Monthly Archives November 2023

So Much From So Little: Claire Keegan’s Novella, “Foster”

I’ve gotten to an age where I’m starting to do some basic math on how many 400-pages-and-more books I have left in me to read. Faced with one highly regarded tome of 500 pages and two others of more or less equal interest at 250 pages each, my tendency in recent years has been to go with the latter, particularly when stretching the timeframe out to the 10 or 15 or more years I might reasonably hope to live (should I be so fortunate, every new day being its own blessing).

Sure, if I choose to limit my reading most all the time to books shorter than some self-imposed limit, I will miss out on countless enriching opportunities.

But the plethora of truly remarkable literature readily available today at every page count, from every corner of the world, pairs with my guaranteed mortality to tell me I am going to miss out on countless terrific opportunities no matter the length of the books I read the rest of my ...

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Brilliant Songs #42: Duke Pearson’s “Cristo Redentor”

If I’m drawn to a piece of music, it usually begins to spin its magic on me in the first few notes. Doesn’t matter the genre or era, and doesn’t always require that I be listening closely at the time.

Maybe the radio or Spotify will be on low volume and I’ll barely hear a melodic snippet or phrase or emotional lilt and the next thing out of my mouth to whomever is close to the dial is, “Can you please turn that up?”

And so it was a few weeks ago when somewhere—so many inputs, such cluttered memory—the late trumpeter Donald Byrd’s name appeared on an exotically named tune called “Cristo Redentor.” Byrd’s was the first recording of the song in 1963, and it still reigns as the definitive version. It was written, however, by his pal and collaborator, the composer and pianist Duke Pearson. And as you’ll see and hear evidence of below, the song does right by a wide variety of practitioners.

…a song that tran...

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Heaven, Hell and OTHER People: Finding Happiness in “The Good Life”

French philosopher and playwright Jean Paul Sartre’s 1944 play, “No Exit,” envisioned a hell devoid of searing flames, torture devices or red-eyed devils pitchforking inhabitants for eternity. But that doesn’t mean the punishment for unredeemed sinners wasn’t awful beyond imagining.

Sartre instead placed multiple people in a locked room—in this case, two women and one man—carefully selected to provoke maximum and mutual psychological discomfort upon one another by picking astutely at the scabs of the moral failings that landed each of them in this dreaded situation, yes, for all eternity.

“Anything but that!”, we can hear ourselves saying in sympathy with these otherwise despicable characters. (Military desertion, vicious marital infidelity, seduction, sadism, infanticide…)

The prospect of spending eternity locked in a room with others capable and committed to driving you crazy without relief led to t...

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