Bezos Stands up for Cuomo

More from Amazon-owned Washington Post:

The story, in short, is that absolutely nothing happened. It’s being told in such tiresome detail to obscure the fact that Cuomo killed thousands of elderly New Yorkers, intensifying COVID panic and bringing record profits to Amazon. Which owes The Washington Post.

See how it works?

Book Notes: Nella Larsen’s Passing

Nella Larsen is a Harlem Renaissance writer who published two short novels in the late 1920s. I read one of them, Passing, for my book club.

I have to confess, I was reluctant to read Passing. It’s billed as a novel about a black woman who passes for white, which makes zero sense to anybody on the planet except for Americans who are into “one drop of blood” theories. You’d say that it was a real issue in the 1920s, and I agree, but it’s not like anybody got over it since. The worldview in which Megan Markle is black, a very white Argentinean actress is “a person of color” and a man with a beard and in a skirt is a woman because he says so makes zero sense.

Thankfully, there’s a lot more to the novel than this. Once you get past the first 30 pages, it gets really good. It is as if Larsen got the requisite racial admonishments out of her way and became free to talk about what really interested her, which was the nature and the complexity of marriage. This is one of the deepest reflections on marriage I have ever read. And it’s very beautifully, masterfully done.

This is a very short novel, and still it feels as if Larsen were trying to write two novels at the same time. Or maybe we can offer a more generous reading, which is that the topic of marriage, which concerns everybody, wins over narrow racial obsessions as it well should. In the end, race becomes completely unimportant to the characters who were obsessed with it at the start, and Larsen’s novel turns from a narrowly parochial manifesto into a work of art.

Soap It Up

I’m watching a new Mexican soap opera, and I’ve got a fresh batch of observations.

Everybody in the soap is extremely religious. Characters, including the very young ones, are constantly going to church, praying to the virgencita, exchanging cult objects, and doing good works for the church. These are rich people, so everybody is sleeping with everybody else, everybody has gay friends, or is gay, yet everybody is constantly hanging out at churches or around home altars, or makeshift altars in the woods.

The romantic couple at the center of the series experiences the most intense moment of their love when he takes her to a church that means a lot to him and they pray together. They are dressed like they are straight from a go-go show in Vegas, and they are engaged to other people who are sleeping with other people who are sleeping with more people. None of which seems to be in any conflict with the religiousness.

Book Notes: Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden

This is the most often performed Latin American play but it’s not great. Dorfman writes about the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile but he’s not very talented and ends up creating little more than violence porn.

Of course, once a writer offers descriptions of torture and rape, he’s got access to your neural circuits that start firing up like crazy. People who aren’t sociopaths don’t react calmly to that kind of thing. Talk enough about rape, give just enough salacious details, cover it all up with a preachy moral message – and you can sell anything.

This doesn’t mean you can’t create works of art about dictatorships. Castellanos Moya does it. But you can see the difference at once. In Castellanos Moya, there is a story, there are characters and not cardboard cutouts.

The corny tricks of making the audience look in a mirror to contemplate their complicity with the blah blah or putting actors in the audience were cute in the 1930s. But sixty years later they are downright embarrassing.

I don’t want to rag on Dorfman who is a descendant of Ukrainan Jews and, I’m sure, a worthy individual. But this play. . . Why are things so bad with theater in Latin America?

I read that Glenn Close played the leading part in this play. I wonder if she, at least, could do something to save it. I saw 3 Spanish-language performances of the play online, and they are all horrid.

There’s a difference between “an important topic” and “a work of art.” Many people don’t get that.