each family of instruments stepped up to demonstrate clarity and precision. The winds played with direction and transparency to the melodic line, with the clarinet theme particularly clean and saucy. A solo bassoon played a sultry melody, followed by a rich viola solo. With the number of strings onstage, it was easy for the orchestra to present the final theme with power, setting up the compelling Richard Strauss work which closed the program.

Strauss’s tone poem Ein Heldenleben was in part the composer’s answer to Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, and was designed for lush orchestral playing. Under Mr. Prieto’s direction, the piece started off with rich celli and double bass sound, joined by clean brass. Mr. Prieto kept the music churning with a full and lavish sound, contrasted by elegant solos from a number of players, including solo clarinet and English horn. Concertmaster Nigel Armstrong played several solos throughout the piece, providing intense double stops and taperings to phrases often ending at the height of the melodic line. Key to Mr. Armstrong’s solo success in this piece was his duet playing with a solo French horn, superbly played by Levi Varga. A clean offstage trio of trumpets added to the flow of a battlefield scene, punctuated by snare drums effectively placed in the corners of the back of the stage.

The Curtis Symphony Orchestra may have been new to the Princeton audience, but they are certainly well-known in the orchestral field. Hopefully, the ensemble will be back again soon, to continue introducing the Princeton community to some of the future in great orchestral playing.

Alfa Art Gallery at George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, presents “The Message,” a solo exhibition by Vesselin Kourtev, through November 20. Visit www.Alfa
Art.org.

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents “Energy in Mind: Picturing Consciousness,” works by Jennifer Cadoff, Debra Weier, and Andrew Werth, November-April. The opening reception is November 8, 5-7 p.m. After that date, view by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, presents “Patterns & Meaning: Alan J. Klawans and Andrew Werth,” November 9-December 2. Both artists use the computer as a tool in creating their work. The opening reception is November 10, 3-6 p.m. Visit www.lambertvillearts.com.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street is showing works by Shiva Ahmadi, Monira Al Quadari, Nezaket Ekici, Hayv Kahraman, and Efret Kedem as part of “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society” series, through November 21. Visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, is showing “Naturally, Man-Made, in Full View: The Art of le Corbeau” through November 4. Showing through January 13 is “James Rhodes, Trenton Stoneware Potter, 1773-1784” and “Contemporary Art from the TMS Collection.” Call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.ellarslie.org.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has in its Milberg Gallery “Woodrow Wilson’s Journey to the White House,” through December 28. “First X, Then Y, Now Z: Thematic Maps” runs through February 10 in the main exhibition gallery. “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” shows in the Mudd Manuscript Library Cotsen Children’s Library through July 31. “Into the Woods: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Brothers Grimm” is on view through February 28.

Gallery and Academy of Robert Beck, 204 North Union Street, Lambertville, shows paintings by Mr. Beck and hand-wrought clocks by Raymond Mathis October 20-November 18. Public receptions are October 20, 5-8 p.m., and October 21, 1-4 p.m. Visit www.robert
beck.net.

Gallery at Chapin, 4101 Princeton Pike, has drawings and paintings by Dot Bunn through October 26. From November 1-December 14, “Abstract Drawings and Paintings” by Pat Martin will be shown. The opening reception is November 7, 5-7 p.m. Call (609) 924-7206.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows “Nantucket” by India Blake, “Cityscapes” by Charles Miller and Richard Trenner, and “Recent Work” by Kenneth Kaplowitz through November 11. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Garden State Watercolor Society presents its 43rd Annual Juried Exhibition through October 28 at Prallsville Mills in Stockton. For times and details on special events, visit www.garden
statewatercolorsociety.net.

Gelavino Gelato Shop at Princeton Shopping Center, North Harrison Street, is showing 12 prints by Princeton High School junior Jane Robertson through October 31.

Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A Main Street, Cranbury, hosts Colleen Cahill, who will show her pastels, watercolors and mixed media pieces in a show called “Transitions” through October 28. Visit www.cranbury.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, is showing “Einstein at Home” and “From Princeton to the White House,” which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson, through January 13. At the Updike Farmhouse on Quaker Road, “Call to Action: How a President Used Art to Sway a Nation,” World War I posters from the collection, and “A Morning at Updike Farmstead: Photographs by the Princeton Photography Club” are open October 20, November 17 and December 15, 12-4 p.m. For more information visit www.princeton
history.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “To Stir, Inform, and Inflame: The Art of Tony Auth” through October 21. “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Story, Symbol, Self,” runs through December 30. On October 23 at 1 p.m. Rachel Bliss, Syd Carpenter, Celia Reisman, Peter Rose, Robert Winokur and Kate Javens, whose works are in the “Creative Hand” exhibit, will discuss their art. Visit www.michenerartmuseum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” through June 23, 2013. Through January 6, “Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists” will be on view, from the collection of drawing collectors Wynn and Sally Kramarsky. “In the Company of Women: Prints by Mary Cassatt” runs through March 3. “Le Mur’ at the Cabaret des Quat’z Arts is on view through February 24.

Lawrenceville School’s Marguerite & James Hutchins Gallery, Gruss Center of Visual Arts, Lawrenceville, has a Faculty Exhibition 2012 through October 27. Visit www.law
renceville.org.

Lewis Center for the Arts’ Lucas Gallery, 185 Nassau Street, opens its season with a drawing show by more than 40 students, through October 26. The gallery is newly renovated and will feature work by ceramics students November 13-21, and by those studying sculpture, graphic design, and photography December 4-14. Free public lectures by faculty members continue with sculptor Pam Lins October 24, painter Josephine Halverson on November 7, and filmmaker Su Friedrich on December 5. Visit www.princeton.edu/arts.

Mariboe Gallery at Peddie School, Swig Arts Center, Hightstown, presents “Nuits Blanches,” recent paintings by Frank Rivera, through November 12. Visit www.ped
die.org/mariboegallery.

MCCC Gallery, Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor, presents “MCCC Faculty Exhibit 2012” through November 8. Call (609) 570-3589 or visit www.mccc.edu/gallery.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, presents “Portrait of Place: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints of New Jersey, 1761-1898” through January 13. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Outsider Art Gallery, 10 Bridge Street, Suite 4, Frenchtown, has a show of work by artists from the Canary Islands and England through November 1. Additional venues are the first floor of New Hope Arts, next door, and The Raven, New Hope Lodge, 400 West Bridge Street. Call (215) 862-4586.

Plainsboro Library Gallery, 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro, presents portraits by artist/architect Pablo Riestra, through October 31. A reception is October 21 from 2-4 p.m. Call (609) 275-2897 for more information.

Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, is showing photography by Mary Cross (“Egyptland”) and painter Ifat Shatzky through December 31 as part of “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society” series taking place in nine area venues. (609) 924-9529 or www.prince
tonlibrary.org.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Root and Branch,” which explores the form of a tree in art and includes several art forms, through November 25. Works by Parastou Forouhar, Mona Hatoum, Sigalit Landau, Shirin Neshat, and Laila Shawa are on view through January 13 as part of “The Fertile Crescent” project. “Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom” is on exhibit through February 17. “City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus” is on view October 20-January 20. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Rider University Art Gallery, Bart Luedeke Center, Rider campus, Lawrenceville, presents “Alterations: A Retrospective,” sculptures by Joan B. Needham, October 25-December 2. The opening reception is October 25 5-7 p.m. Visit www.rider.edu/arts.

HERE I COME TO SAVE THE DAY: CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) strides into the CIA building for a meeting with the director to receive his next assignment. He is charged with the task of getting six American diplomats, who are hiding in the Canadian Ambassador’s home, after they escaped from the takeover of the American embassy in Teheran by the Iranians. Mendez devises an elaborate scheme in which the diplomats become members of a film crew that is supposedly shooting a movie in Teheran.

On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the United States embassy in Teheran, taking 52 Americans hostage with the intent to exchange them for the recently deposed Shah. What ensued was a 444-day ordeal which would last long after the despised despot died in exile without standing trial.

While that standoff occupied the world’s attention as front-page news, almost no one knew that a half-dozen Americans had managed to escape unnoticed during the assault and take refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). Of course the discovery of their whereabouts by the rabidly anti-Western Khomeini regime would have undoubtedly triggered another international incident.

So, they surreptitiously contacted the CIA which assigned their rescue to Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a specialist with a perfect record of freeing captives from similar perilous predicaments.

Agent Mendez proceeded to hatch an attention grabbing scheme that was the antithesis of the sort of clandestine operation one might expect from the CIA.

His plan involved creating a cover for the stranded diplomats by making a movie that was actually a CIA front. First, he enlisted the assistance of a veteran Hollywood executive (Alan Arkin) and an Oscar-winner (John Goodman) and swore them to secrecy. They lent an air of authenticity to the ruse by posing as the picture’s producer and makeup artist, respectively.

