I am reading my favorite author again, Henry Miller. BIG SUR AND THE ORANGES OF HIERONYMUS BOSCH and THE TIME OF THE ASSASSINS: A STUDY OF RIMBAUD.

These were written in the 1940’s and 1950’s. What he has to say about life, and specifically about American life even then, is quite amazing and even truer today. Miller was a great writer, thinker, philosopher, humanist and astute observer of the human condition yet he had mystical sense, a cosmic vision rare among American writers and a wonderful sense of humor. He was truly unique. One of his books  THE BOOKS IN MY LIFE talks about authors by whom he was most influenced. I just remembered how unique it was and how it got me to research these different authors. One in particular, Richard Jeffries, who authored THE STORY OF MY HEART.

All of his writing always stimulates my own thoughts. What he says about the assassination of the poet in our culture explains why there is such depression, desperation, fear and lifelessness, which is the diametrical opposite of the American Dream. He states that the fate of the poet in our society is “to shovel him under”. Yet what every nation needs is “the dreamer (poet), the inspired madman…..The future always has and always will belong to-the poet.”

He goes on and states that we are all “suffering from the act, repeated daily, of keeping up the pretense that they can go their way, lead their lives without art. They never dream-or they behave as if they never realize-that the reason why they feel sterile, frustrated and joyless is because art (and with it the artist) has been ruled out of their lives. For every artist who has been assassinated thus (unwittingly?) thousands of ordinary citizens, who might have known a normal joyous life, are condemned to lead the purgatorial existence of neurotics, psychotics, schizophrenics.”

I have often remarked that I find it ironic that so many people are on anti- depressants, here in one of the world’s most prosperous and fortunate nations. There is a joylessness which is palpable, and the “light in the eyes” is quite absent in many. But the truth is, if we all had been told to pursue what we love and do that which brought us joy, [with the caveat to take money out of the equation] (and encouraged to pursue this without shame, condemnation, judgment or factoring in the bottom line), I think there would be more happiness in our lives-for isn’t happiness a by-product of a way of life and not an end in itself? Wasn’t this the central theme of all of O’Neill’s tragedies, the death of the dream, living in the past?

One of Miller’s central themes is that art in America is not an innate part of the fabric of its life and culture. Sure there is art, but the kind of art that exists and has always existed is the business of art.

One phrase that he wrote that really hit me was “the virus of security”. I suppose “give me liberty or give me death” would be the exact opposite. He was fiercely an individualist, yet he saw the almost necessary need for true community and the need to be of service to his fellows.

2015 is a big centennial year for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Billy Strayhorn. But I feel that Billy Strayhorn’s celebration is overshadowed by the other two centenaries. Not to take away any due praise from the two vocalists, but I would love to see him get the attention and honor that he so truly deserves.

There is a beautiful image that captures the great chasm between a  peace of mind that most of us strive to attain and the quiet desperation that most people live and experience. That image is of a great river. For me, that river is the lordly Hudson. Its surface  can be as smooth as glass, tight as a drum skin, or whipped up into varying degrees of agitation, from rough to rippling. Yet underneath it all, invisible, inviolate, is the steady, powerful and constant current.
 

I recently came across a song, entitled “Forgetful”, by Jack Segal and George Handy, originally written for David Allyn. It was  recorded by Chet Baker on his 1959 Milano Sessions, with a string quartet.   The following link, on You Tube, is Irene Kral’s sensitive rendition:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EKks-bWcZo


The first thing I do when I listen to an unfamiliar singer is determine whether or not the voice seduces me. This is exclusively subjective and truly does not reflect upon the talent itself. Some voices are acquired tastes and require an aesthetic maturation in order to grasp the scope of artistry.

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