Glen David Gold (YGtCTO Words #81)

Carter Beats the Devil

Book written by Glen David Gold

Being someone who always feels the oppressive weight of all the books that I ought to be reading, I don’t always respond well to recommendations. With age (and possibly maturity), I have become more polite about it though it does feel like the person making the recommendation is just adding one more line to my task list. This shouldn’t stop you if you want to recommend something, but it might explain that deer-in-the-headlights look that you perceive on my side of the discussion.

Those who knew me well practically raced to tell me about Carter Beats the Devil when it came out and for months afterward. This allowed me the satisfaction of informing them that I had already read it. The cover and subject did indeed call out to me from the shelf as soon as I saw it. In fact, I turned the tables and started telling everyone else to read the book. Some may have.

Oddly enough, that isn’t my expectation with this series of posts, despite the title (You’ve Got to Check This Out), which I consider a statement of enthusiasm more than anything else. That is an important distinction, at least to me.

Glen David Gold

All along,

this has been an exercise in exploring the intersection of art and the average life- perhaps the way that the average life can and does improve with art, even if we want to pretend otherwise. Maybe it is only an argument that feels necessary at this time in this place.

When I gifted copies of Gold’s book or talked about it with someone that I managed to trap in a corner, I suppose that I only wanted to make a connection. To be fair, that was all the people telling me about the book were trying to do, also. In their case, they were probably being kind and expressing the fact that they knew me well enough. They had thought some about what I liked. In my case, I probably just wanted to babble at someone.

I’m not unaware that I don’t talk enough about the works of art under consideration. Of course, I am aware that you’re reading this on a device that allows you unending access to information about plot and appearance and background. Where does that leave us except small talk and self-revelation?

Gold’s book deserves better.

I knew something of the history of magic and the times that are portrayed. This meant I was deeply impressed by the way that the characters and the setting came to life. The journey of the main character felt like a move through revelation, which is not something I generally experience in historical novels. This is accomplished to such an extent that I still, after more than decade and a half, think about the book at least every few weeks. You should read it if you haven’t.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 58 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.

Leonard Bernstein (YGtCTO Music #81)

On the Town

Musical stage show with music by Leonard Bernstein; book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green

As much as middle school is a strange experience for everyone, I attended a particularly unusual little place. Essentially, all of us from fifth through eighth grade sat together. This allowed for the fair exchange of ideas between ten and thirteen year-olds, so… you can imagine.

The curriculum was an interesting amalgam of what the head administrator felt we ought to learn mixed with what the available faculty could teach. Some parents taught at the local university or had other advanced training and spent an hour at the school a couple times per week teaching us something.

That’s how we got art history with all the slides and such of a college class. I don’t remember the difference between Doric and Ionian anymore, but I know they are a thing. (And with Google’s help, I now remember Corinthian is not a type of leather.)

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure our teacher for music appreciation was basically winging it by reading just ahead of us in a book and finding something for us to listen to for fifteen minutes. I can’t complain, though sometimes I still do. Berlioz became a thing for me because of those classes and a performance by the Youngstown Symphony.

Leonard Bernstein also attracted my notice, but he seemed to confuse the teacher as much as any of us. Then, his personal life erupted into public view. If only we hadn’t been required to read Time magazine for our Current Events class… So, we stopped talking about Bernstein.

Leonard Bernstein

But

Bernstein was hard to ignore. West Side Story kept popping up. My father even appeared in a production as the store keep. You haven’t lived all possible father/son moments until you’re in the audience watching your dad discover that the door on the set has stuck closed and the rest of the cast can’t enter.

On the Town just… it is pretty much what the word “delight” was invented for.

But that odd dropping out of Bernstein from that middle school class meant it took a little longer to find out what a great conductor and all-around composer he was. There is something pleasurable about discovering more by someone that you enjoy, but there’s always a little odd sense that you missed out when you might have most appreciated it. I was ready for the drama and brilliance of Berlioz. I could have handled the theatricality of Bernstein. And his peccadilloes seem passe now.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 59 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.

Peter Cook (YGtCTO #240)

Absolutely hilarious

If you like the idea of a one-legged man auditioning for the role of Tarzan and think there might be comedy gold there, then you belong in the same camp with Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and me. I can’t speak for either Pete or Dud, but I could also imagine a rather interesting stage production starring a one-legged man as Tarzan. The mind does wander.

Bypassing the Ritz Brothers, with whom I had a brief entertainment dalliance, Peter Cook was the first humorist that pre-dated me that I felt mostly belonged to me rather than my older brothers or parents. It is true that one of my brothers told me that I really did just have to see this crazy movie called Bedazzled, which proved to be my introduction to Doctor Faustus. I could not have asked for better.

Peter Cook

Really, I just need to think about Dudley Moore blowing another raspberry and making a wish and I am smiling- actually suppressing a giggle.

The reason I got to feel proprietary about Cook was because I discovered Beyond the Fringe all on my own. That’s much easier now. For that matter, I had no idea that Moore and Cook had worked together so much. Moore’s movie stardom was a well-established fact by the time I was aware of either of them. Up until then, Cook was the tall bloke in Bedazzled with the evil leer. (Yes, they did host SNL together during that long ago first season, but that was just a tad before my time, though it probably gives my brothers some rights to their own enjoyment.)

Then he went and died.

Somehow this led to his writing being published over here. Which meant that I read his writing. And liked it quite a bit.

This meant I brought Peter Cook up in conversation in the late 1990’s, before the remake of Bedazzled was released, not that it made anyone remember Peter Cook any better. Outside of family, who had long before grown tolerant of my interests, I spent most of my time explaining who the man was.

I know that all art is ephemeral. Everything that people do is temporary. That is essentially the bitter truth with which we all struggle. That struggle manifests in how we value ideas, people and things. It manifests in how we express ourselves- our faiths and child-rearing and insomnia.

Nothing throws that struggle into stark reality like a blank stare from someone when you start talking about something that you find interesting. Lack of interest is the true hourglass of the days of our lives. You can feel the sand toppling to the bottom as those eyes opposite you glaze over.

Yet, somebody has loaded clips of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and the Ritz Brothers. Someone else has viewed them- a million times it says. The internet and the cloud are lies about permanence, but they are true about our belonging to a culture of like-minded beings.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 60 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.