Figuring that “If you want to spread a lie, get the press to sell it for you,“ they launched the project at an elaborate press conference that had actors who appeared in gaudy costumes. The media fell for it hook, line, and sinker, and soon Hollywood was abuzz about Argo, an upcoming science fiction movie set to be shot on location in Iran.

In truth, Mendez would be the only person venturing on the dangerous mission to Teheran and when he arrived there the film’s tone shifted from flip and lighthearted to stone cold sober. Upon arriving at the Canadian ambassador’s house, he hands the six Americans newly-prepared passports that identitify them as members of a Canadian film crew.

The tension rapidly ratchets-up as the Iranian authorities close in just as the diplomats are making their escape to the airport, where the slightest slip during an interrogation could mean the difference between life and death. An edge-of-your-seat thriller not to be forgotten at Oscar time!

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity and violent images. Running time: 120 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers.


October 10, 2012

in 1946 in the Village, our feelings about books … went beyond love. It was as if we didn’t know where we ended and books began. Books were our weather, our environment, our clothing. We didn’t simply read books, we became them, we took them into ourselves and made them into our histories …. Books were to us what drugs were to young men in the sixties.

—Anatole Broyard, from Kafka Was the Rage

My copy of Volume 2 of the Norton Anthology of English Literature looks its age. The spine is so faded you have to get close to read the title. The corners are frayed and there’s a tear in the front hinge. Still, it’s held together nicely all these years, even more supple now than it was when it was given to me by the College Department at Norton, my working copy. The genius of The Norton Anthology was its compatibility. Unlike most college texts, you could, as the introduction boasted, read it under a tree. This is the same copy I curled up with, studied, loved, warmed my hands by, in various motels from Mississippi to North Dakota when I was on the road as a college representative talking up a text that was by then already in demand in English departments across the country.

When the Norton Anthology’s general editor M.H. Abrams, who turned 100 on July 23, was recently asked by the New York Times (“Built to Last,” August 23) “Why study literature?” his response was “Ha! Why live? Life without literature is a life reduced to penury.” He went on to say that literature “illuminates what you’re doing,” “enables you to live the lives of other people,” “makes you more human,” and “makes life more enjoyable” (not to mention, he might add, contributing to your longevity). Abrams’s younger co-editor Stephen Greenblatt (b. 1943) chimed in to the effect that literature enables him to “enter into the life worlds of others … other times, other places, other inner lives.”

Life and Love on the Page

That phrase, life worlds brings to mind two of literature’s most complex and enduring “inner lives,” Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), the 17th-century physician philosopher who wrote Religio Medici, and the inimitable Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), who once observed of Browne, “A library was a world to him, every book a living man, absolute flesh and blood.”

Among the many things to love in Coleridge is his penchant for writing thoughts like that one in the margins of books that often did not even belong to him. It’s a thought I quote whenever I get a chance and it serves as the epigraph for my novel, Rosamund’s Vision. Coleridge’s scribblings fill six fat, masterfully documented volumes of Marginalia in the Collected Works of S.T.C. published in the Bollingen Series by Princeton University Press, wherein Coleridge, the so-called “damaged archangel” of Norman Fruman’s biography, gives us an intimate blow by blow account as he makes his way through the works of the “crack’d Archangel” Browne (as he’s named in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick).

When Browne writes “I never yet cast a true affection on a woman,” Coleridge can’t resist declaring — all but breathing the words in your ear — that he has loved and still does love “truly, i.e. not in a fanciful attributing of certain ideal perfections … one Woman.” Ten pages later, when Browne wishes that humans “might procreate like trees without conjunction, or that there were any way to perpetuate the world without this trivial and vulgar way of coition,” Coleridge comes right back at him: “Are there not thoughts, & affections, & Hopes, & a Religion of the Heart, — that lift & sanctify all our bodily Actions where the union of the Bodies is but a language & conversation of united Souls?”

There’s a hint of the thought process behind today’s preferred modes of communication when Coleridge, after, in effect, blogging Browne, presents the intimately annotated volume to his “one Woman,” Sara Hutchinson, the lost love of his life, along with a letter that takes up three pages preceding the title page. It’s after midnight, March 10, 1804, Saturday night, Barnard’s Inn, Holborn, London, when Coleridge begins the letter (“But it is time for me to be in bed”) in a state of playful wonderment after quoting Browne at length (“what Life! what Fancy! — Does the whimsical Knight give us thus a dish of strong green Tea, & call it an opiate?”). With that, he signs off: “I trust, that you are quietly asleep,

And all the Stars hang bright above your Dwelling

Silent as tho’ they watch’d the sleeping Earth!”

Leave it to Coleridge to say good night with two lines from his own poem “Dejection: An Ode,” which he first worked out in a letter to Sara said to be the only other surviving piece of their correspondence.

When you think about it, it’s an outrageous violation of textual dignity, to scribble at length on the pages of a book you’re presenting as a gift to someone you love, using Sir Thomas Browne as a sort of go-between, a messenger bearing a lecture and a love note. Today Coleridge could have done it all online without marring the original. And there’s the rub. What better example of the qualities and capacities and organic essence of actual documents and tangible volumes vs. the web and high tech devices like Kindle? At the same time, aside from my key source, Volume I of Princeton’s Marginalia, I could never have assembled this column, or any others, without the mysterious Archangels of cyberspace.

Book Sale Life

“A living world” — that’s my “fanciful attributing of certain ideal perfections” to the Friends of the Library book sale I’ve been helping with for more than 20 years now. The books on display October 12-14 have passed through and been held by many hands. Regardless of genre, books with a past are more than an assortment of bound pages, especially when they have spanned several lifetimes in the hurly burly of the world. A Kindle can give you the message, it’s handy, it can house a world of literature, but qualities such as atmosphere, touch and texture, author signatures and inscriptions, and the glorious illusion of being “in touch” with the author, are simply not available.

In Jackie’s Hands

It happens that we have a pretty good crop of signed/inscribed books at this year’s sale, not counting the one auctioned off at the annual meeting for a sum that shows how much a mere signature can add to the monetary value of a book. Hundreds of first editions of Roger Kahn’s popular profile of the Brooklyn Dodgers, The Boys of Summer, are available online for as low as $10. But if you are fortunate enough to have the copy (first edition or no) that Jackie Robinson actually held in his hands and inscribed to a friend, the value soars. Thus this year’s first transaction occurred before the event when a copy of Kahn’s book inscribed by Robinson fetched $950 at the Friends auction.

So Long, D.H. and W.B.

I once owned and cherished a book of William Butler Yeats’s later poems signed by Yeats, bought from Logan Fox at Micawber. Another book that I treasured and also eventually sold was a book of poems signed by D.H. Lawrence. The truth is, there’s only so much you can derive from being able to read and fondle your signed Yeats or your signed Lawrence, thinking “the man who wrote Lapis Lazuli” held this, or the man who wrote Women in Love held this.” When the water heater conks out, or you need a new roof, or the basement floods, it’s so long Yeats and see ya later Lawrence.

Sgt. Randall Jarrell

Unless you’re a big Norman Rockwell or Paul Theroux fan, the most desirable signed book that we have this year is a first edition of poet Randall Jarrell’s third collection, Losses (1948), which is being offered for as much as $780-800 online; the only catch is our copy lacks the dust jacket. Otherwise ours outclasses the competition. Probably dating from 1951-52 when Jarrell (1914-1965) was teaching in the Creative Writing program here and living in T.S. Eliot’s house on 16 Alexander Street, the book is inscribed to a student “from her teacher (Sgt.) Randall Jarrell.” Since most of the poems in the collection (viz. “The Dead Wingman,” “A Camp in the Prussian Forest,” “A Field Hospital”) relate to Jarrell’s years in the Army Air Force as a celestial navigation tower operator, a job title he considered “the most poetic in the Air Force,” he includes his serial number, a unique touch (it seems unlikely that Norman Mailer or James Jones cared to add their dogtag numbers when inscribing copies of The Naked and the Dead and From Here to Eternity). Another, more mysterious number is 7 above 7, in the form of an equation, which is explained in a note posted under the inscription, from a mother to the son she was presenting it to: “Mr. Jarrell was trying to enliven a book signing so he put in his army serial number. He added the 7/7 because I got all seven right on his modern poetry exam identifying poets given a sample of their poetry.”

Besides being known for his war-related poems (“the best poetry in English about the Second World War,” said Robert Lowell), the most famous being the frequently anthologized “Death of the Ball Turret Gunner,” Jarrell was also one of the premier critics of his time. His main work at Princeton includes six lectures on W.H. Auden, the revising of his novel, Pictures from an Institution (based on his adventures as a teacher at Sarah Lawrence), and a number of poems, among them “The Lonely Man” and “Windows,” where a woman is darning and a man is “nodding into the pages of the paper” — “What I have never heard/He will read me; what I have never seen/She will show me.”

Jarrell’s untimely death at 50 (he was hit by a car while walking along a road in North Carolina; suicide was suspected but never confirmed) occasioned a memorial service where his friend from Princeton days John Berryman read “Dream Song 121” (“His wives loved him./He saw in the forest something coming, grim,/but did not change his purpose”). Robert Lowell called him “the most heartbreaking poet of our time.”

