Today is April first. I just finished reading the January 22nd issue of the New York Times Magazine. No joke. You do the math.
left with the feeling that I've been living on an alternate planet, one that I
thought functioned adequately for my needs. Clearly, however, after
reading the last page, it becomes obvious that my
planet lacks the light, sound, varied textures and bright colors of the
one in. . . THE MAGAZINE.
My planet is a trip to Wal-Mart by
comparison. On. . . THE MAGAZINE'S planet, everything matters more. Every
word has greater meaning. Every drawing more impact. Every photo more
nuance. Every headline requires more intelligence to plumb.
Even the Letters to the Editor seem
to be written by more interesting, inspiring people. A graduate of
West Point, stationed in Iraq, takes time from his task of preventing
roadside bombs from turning his men into roadkill to sum up his
well-argued premise with an interesting view of the plight of Muslims.
UNLESS A STRONG, VISIONARY LEADER RESOLVES THE DISSONANCE BETWEEN THE REAL SOURCE OF THEIR SUFFERING [OTHER MUSLIMS] AND THEIR USUAL SCAPEGOATS [ISRAEL AND THE UNITED STATES], THE ARAB PEOPLE WILL CONTINUE TO SUFFER.
Another letter taking issue with the writer of a discourse on recent developments in ART left me drowning in its wake:
TO REGARD THE HOOPLA
SURROUNDING NEO RAUCH AND HIS STUPEFYING RETURN TO A QUASI SOCIALIST
REALIST FIGURATIVE ART OF MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY AGO, AS ANYTHING
MORE THAN A PASSING FANCY, IS NOT ONLY A SLAP IN THE FACE TO THE GREAT
ACHIEVEMENTS MADE IN THE LAST CENTURY BUT ALSO A DISGRACE IN THE
POSSIBLITIES INHERENT IN THE FUTURE OF PAINTING ITSELF.
I wanted to jump up and shout -- YOU BETCHA!! Before realizing I had no idea what anybody was talking about.
short essay on text messaging was a relief after the Letters to the Editor. It
caught my eye because I finally got a cell phone last year and have the
sore thumbs to go with it. But this being. . . THE MAGAZINE, I should
have known that their discussion of this shorthand communication would
include a text messaged version of Paradise Lost sent between
British scholars -- for no other reason than those wacky Brits can.
The reduction of one of the classics into twenty-first century
minimalist communication is fascinating -- in a sign of the Apocalypse
kind of way.
"Devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus
of jesus&strts war. pd'off wiv god so corupts man [md by god] wiv
apel, devl stays serpnt 4hole life&man ruind. Woe un2mnkind."
I found myself having a flashback to the mid-sixties. After all these years.
why did the mention of that ancient poem have to come back to haunt me like a
recovered memory? In my defense, I aced my college course in Milton,
which was English major code for "We will be reading Paradise Lost."
With all due respect to those people who have spent their entire
professorial lives dissecting that endless drivel, I considered it a
completely useless waste of words on the page, written by a
mean-spirited old man.
My "A" was achieved by cracking the professor's code: Figure out what
he wants us to know for the exams. I chose to appeal to his vanity,
remembering word for word details of what he said in class -- gleaned
from the pages and pages of notes I took each lecture, not from any
fascination I had for the subject, but to stem the tide of boredom. The
night before the midterm and the final I simply went through Paradise
Lost with my notes. And spit back what he said in my bluebook. I never
actually read the poem. The best part was when the grad student who sat next
to me leaned over to ask how I got an A and she only got an A-.
See what reading. . . THE MAGAZINE can
do to a person? If I hadn't read that issue I probably wouldn't
have had to think about Paradise Lost ever again.
I also wouldn't have remembered how much I longed to get into the course on
Shakespeare's sonnets instead, which never seemed to be available when
I could take it.
The professor who taught the sonnets also taught Shakespeare's plays. He toyed with me the
day he took one of the sonnets and resuscitated the language on the
page with an extraordinary and delightful interpretation. Just to
give us a taste. I know my life would have taken a different direction,
if only I could have studied the sonnets and never, ever heard of Paradise
But I digress.