Literature-oriented browsers at the upcoming Friends book sale, particularly those trooping through the door at Friday’s 10 a.m. $10 preview, might keep an eye out for D.H. Lawrence’s rarely seen small volume, The Ship of Death and Other Poems; the first American edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses; and a first of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned, in remarkably fine condition, the gilt title on the spine glittering clear and bright. Too bad we don’t have the dust jacket; copies so clothed are going for $10,000-$18,500 online.


Organ recitals are not known for drawing crowds of fans leaping to their feet after a number played by an unseen artist on an instrument often a mystery to all but those who play it, but Pennsylvania native Cameron Carpenter is no ordinary organist and his recital on Saturday night at the Princeton University Chapel was far from a staid series of 18th and 19th-century pieces. Organ audiences often have no idea what is going on back there with the keyboards and pedals, but Mr. Carpenter has addressed this problem by making his performances multi-media. For Saturday night’s performance, this included a “picture in a picture” large screen, with cameras trained on his hands and feet. The four keyboard manuals of the University Chapel’s 1928 Aeolian-Skinner organ took up most of the screen, with a smaller view of the pedals, and even the most novice audience member could marvel at Mr. Carpenter’s technical agility and feathery touch on the keys. Many times during the performance, audience members could be seen shaking their heads in amazement at what would have been much less appreciated without the screens. Mr. Carpenter’s concert included only eight pieces (one of which was twenty-five minutes long), but the program included variety between classical and popular music and repertoire which showed Mr. Carpenter’s growth in confidence as an artist since he last played in the chapel.

Mr. Carpenter’s technical strengths include the incredible power of his hands, with the ability to stretch an interval of a 6th between two fingers; and the speed of his feet, requiring great balance on the bench. The success of his career as an organist is also due to his imagination, shown in the first few pieces he played. Beginning with his own arrangements of popular tunes, it was not until the fourth piece that Mr. Carpenter played a complete piece as it was actually written. His impressionistic fantasias on a theme from The Summer of ’42 and “Hey Jude” capitalized on the dynamic capabilities and stop combinations of the chapel’s organ, with his uncanny ability to extend his hands among manuals. His arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Suite #1 for Unaccompanied Cello (with his own interpolated passages) was played largely on the pedals, and his interpretations of Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor found great drama in the work and quick tempi for the fugue.

Mr. Carpenter’s evolution as a performer was seen in his choice of works by Richard Wagner, Charles Ives, and in particular Franz Liszt. Liszt would have liked Cameron Carpenter. A musical renegade himself, Liszt took the polite early 18th-century piano and turned it into a monster virtuoso instrument through performance technique many at the time thought must have come from demonic possession. With similar spell-binding technique (although rooted in his own self-discipline and talent), Mr. Carpenter is presenting the organ as a concert instrument capable of much more than what churches and funeral parlors can provide. Through his registration choices, Mr. Carpenter found humor in the excerpt from Ives’ Piano Sonata Number 2, and his quick and light touch on the Choir Manual depicted the “murmuring forest” of Wagner’s Siegfried excerpt.

Mr. Carpenter saved the most powerful and complex piece for last: Liszt’s Fantasie und Fuge über den Choral “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam” from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera Le Prophéte. Liszt originally composed this massive work for organ, but Mr. Carpenter no doubt took the piece to new heights, emphasizing the importance of opera in 19th-century keyboard music and taking full advantage of the organ’s 137 ranks and more than 7,000 pipes. Mr. Carpenter’s performance held the audience through the entire twenty-five minutes, but this was not a piece he necessarily would have done several years ago when he first played recitals at the University Chapel and Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. Including a work such as this on the program showed that Mr. Carpenter’s reputation as a brilliant and original performer is secure, and audiences are hungry to hear not only complex organ works not often heard but what Mr. Carpenter will do next.


BOY AM I EVER OUT OF SHAPE: Scott Voss (Kevin James, facing the camera), a biology teacher, is being coached and trained by a retired kick boxing champion (Mark DellaGrotte, back to the camera). Scott is training to fight in a mixed martial arts prize match in order to win enough money to donate to his school so that his best friend Marty Streb (Henry Winkler) won’t lose his job as music teacher, which the principal wants to cut in order to balance the school’s budget.

Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a bored biology teacher at mythical Wilkinson High in Massachusetts, a cash strapped school suffering from low morale. Scott is part of the problem, because he sets a horrible example for his students, such as stealing candy from vending machines and always arrives late for class.

During recess, the bored 42-year-old bachelor always flirts with the beautiful school nurse, Bella (Salma Hayek). However, she routinely rebuffs his advances with gentle reminders of how often she’s rejected each of his requests for a date.

The plot thickens when Principal Betcher (Gregg German) assembles the faculty in the auditorium to announce the latest budget cuts. The measures include plans to eliminate after school activities such as the debate club and field trips, and also the entire music program.

That means Scott’s colleague and friend, Marty Streb (Henry Winkler), will be callously laid-off right before earning tenure. And to add insult to injury, the dedicated music teacher’s firing comes at a time when his wife (Nikki Tyler-Flynn) is pregnant.

This dire state of affairs inspires Scott to prevail upon the principal to preserve his pal’s position. But Betcher says the school simply doesn’t have the $48,000 to pay Marty.

Therefore, Scott, who hasn’t wrestled competitively since college, decides to raise the cash by moonlighting in the ring as a mixed martial arts fighter. With the help of Marty and a retired kickboxing champ (Bas Rutten), he proceeds to whip himself, a middle-aged couch potato, into shape.

Here Comes the Boom is a sweet-natured sports story that combines familiar elements from Rocky (1976) and Nacho Libre (2006). Directed by Frank Coraci (The Waterboy), the movie showcases Kevin James’s comic genius at his best, such as pratfalls in a mask while wearing ill-fitting stretchy pants, or futilely wooing the woman of his dreams.

The plot inexorably builds to a showdown between Scott and an intimidating adversary (Krzysztof Soszynski) for a purse that conveniently matches Marty’s salary. Wouldn’t it be nice if Wilkinson’s student body and school band were on hand in the Vegas arena to cheer for their altruistic teacher, and better yet if Bella had a change of heart and also arrived ringside for a kiss at the moment of truth?

Here Comes the Boom is a pat Hollywood tale of redemption where a perennial loser transforms himself into a beloved hero who wins the match, saves his best friend’s job, and gets the girl!

Very Good (***) Rated PG for sports violence, crude humor, and mild epithets. Running time: 105 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.


Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street is showing works by Shiva Ahmadi, Monira Al Quadari, Nezaket Ekici, Hayv Kahraman, and Efret Kedem as part of “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society” series, through November 21. Visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

Bank of Princeton Community Art Gallery, 10 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing works by Alyssa Rapp and Ilene Rubin through October 15. Visit www.thebankofprince
ton.com.

Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, has works by Negar Ahkami, Ghada Amer with Reza Farkhondeh, Zeina Barakeh, Ofri Cnaani, Parastou Forouhar, and Shadi Ghadirian as part of “The Fertile Crescent” project, through October 19.

Bucks County Gallery, 77 West Bridge Street, New Hope, Pa., presents a solo exhibit by Christine Graefe Drewyer through October 28. Visit www.buckscounty
galleryart.com.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Pennington Road, Ewing, is presenting “Bruce Rigby: Recent Work” through October 11 in honor of Mr. Rigby’s retirement from teaching. Visit www.tcnj.edu/artgallery.

D&R Greenway, Johnson Education Center, 1 Preservation Place, presents “Sustainable Harvest: Creating Community Through the Land,” a mixed-media show about farmland, iconic farm structures, and new perspectives on crops and creatures, through November 9. Winners of the “Species on the Edge” art and essay contest, devoted to New Jersey’s endangered and threatened species, is in the the Olivia Rainbow Gallery, also through November 9.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, is showing “Naturally, Man-Made, in Full View: The Art of le Corbeau” through November 4. A gallery walk with Francois Guillemin is October 14 at 2 p.m. Showing through January 13 is “James Rhodes, Trenton Stoneware Potter, 1773-1784” and “Contemporary Art from the TMS Collection.” Call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.ellarslie.org.

Gallery at Chapin, 4101 Princeton Pike, has drawings and paintings by Dot Bunn through October 26. From November 1-December 14, “Abstract Drawings and Paintings” by Pat Martin will be shown. The opening reception is November 7, 5-7 p.m. Call (609) 924-7206.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows “Nantucket” by India Blake, “Cityscapes” by Charles Miller and Richard Trenner, and “Recent Work” by Kenneth Kaplowitz October 12-November 11. The opening reception is October 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Meet the Photographers October 14, 1-3 p.m. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Garden State Watercolor Society presents its 43rd Annual Juried Exhibition through October 28 at Prallsville Mills in Stockton. For times and details on special events, visit www.gardenstatewatercolor
society.net.

Gelavino Gelato Shop at Princeton Shopping Center, North Harrison Street, is showing 12 prints by Princeton High School junior Jane Robertson through October 31.

Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A Main Street, Cranbury, hosts Colleen Cahill, who will show her pastels, watercolors and mixed media pieces in a show called “Transitions” through October 28. Visit www.cran
bury.org.

JB Kline Gallery, 25 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing “At the Same Place at the Same Time,” paintings by S.L. Baker, through October. The opening is October 13, 6-9 p.m. Visit www.slbakerpaintings.com.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “To Stir, Inform, and Inflame: The Art of Tony Auth” is on view through October 21. “I Look, I Listen: Works on Paper by Marlene Miller” is exhibited through October 14. “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Story, Symbol, Self,” runs through December 30. On October 14 at 3 p.m., cartoonists Jules Feiffer, Tony Auth and Joel Pett will discuss the state of the art form, led by David Leopold, curator of the Auth exhibit. On October 23 at 1 p.m. Rachel Bliss, Syd Carpenter, Celia Reisman, Peter Rose, Robert Winokur and Kate Javens, whose works are in the “Creative Hand” exhibit, will discuss their art. Visit www.michenerartmuseum.org.

Lawrenceville School’s Marguerite & James Hutchins Gallery, Gruss Center of Visual Arts, Lawrenceville, has a Faculty Exhibition 2012 through October 27. Visit www.law
renceville.org.

Lewis Center for the Arts’ Lucas Gallery, 185 Nassau Street, opens its season with a drawing show by more than 40 students, through October 26. The gallery is newly renovated and will feature work by ceramics students November 13-21, and by those studying sculpture, graphic design, and photography December 4-14. Free public lectures by faculty members begin October 10 with Sarah Charlesworth, photographer. Sculptor Pam Lins speaks October 24, painter Josephine Halverson on November 7, and filmmaker Su Friedrich on December 5. Visit www.princeton.edu/arts.

Mariboe Gallery at Peddie School, Swig Arts Center, Hightstown, presents “Nuits Blanches,” recent paintings by Frank Rivera, October 12-November 12. An opening reception and talk by the artist is October 12 from 6:30-8 p.m. Visit www.peddie.org/mariboe
gallery.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, presents “Portrait of Place: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints of New Jersey, 1761-1898” through January 13. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

New Hope Sidetracks Art Gallery, 2A Stockton Avenue, New Hope, presents its Sixth Annual Naked in New Hope exhibition, a group show about the human body, through November 3.

Outsider Art Gallery, 10 Bridge Street, Suite 4, Frenchtown, has a show of work by artists from the Canary Islands and England through November 1. Additional venues are the first floor of New Hope Arts, next door, and The Raven, New Hope Lodge, 400 West Bridge Street. Call (215) 862-4586.

Parsonage Barn, 3 Cranbury Neck Road, Cranbury, is showing work by Watercolorists Unlimited October 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Paintings are of local scenes and landscapes.

Plainsboro Library Gallery, 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro, presents portraits by artist/architect Pablo Riestra, through October 31. A reception is October 21 from 2-4 p.m. Call (609) 275-2897 for more information.

Rider University Art Gallery presents “Photographic Psychology: Forces That Shape the Psyche” through October 14. Visit www.rider.edu/artgallery.

Sweet Edge Sculpture Tour, in six studios and sculpture gardens throughout New Hope, is October 13 and 14, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., rain or shine. Works in wood, stone, steel, and bronze are included, by artists George Anthonisen, Constance Bassett, David Cann, Raymond Mathis, John McDevitt, and Steven Snyder, who will be on hand to discuss their work. Admission is free. Visit www.sweetedgesculpture.com for
information.

October 3, 2012

“LIFTING A SECRET”: Fertile Crescent artist Nezaket Ekici will be performing this piece on Thursday, October 4 at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Matthews Acting Studio, 185 Nassau Street. Audiences are invited to visit the installation in progress from 2 to 8 p.m. and to return at 8 p.m. for the culminating performance.

Miss Butterfly is going to meet the sun; as she is looking for a way out and reaching for the light, she becomes caught in a spider’s web. —Shadi Ghadirian

The piece of impromptu performance art recounted here happened in Turkey long ago at a crossroads clearing near Eregli, 243 kilometers south of Kirsehir, the birthplace of Nezaket Ekici. I’d begun the previous day’s journey in Izmir, where Ebru Özseçen was born. Ekici and Özseçen are among the 24 artists represented in the Rutgers Institute for Women and Art’s “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art, and Society,” a complex, many-faceted show of unparalleled scope that is currently spreading the wealth over multiple venues through the enlightened leadership of curators Ferris Olin and Judith K. Brodsky.

I’ve been scanning the faces of the women on the Fertile Crescent website (fertile-crescent.org), with its “signature images” of the artists and their art. The faces are remarkable. Strong and delicate, sultry and refined, some sly, some shy, some witheringly stern. For reasons that will soon become apparent, I’m trying to imagine what these women looked like when they were children. Since the impending scene takes place once upon a time in Turkey, I’ve been paying special attention to the photos of Nezaket Ekici, who has a bold, no-nonsense air, and Ebru Özseçen, who appears demure and unassuming, although her video “Jawbreaker” is edgy and erotic.

The closest I’ve come to finding the features of the child I’m searching for is in the smile of the Iranian artist Shiva Ahmadi whose work is described in the online commentary as “at once meticulous and loose, playful and somber, mythical yet very much dealing with the real.” These are qualities similar to those of the performance-artist-in-the-making I shared the roadside stage with late one hot August afternoon. Since Ahmadi’s contribution to the Fertile Crescent won’t be on view until Thursday, October 4, at the Arts Council, I have yet to see her work in person, but the samples displayed online in Google images are stunning and the equal of anything in the exhibit, even including the Iranian photographic artist Shadi Ghadirian’s darkly impressive “Butterfly Series” at the Bernstein Gallery.

In the Clearing

It’s the hour before sunset and I’ve been dropped off at a spot that appears to be the province of children. Earlier in the day at a Turkish version of a truck stop cafe where men sat talking and sipping tea while women in heavy robes worked in an adjacent field, I’d seen, not for the first time, an example of what women were up against, at least in the provinces.

After the long hot hours in the open back of the truck from Konya, I head for the nearest shady spot, stow my pack, and prepare to relax. Not for long. I have company in the person of a sunny, forthright little blonde of around ten, whose name I later learn is Atalette; she’s accompanied by a tawny-haired barefoot sprite of maybe six (possibly her little sister) who is hopping and peek-a-booing and dancing in place behind her. The name this mercurial being goes by is Gül (pronounced “Jewel”), according to Atalette. They want me to join them out in the clearing where the other kids are waiting, as if a show with a guest appearance by a skinny, unshaven, 20-something American had been advertised in advance of my arrival.

What can I do? Hot and tired as I am, I obey the call. It soon becomes clear that I’m to be merely the go-between, the prop, the sorceror’s apprentice. The sprite is focused on my shabby, shapeless straw hat. Lurching forward, dancing backward, spinning sideways, she sees something outlandishly, overwhelmingly desirable in the ludicrous object that I’d been wearing ever since a friend abandoned it on Mykonos. She has plans for that hat; designs on it, you might say. Too shy and too short to put her plan into action (she’d need wings or a ladder), she turns to Atalette, who mimes the message: Gül wants not merely to hold the hat but to put it on. And perhaps something more, something unlikely and unimaginable that is still only beginning to take shape for her. So I hold it out, here, take it, try it on, but that would have been too easy, too prosaic, too adult. Instead, after circling me, coming at me and backing off, she performs an impish pirouette and charges across the road, splashing happily in and out of a stream before disappearing briefly behind some trees; then back she comes in a zestful zig-zag, one dirty hand outstretched, only to retreat again, giggling, as if she were teasing me and herself and the boys who have been stolidly watching us the whole time.

Finally the moment arrives when the artist artfully and artlessly commands me to put the misshapen yellow blob on her head, a slapstick coronation, as she all but disappears under it. Then off she goes, a sudden gust of wind forcing her to hold the hat with one hand while wildly paddling with the other as she dances down the road followed by one of the older boys, who retrieves the hat, and solemnly returns it to me, like a diplomatic enforcer dealing with a potentially punishable indiscretion.

Meanwhile the sun has begun to set, giving the moment an aura of melancholy glory. So dazzled and disarmed am I by this time that I want her to have the hat, for good, forever, it’s hers, she’s given it a new life. I want to see her go dancing off with it again, and so she does, only to surrender it once more, tearlessly, bravely, wisely, to the relentless boy, who grimly brings it back to me. At this point Atalette has had enough: she tears into the enforcer, punching and kicking him in a kind of ecstasy until he slinks off. A beautiful moment, and it’s only the beginning now that both girls have the hat, and off they go, shouting and laughing down the road, passing the enchanted entity between them, until it seems to take flight on its own, glowing golden in the sunset light.

 

A truck is coming, it’s a ride clear to Adana. I grab my pack, ready to leave the hat with them, but Gül hands it back with a wise old look that seems to say, “It’s not for us, it won’t ever be ours, that’s how it is, that’s life.”

All the children are waving as the truck pulls off. I’m standing in the open back. Gül has stopped moving, it seems, for the first time since I got there. She’s giving me a strong, steady look I can’t help reading something into, perhaps some dawning awareness in her of the wider world at the other end of that road. Most children at her age still have a spark of genius in them but she’s aglow with it, burning with it, and I’m thinking of the lounging men and laboring women I’d seen earlier and what it suggests about “gender and society,” and I know, with a heavy, sinking certainty, that one day not that far in the future both these brilliant girls will be working in the fields while the grown-up boys sit drinking tea and talking politics and watching the women work.

Dream On

I’d like to think that the artists of the Fertile Crescent, Nezaket and Ebru, Negar and Sigalit, Shazia and Shirin, Farah and Parastou, are grown-up, productive, liberated versions of Atalette and Gül. I thought as much four years ago when I met Arzu Komili, a Princeton senior from Turkey whose exhibit at the Lewis Center I visited at Communiversity 2008. Ed Greenblat’s photograph of her has been cheering up my work space, smiling out at me, ever since. Arzu may have been born and raised in Istanbul, in a well-to-do household, but there’s a hint of the roadside sprite in her smile.

The two Turkish artists in “The Fertile Crescent” website may be half a generation younger than Atalette and Gül would be now, but the boldness of their themes and concepts suggests that they have fought the good fight against similar odds. Born in 1970 a half day’s drive from the crossroads near Eregli, Nezaket Ekici lives in Germany now and will be at the Lewis Center tomorrow, Thursday, October 4, in a performance piece she calls “Lifting a Secret,” in which she’s drinking coffee and reading passages from an adolescent diary she kept about a forced marriage arranged by her father. As her anger mounts, she spatters the wall with coffee, which, as it drips down, reveals the passage from the journal she’s been reading and that she’d written on the wall with petroleum jelly before beginning the performance. She refills her cup over and over again, slopping the coffee on the passage until all her words have emerged. Coffee makes the case nicely; it’s a darker and more dramatic developing fluid than the tea the men in the cafe were drinking while watching the women work.

For 41-year-old Ebru Özseçen, who also lives in Germany, indulge me for a moment and imagine the sort of art Gül would produce if by some miracle she’d run off to Europe to become a dancer or singer or sculptor or filmmaker, lured by the glow of that moment when the hat became her creation. In her artistic statement, Ebru plans to explore mundane reality in order to discover “its magical and unseen aspects, in the process, revealing a space where fantasy and memory hide in plain sight.”

You can see Ebru Özseçen’s brief video Jawbreaker on YouTube, as well as a four-part conversation apparently taking place in the proximity of the White Cliffs of Dover. In her proposal for a competition on “New Forms of Remembering and Remembrance,” she writes of a “memorial kindergarten” that “will be visible in the evening after the children go home …. The other phase will be seen in the morning, when the walls are lowered, and the children enter the kindergarten. When the children sleep, the work … stands guard”

Princeton Venues

Nezaket Ekici will also take part in the Arts Council of Princeton’s portion of The Fertile Crescent, from October 4 to November 21, along with seven other Fertile Crescent artists, including, as mentioned, Shiva Ahmadi, whose work can be seen on page 15. For full details about other venues, including the Princeton Public Library and the Princeton University Art Museum, visit http://fertile-crescent.org/signatureartists.html.

Note: In the unlikely event that readers of this column have read or may read my book Indian Action: A Journey to the Great Fair of the East, they will find an expanded version of the scene in the clearing with additional players and a different focus.

MISMATCH OR MADE FOR EACH OTHER?: Doug (Brad Wilson) and Kayleen (Katherine ­Ortmeyer) find themselves drawn together through many calamities over the course of 30 years, in Theatre Intime’s production of Rajiv Joseph’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries” at the Hamilton Murray Theater on the Princeton University campus through October 6.

Never thought of vomiting together as a bonding experience? Never fancied a romantic date that consisted of touching each other’s wounds? Never thought of “gruesome” and “entertaining” together to describe a play you’d want to see? Well, there’s a first time for everything, and Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries (2009), in a captivating production opening Theatre Intime’s 2012-13 season, delivers many surprises.

Eight-year-old Doug and Kayleen meet for the first time in the school nurse’s office. In this scene titled “Age 8: Face Split Open,” Kayleen describes her stomach ache and Doug describes how he injured his face by riding his bike, Evel Knievel-style off the school roof. Kayleen, fascinated, wants to touch his wound, then picks pieces of gravel out of his hands.

The first of eight scenes centered on various injuries sustained by both characters over a thirty-year period, this childhood encounter sets the tone for the rest of the evening and the future relationship between Doug and Kathleen.

Accident-prone and self-destructive, both continue to hurt themselves in an astonishing variety of ways. Doug, seemingly driven by his unrequited love for Kayleen, blows out an eye with fireworks, gets his teeth knocked out in a fight, steps on a nail then breaks his leg while inspecting a damaged building, gets struck by lightning while on his roof, and falls off a telephone pole (“Maybe if I could climb to the top of this telephone pole in the rain at night, like the mast of a ship lost at sea, maybe I’ll see the shine of you, bringing me home again.”) Kayleen, who realizes her pain-based connection and at times even holds a healing power over Doug, is unable to requite his love. She suffers less dramatically but no less devastatingly by cutting herself — legs and stomach — and undergoing “about 25 medications” and psychiatric treatments.

Whether Kayleen and Doug are mismatched or made for each other never becomes clear, but their relationship remains loving, sensual, and unconsummated, full of mental and physical anguish on both sides, much more about pain than happiness or anything approaching conventional romance.

Yes, the play definitely lives up to its title, emphasis on “gruesome.” But this 90-minute, two-character show, skillfully and creatively directed by Princeton University junior Laura Gates and performed with style, focus, and commitment by senior Bradley Wilson and junior Katherine Ortmeyer makes for an entertaining evening.

Mr. Joseph’s dialogue is sharp, realistic, often funny and touching. Though Mr. Joseph, whose Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, provides little background beyond Kayleen’s broken home with a harsh father and absent mother, the characters here are richly engaging, intriguing, and surprisingly appealing and sympathetic.

Mr. Wilson’s Doug is charming in his recklessness, honesty, and boyish bravado. His love for Kathleen, manifested in such dramatic fashion, is never in doubt and never diminished as the scenes jump forwards and backwards in time through three decades. Ms. Ortmeyer’s Kathleen is more complex, also increasingly broken physically and mentally as the play progresses, but perhaps even more troubling than her counterpart in her inwardness, her inability to commit, her quiet self-destructiveness.

Despite occasional lines that are difficult to hear, Ms. Ortmeyer creates a rich three-dimensional character, and the relationship established here is fascinating, at times even heartwarming and amusing. The fact that even the vomit scene — the protagonists again in the nurse’s office at school, this time at age thirteen as a school dance is going on in the background (“Our throw up is all mixed together. You wanna see? So awesome.”) — is more sweetly comical than grotesque surely attests to the creative powers of playwright and performers.

Ms. Gates has staged the play with clarity and focus. The eight short scenes, titles for each written on an easel on stage left, move along smoothly, with original music by Mark Watter and Matt Seely helping to set the mood and bridge the gaps. The simple, flexible, functional set by Amy Gopinathan, lighting by Marissa Applegate, and realistic costuming by Annika Bennett are appropriate and on target. As the drama between Doug and Kayleen progresses, between scenes the actors remain on stage, Ms. Ortmeyer stage right, Mr. Wilson stage left, changing costumes and putting on make-up.

The actors’ preparations, sometimes elaborate as they “create” various wounds and transition from age eight through five-year increments to age thirty-eight, add a significant element to the production. The breaks between scenes, the titles and the non-chronological sequence of events, the appearance of the actors “behind the scenes,” all have a certain distancing effect for the audience. Rather than being invited to lose ourselves in the lives of Doug and Kayleen, we are constantly reminded that we are watching actors as they present these characters. Curiously though, watching the actors’ preparations between scenes also adds a certain intimacy, distancing us perhaps from the lives of Doug and Kayleen, but at the same time inviting us into the theatrical process as Mr. Wilson and Ms. Ortmeyer take on these personas, get into character to struggle with the lives and passions of these troubled souls.

Ms. Ortmeyer, Mr. Wilson, Ms. Gates, and the Theatre Intime company team up with the 38-year-old Mr. Joseph here to provide an eccentrically interesting evening, and the promise of worthy future theatrical adventures.


WE DID IT, WE DID IT: Nona Alberts (Viola Davis, left), Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal, center) and Jamie’s daughter Malia (Emily Alyn Lynd) are overwhelmed with joy when they learn that their attempt to change Malia’s school from a public to a charter school has succeeded under the new, so-called Parent Trigger Law.

In 2010 California passed the nation’s first “Parent Trigger Law,” a bill which enables a district with an under-performing public school to fire the principal, replace the staff, and convert it to a charter school, if a majority of the parents with students attending it sign a petition. The legislation has proved very controversial thus far, with opponents alleging that the measure is merely anti-union, whereas the sponsors call it an overdue reform intended to give children who are stuck in so-called “dropout factories” a fair chance.

Consequently, Won’t Back Down is opening under a cloud of controversy, which is unfortunate since the film is otherwise a quite engaging and entertaining tale of female empowerment. The reason why the picture has generated so much interest is because it was produced by Walden Media, the same studio that just a couple of years ago released Waiting for Superman, a documentary that came under attack for blaming teachers’ unions for the dysfunctional education system.

Although based on actual events that transpired in Los Angeles, Won’t Back Down is set in Pittsburgh, where we find Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal) struggling to make ends meet. Between selling used cars by day and bartending at night, the single mother barely has any energy left to attend to the academic needs of her dyslexic daughter, Malia (Emily Alyn Lind).

Convinced that the lagging 8-year-old hasn’t learned to read out of neglect by her teachers at school, she enters the little girl in a lottery for one of the few spots opening up at Rosa Parks, a nearby, highly-regarded, charter school. But when Malia’s name isn’t chosen, the frustrated mother decides to do something about the school the child’s in.

Inspired by the state’s new “Fail Safe Law,” Jamie becomes a tireless child advocate hell-bent on wresting the reins of control from an administration and staff that have low expectations for their students. Along the way, she enlists the assistance of Nona Alberts (Viola Davis), a jaded teacher who had almost given up trying to fight the system.

Initially, Nona is reluctant to get involved, because she could very easily get blacklisted for trying to bust the union. Furthermore, she’s an emotional wreck because she is overwhelmed at the prospect of having to raise her son (Dante Brown) on her own after her husband (Lance Reddick) recently left them.

However, Jamie and Nona bond and, over the objections of bureaucrats, not only garner the requisite number of parental votes but even talk the teachers into surrendering job security in favor of performance-based salaries. The movie is an uplifting Hollywood story that suggests that the solution to public education’s woes might be as simple as a couple of women picking up picket signs.

Very Good (***). Rated PG for mature themes and mild epithets. Running time: 121 minutes. Distributor: 20th Century Fox/Walden Media.


Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street is showing works by Shiva Ahmadi, Monira Al Quadari, Nezaket Ekici, Hayv Kahraman, and Efret Kedem as part of “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society” series, from October 4-November 21. The opening reception is October 4 from 5-8 p.m. Visit www.artscouncilof
princeton.org.

Bank of Princeton Community Art Gallery, 10 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing works by Alyssa Rapp and Ilene Rubin through October 15. A wine and cheese reception is October 5, 5-7 p.m. Visit www.thebankofprinceton.com.

Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, has works by Negar Ahkami, Ghada Amer, Reza Farkhondeh, Zeina Barakeh, Ofri Cnaani, Parastou Forouhar, and Shadi Ghadirian as part of “The Fertile Crescent” project, through October 19.

Bucks County Gallery, 77 West Bridge Street, New Hope, Pa., presents a solo exhibit by Christine Graefe Drewyer October 5-28. The opening reception is October 6 from 2-5 p.m. Visit www.buckscountygalleryart.com.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Pennington Road, Ewing, is presenting “Bruce Rigby: Recent Work” through October 11 in honor of Mr. Rigby’s retirement from teaching. Visit www.tcnj.edu/artgallery.

D&R Greenway, Johnson Education Center, 1 Preservation Place, presents “Sustainable Harvest: Creating Community Through the Land,” a mixed-media show about farmland, iconic farm structures, and new perspectives on crops and creatures, through November 9.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, is showing “Naturally, Man-Made, in Full View: The Art of le Corbeau” through November 4. A gallery walk with Francois Guillemin is October 14 at 2 p.m. Showing through January 13 is “James Rhodes, Trenton Stoneware Potter, 1773-1784” and “Contemporary Art from the TMS Collection.” Call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.ellarslie.org.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has in its Milberg Gallery “Woodrow Wilson’s Journey to the White House,” through December 28. “First X, Then Y, Now Z: Thematic Maps” runs through February 10 in the main exhibition gallery. “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” shows in the Mudd Manuscript Library Cotsen Children’s Library through July 31. “Into the Woods: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Brothers Grimm” is scheduled for October 15-February 28.

Gallery at Chapin, 4101 Princeton Pike, has drawings and paintings by Dot Bunn through October 26. The reception is October 3 from 5-7 p.m. From November 1-December 14, “Abstract Drawings and Paintings” by Pat Martin will be shown. The opening reception is November 7, 5-7 p.m. Call (609) 924-7206.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows “Sanctuary II” by Edward Greenblat, “A View of South Beach” by Martin Schwartz, and “Spiritual Places,” a group show by AgOra, through October 7. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Garden State Watercolor Society presents its 43rd Annual Juried Exhibition October 8-28 at Prallsville Mills in Stockton. For times and details on special events, visit www.garden
statewatercolorsociety.net.

Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A Main Street, Cranbury, hosts Colleen Cahill, who will show her pastels, watercolors and mixed media pieces in a show called “Transitions” October 7-28. The opening is October 7 from 1-3 p.m. Visit www.cranbury.org.

Hopewell Tour Des Arts is an open studio tour, self-guided, that starts at the Hopewell Train Station on Railroad Place or The Brothers Moon restaurant at 7 West Broad Street, Hopewell. The fifth annual event is October 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and October 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

JB Kline Gallery, 25 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing “At the Same Place at the Same Time,” paintings by S.L. Baker, through October. The opening is October 13, 6-9 p.m. Visit www.slbaker
paintings.com.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “To Stir, Inform, and Inflame: The Art of Tony Auth” is on view through October 21. “I Look, I Listen: Works on Paper by Marlene Miller” is exhibited through October 14. “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Story, Symbol, Self,” runs through
December 30. Visit www.
michenerartmuseum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” through June 23, 2013. Through January 6, “Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists” will be on view, from the collection of drawing collectors Wynn and Sally Kramarsky. “In the Company of Women: Prints by Mary Cassatt” runs through March 3.

Lawrenceville School’s Marguerite & James Hutchins Gallery, Gruss Center of Visual Arts, Lawrenceville, has a Faculty Exhibition 2012 through October 27. The opening reception is October 5 from 6-7 p.m. Visit www.lawrenceville.org.

Lewis Center for the Arts’ Lucas Gallery, 185 Nassau Street, opens its season with a drawing show by more than 40 students, October 9-26. The opening reception is October 9, 4-5 p.m. The gallery is newly renovated and will feature work by ceramics students November 13-21, and by those studying sculpture, graphic design, and photography December 4-14. Free public lectures by faculty members begin October 10 with Sarah Charlesworth, photographer. Sculptor Pam Lins speaks October 24, painter Josephine Halverson on November 7, and filmmaker Su Friedrich on December 5. Visit www.princeton.edu/arts.

September 26, 2012

Written in the aftermath of Joseph Conrad’s death in 1924, Ernest Hemingway’s tribute in the Transatlantic Review’s Conrad Supplement included this sentence: “If I knew that by grinding Mr. [T.S.] Eliot into a fine dry powder and sprinkling that powder over Mr. Conrad’s grave Mr. Conrad would shortly appear, looking very annoyed at the forced return and commence writing, I would leave for London early tomorrow morning with a sausage grinder.”

Hemingway was 25. Two years earlier, in a November 8, 1922 letter to Ezra Pound in response to Pound’s touting of Eliot’s groundbreaking work, The Wasteland, Hemingway suggested that if Eliot “would strangle his sick wife,” sexually assault “the brain specialist” treating her, and “rob the bank” (Eliot was a clerk at Lloyd’s Bank at the time), “he might write an even better poem.” Below this broadside Hemingway added a brisk, cynical disclaimer (“The above is facetious”) that leaves the toxic mixture on simmer.

“A damned good poet and a fair critic,” Hemingway says of Eliot decades later in a July 9, 1950 letter to columnist Harvey Breit. In case you think he’s mellowed, Hemingway is only warming up. In fact he’s in one of his favorite metaphorical modes, pitching “high and inside,” to see if he can “turn a hitter’s cap around.” Next paragraph he’s saying “some of us write and some of us pitch but so far there isn’t any law a man has to go and see the Cocktail Party by T.S. Eliot from St. Louis where Yogi Berra comes from.” The free-association reference to the New York Yankees’ catcher is what prompts the reference to Eliot the poet and critic, and then this: “but he can kiss my ass as a man and he never hit a ball out of the infield in his life.”

Today being T.S. Eliot’s 124th birthday, it’s hardly the occasion to be documenting his fellow midwesterner’s epistolary boorishness. But there’s another, more local occasion. Next month Hemingway and his novel, The Sun Also Rises, will be the subject of several events at the Prince
ton Public Library capped by an October 25 talk by Sandra Spanier, co-editor of Volume One of the Cambridge University Press edition of Hemingway’s letters (see story this issue for details).

Play Ball

If Hemingway can use tropes from the National Pastime as a means of measuring character, manhood, and literary ability, why not follow his example? Baseball may also help me demonstrate why my fondness for Hemingway and his work endures, undiminished, in spite of his personal flaws and phobias, and may even explain why I’ve never warmed to Eliot, whose essays and poetry have been among the most rewarding reading experiences of my life.

Okay, let’s look at Eliot the player. As a pitcher, he would specialize in offspeed stuff, with a killer curve and a knuckleball so devious and outré that hitters tie themselves in knots trying to follow it. Better yet, let’s make him a position player. Forget that ill-natured crack about his abilities with the bat, I see the deceptively fragile St. Louis Kid as a solid .300 hitter with sneaky power and a Mr. October reputation for performing in the post-season clutch, like the game-tying grand slam he hit in the last of the ninth inning of the 1922 World Series; you knew The Wasteland was out of the park the instant Tom Terrific connected. The Kid’s one big drawback was very big indeed, however; he lacked color. The sports writers did what they could, with their catchy nicknames, but it made no difference. Before, after and during the game, Eliot kept to himself. In the locker room, he was a one-man monastery.

This is where the big guy from Oak Park wins your heart. Injury-prone, yes, but with an eye that was the envy of Joe DiMaggio. A master bunter and a lifetime .330 hitter (as he once described himself), he could hit to all fields and his line-drive home runs cleared the wall straight and true. Best of all, he loved the game, ready to talk about the ins and outs
of it forever, recollecting key plays with such fondness that he made kids all over America want to grab their mitts (or pens, pencils, typewriters) and head for the nearest diamond. Granted, he drank between innings, delighted in high slides (he kept his spikes razor sharp), fought with umpires, opponents and teammates, roared when he won and raged when he lost. Sure, he said hideously offensive things about other players, but you knew that stuff ate him up, made him crazy, until the July morning in 1961 when he could no longer play through his injuries.

Let Us Go Then

T.S. Eliot’s poetry simply turned up one day in the room my parents called the study. Nobody, no parent, no teacher presented Eliot to me and said, “You must read this.” I was a sophomore in high school, where literature was confined to a textbook created by “educators.” It’s possible that my Medievalist father, who had no interest in Eliot beyond his High Church leanings, left the Collected Poems in plain sight for me, the way he used to do when pretending to make Classic Comics appear by magic.

Easily the coziest room in the house, the study had a roll-top desk, a day-bed by the window, and a wall of books. My departure for the new world took place on a grey midwinter afternoon, mist in the air, snow on the ground. Settling back on the daybed’s heaped-up pillows, I started reading. The first two lines instantly took me in, the poet’s spectral hand beckoning me aboard, and so began the reading journey that still continues:

“Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky….”

In popular music, specifically rock and roll, that’s called a hook, and it’s a great hook, as irresistible as John Lennon’s, “Let me take you down,” from “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Was Lennon echoing Eliot? Probably, though he might not have known it, just as the Beatles might not have known that Sgt. Pepper would be compared to The Wasteland.

Getting back to the idea of Eliot the player, if he was on the mound and you were at the plate, the next pitch, where the evening is compared to “a patient etherised upon a table,” is unhittable. You just watch it go by with your mouth hanging open. What was that? Where did he get it? Is it even legal? A literary spitball? And a few lines later, after the “muttering retreats,” “cheap hotels” and “sawdust restaurants,” he reads your mind about the  impossible line he just pitched you, saying, “do not ask ‘What is it?’ Let us go and make our visit.”

That second “Let us go” leads you to the stanza that seals your fate. Never mind baseball, it’s witchcraft when the poet waves his wand and turns “the yellow smoke” into a cat rubbing its back and its muzzle “upon the window-panes” and licking “its tongue into the corners of the evening.” The first time you read what the “yellow smoke” does is as close as you ever come to loving Eliot, as it makes “a sudden leap, / And seeing that it was a soft October  night, / Curled once about the houses, and fell asleep.”

Then everything changes and the Harvard scholar looms at the ghostly lectern, no more to be loved than a distant voice serving “visions and revisions” with “toast and tea.” By now the poet is miles away, but still in possession of this normal, baseball-playing, girl-crazy, red-blooded American 15-year-old’s unworthy attention, with lines never to be forgotten (“When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall”) and smooth, sensuous imagery (“Arms that are braceleted and white and bare” and “in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair”) as J. Alfred “Do I dare disturb the universe?” Prufrock approaches his fate. At this point the original excitement has faded, and the last lines about growing old and the mermaids singing and the “chambers of the sea” where “human voices wake us, and we drown” make the schoolboy reader edgy and uneasy. Outside the window it’s gone from dusk to night, and he’s thinking of the pretty young mother across the street who’s dying of cancer.

When Less Is More

I just finished reading the last 15 pages of The Sun Also Rises, where Hemingway’s impotent protagonist Jake Barnes (“I got hurt in the war” he tells the prostitute when she puts her hand between his legs) encounters a fate not unlike Prufrock’s. After the drunken fireworks of the fiesta at Pamploma, Jake is very much alone. By all rights, he should be glad to be on his own. He decides to go to San Sebastian because “it would be quiet there.” He takes the train, stops at a hotel he knows, unpacks, has lunch, goes for a swim, all his movements crisply documented in Hemingway’s less-is-more prose. He sees a boy and a girl out on a raft, she’s laughing at the things the boy says, she’s undone the top strap of her bathing suit and is “browning her back.” Jake says nothing about what seeing this does to him but Hemingway makes you feel it, making you care about Jake in his aloneness far more intensely than you ever did for Prufrock, so that when Jake dives deep, “swimming down to the bottom,” it’s as if you’ve followed him into the undercurrent of Hemingway’s art: “I swam with my eyes open and it was green and dark. The raft made a dark shadow.”

Summoned to Madrid by Brett, the woman he loves and who loves him, hopelessly, Jake once again goes about the business of living, relating the incidental details that make you hurt for him, and all without a single nudging word from the author, who vicariously enjoys the big meal and the three bottles of wine at Botin’s while never letting you forget that it’s all death and denial and we know Jake is doomed as he reports how he got from the train to the hotel and how he consoled Brett, who is recovering from a failed romance. The conversation that ends the novel mirrors the one the thwarted lovers had at the book’s beginning, both times in a cab, sitting close to one another, she saying, “We could have such a damned good time together,” he saying, as the car slows suddenly, pressing her against him, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Hemingway’s love song comes to an end more desperate than Eliot’s. But it’s the pitcher poet who provides the perfect epitaph, closing out the game, a scoreless tie.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing
to me.


HOMECOMING: Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison will return to Princeton to read from her new novel, “Home,” October 2 at 5:30 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium. “It is an honor to welcome back Toni Morrison,” said Chair of the Council of the Humanities Gideon Rosen.

The Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Beloved Toni Morrison, will read from her new novel, Home, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 2, in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, at Princeton University. Ms. Morrison is the University’s Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus.

Sponsored jointly by the Center for African American Studies and the Council of the Humanities, the reading is free and open to the public. Tickets are required for admission and can be picked up from the University Ticketing Office at the Frist Campus Center beginning Thursday, Sept. 13, for Princeton University I.D. holders, and Thursday, Sept. 20, for the public. The University Ticketing Office is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. There is a limit of two tickets per person.

“The Center for African American Studies is delighted to have Professor Morrison return to Princeton to read from her new novel. Her work is so important to 20th- and 21st-century literature, and to be able to hear it from the author herself is truly an amazing thing,” said Wallace Best, professor of religion and acting chair of the Center for African American Studies.

Morrison is also the first 2012-13 Belknap Visitor in the Humanities, through the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University. Professor Gideon Rosen, the Stuart Professor of Philosophy and the Chair of the Council of the Humanities, is also excited by Morrison’s return to Princeton. “It is an honor to welcome back Toni Morrison. We celebrate her homecoming as well as her new book, aptly titled Home. The Belknap Visitor is our highest honor, and no one is more deserving than Toni Morrison,” he said.

Morrison’s nine major novels, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, Love, and A Mercy have received extensive critical acclaim. She received the National Book Critics Award in 1978 for Song of Solomon and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Beloved. In 1993, Morrison became the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. In 2006, the New York Times Book Review chose Beloved as the best work of American fiction published in the last quarter-century. On May 29 this year, Morrison was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, which is the highest civilian award in the United States.

Published in May by Knopf, Home is the story of a young African American soldier, returning home from the Korean War to the pre-civil rights South.

Labyrinth Books, of 122 Nassau St. in Princeton, will be on location selling signed copies of Home before and after the reading.

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The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center has sculpture by Jonathan Shor on view on the terrace through September 29. The Annual Members Show is in the Taplin Gallery through September 29. For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, has “Expressions in Wood, Glass and Bamboo,” works by Charlie Katzenbach and Norine Kevolic, through September 30. Visit www.lambertvillearts.com.

Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, has works by Negar Ahkami, Ghada Amer, Reza Farkhondeh, Zeina Barakeh, Ofri Cnaani, Parastou Forouhar, and Shadi Ghadirian as part of “The Fertile Crescent” project, through October 19.

Cafe 44, 44 Leigh Avenue, is showing “Art + 10” through October 1. Paintings and photography, subtitled “A Slice of Life,” are the subject of the show, which includes works by Heather Stoddardt Barros, James Bongartz, Betty Curtiss, Jeannine S. Honstein, Stephen Kennedy, Ryan Lillienthal, Meg Brinster Michael, Tasha O’Neill, Katja De Ruyter, Gill Stewart, Karen Stolper, and Mary Waltham.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Pennington Road, Ewing, is presenting “Bruce Rigby: Recent Work” through October 11 in honor of Mr. Rigby’s retirement from teaching. Visit www.tcnj.edu/artgallery.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, is showing “Naturally, Man-Made, in Full View: The Art of le Corbeau” through November 4. A gallery walk with Francois Guillemin is October 14 at 2 p.m. Showing through January 13 is “James Rhodes, Trenton Stoneware Potter, 1773-1784” and “Contemporary Art from the TMS Collection.” Richard Hunter will lecture on September 30 at 2 p.m. about the Rhodes exhibit. Call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.ellarslie.org.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has in its Milberg Gallery “Woodrow Wilson’s Journey to the White House,” through December 28. In Cotsen Children’s Library through September 30 is “Noah’s Art: Designing Arks for Children.” “First X, Then Y, Now Z: Thematic Maps” runs through February 10 in the main exhibition gallery. “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” shows in the Mudd Manuscript Library Cotsen Children’s Library through July 31. “Into the Woods: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Brothers Grimm” is scheduled for October 15-February 28.

Gallery at Chapin, 4101 Princeton Pike, has “Yardsong: A Botanical Adventure” through September 28. The show is of digital photography by Madelaine Shellaby. From October 1-26, drawings and paintings by Dot Bunn are on view. The reception is October 3 from 5-7 p.m. Call (609) 924-7206.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows “Sanctuary II” by Edward Greenblat, “A View of South Beach” by Martin Schwartz, and “Spiritual Places,” a group show by AgOra, through October 7. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A Main Street, Cranbury, hosts the “Winter Workshop Series Exhibit” by workshop artists including Linda Gilbert, Colleen Cahill, and Hannah Ellis through September 30. From October 7-28, Colleen Cahill will show her pastels, watercolors and mixed media pieces in a show called “Transitions.” The opening is October 7 from 1-3 p.m. Visit www.cranbury.org.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery through February 15. Artists displayed in other GFS galleries through September include Sharon Engelstein, Willie Cole, and Marilyn Keating. See www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Hopewell Tour des Arts is an open studio tour, self-guided, that starts at the Hopewell Train Station on Railroad Place or The Brothers Moon restaurant at 7 West Broad Street, Hopewell. The fifth annual event is October 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and October 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

JB Kline Gallery, 25 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing “At the Same Place at the Same Time,” paintings by S.L. Baker, through October. The opening is October 13, 6-9 p.m. Visit www.slbakerpaintings.com.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “To Stir, Inform, and Inflame: The Art of Tony Auth” is on view through October 21. “I Look, I Listen: Works on Paper by Marlene Miller” is exhibited through October 14. “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Story, Symbol, Self,” runs through December 30. Visit www.michenerartmuseum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” through June 23, 2013. Through January 6, “Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists” will be on view, from the collection of drawing collectors Wynn and Sally Kramarsky. “In the Company of Women: Prints by Mary Cassatt” runs September 29-March 3. The museum is open free of charge on Saturday, September 29 as part of National Museum Day Live.

MCCC Gallery, Mercer County Community College, West Windsor, is showing “Roger Hane and The Big Idea,” works by the illustrator Roger Hane, through October 4. Visit www.mccc.edu/gallery.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, presents “Portrait of Place: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints of New Jersey, 1761-1898” September 28-January 13. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

New Hope Sidetracks Art Gallery, 2A Stockton Avenue, New Hope, presents its Sixth Annual Naked in New Hope exhibition, a group show about the human body, through November 3.

Outsider Art Gallery, 10 Bridge Street, Suite 4, Frenchtown, has a show of work by artists from the Canary Islands and England through November 1. Additional venues are the first floor of New Hope Arts, next door, and The Raven, New Hope Lodge, 400 West Bridge Street. Call (215) 862-4586.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents “The Activity of Form,” a photography exhibit by Laura McClanahan, Greg McGarvey, Barbara Osterman, and Larry Parsons, through September.

Princeton Day School Anne Reid ‘72 Art Gallery is presenting “Peter Lighte: Pieces of China” as its first show of the season, October 1-5. An opening reception and silent auction is September 28. Opening hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit www.pds.org.

Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, is showing photography by Mary Cross (“Egyptland”) and painter Ifat Shatzky through December 31 as part of “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society” series taking place in nine area venues. (609) 924-9529 or www.princ
etonlibrary.org.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery” through September 30. The show includes more than 60 works from the museum and private collections and mixes media, historical period and place of origin. “Root and Branch,” which explores the form of a tree in art and includes several art forms, runs through November 25. The Museum has installed 12 sculptures by Ai Weiwei at Scudder Plaza, in front of Robertson Hall, through July 2013. Works by Parastou Forouhar, Mona Hatoum, Sigalit Landau, Shirin Neshat and Laila Shawa are on view through January 13 as part of “The Fertile Crescent” project. “Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom” is October 6-February 17. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Quiet Life Gallery, 17 North Main Street, Lambertville, shows “Fearless Fighters’ Portraits” by Elise Dodeles through September 30. Visit www.quietlifegal
lery.com.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has an exhibit called “The Future is Female 2.0” through the month of September.

Trisha Vergis Gallery, 287 South Main Street (Laceworks Complex), Suite 11, Lambertville, is presenting a Gallery Sneak Preview on Saturday, September 29 from 4 to 9 p.m. The preview will feature five local artists and a champagne toast to a new adventure.  Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m.  Call (609) 460-4710 or visit www.trishavergisgal
lery.com.

BUT DADDY, I LOVE HIM!: Count Dracula (left, voiced by Adam Sandler) desperately tries to convince his daughter that a vampire is not a compatible companion for a mortal person. However, Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) has fallen hopelessly in love with Jonathan (not shown) who managed to crash the lavish birthday party that Dracula was giving for Mavis and refuses to listen to her father.

I know it’s a little early in the season, but if you’re ready for a Halloween film that’s a lot of fun for the whole family, have I got a cartoon for you. More romantic and funny than spooky and spine-tingling, Hotel Transylvania is a tenderhearted tale that gets most of its laughs by turning the basic scary movie convention on its head.

The picture unfolds from the point of view of Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) and a beleaguered brotherhood of peace-loving creatures who have not only been unfairly demonized as monsters but are actually more afraid of humans than humans are of monsters. Who knew? As victims of bad press and paranoia, they naturally shy away from making any contact with humans.

After his wife’s untimely demise at the hands of an angry mob, an understandably overprotective Dracula restricts his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), to the safe confines of the family’s hilltop mansion, which is far removed from any prejudiced townsfolk who might be armed with torches and pitchforks. Inside that protective bubble, “Daddy’s Little Ghoul” was raised on nursery rhymes in which all the villains were people.

Figuring that his fellow social outcasts might also enjoy a sanctuary of tranquility safe from humanity, Dracula transforms his sprawling estate into the Hotel Transylvania, a swanky, 5-stake (read “5-star”) resort that caters strictly to fellow monsters. The plot thickens when he lowers the drawbridge over the moat to the castle to welcome his friends to celebrate Mavis’s birthday.

A passing hiker, who stumbled upon the place, manages to slip in alongside Frankenstein (Kevin James), The Mummy (CeeLo Green), The Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz), The Invisible Man (David Spade), and other invited guests. Jonathan (Andy Samberg) may be a mere mortal, but the party crasher is just the right age to appreciate the blossoming beauty of a rebellious teen-age vampire.

It’s cross-species love at first sight, much to the chagrin of Count Dracula whose desperate efforts to discourage his defiant daughter prove futile. His cries of “You’re barely out of your training fangs!” and “There are so many eligible monsters!” fall on deaf ears, as Mavis opts instead to heed her late-mother’s sage advice that “A zing comes along only once in a life.”

A child-friendly Halloween adventure that sends a universal message of tolerance through the oft-repeated maxim in the movie that monsters are people too.

Very Good (***). Rated PG for action, rude humor, and scary images. Running time: 91 minutes. Distributor: Sony Pictures.