Saturday, December 1, 2012

Triumph of the Also-Ran

Last night I finished the draft of the opera story I started on Wednesday. I had a moment whilst drafting of wanting to end the story immediately after the climax, because I was so pleased with it that the denouement just seemed like it would be no fun at all to put together. But I kept writing anyway, and I'm glad, because the denouement was potentially even better. Tomorrow I'm going to type it up and start rewriting it. This one will take HEAVY rewriting. Certain sentences in the first half I knew, even while I was writing them, that they were terrible; a few have "[ugh!]" written above or after them. But I think it's a good skeleton.

Speaking of opera, this month there are three live opera performances to enjoy in theaters. I went to the first this morning, La Clemenza di Tito, the last opera Mozart wrote before he died in 1791. This makes the third Mozart opera I've seen, and although the other two are MUCH more famous (Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni), and the general opinion on Tito is that it's an "also-ran" (a term of which I don't actually know the definition, but I think it's derogatory), I liked this one the best. The characters were surprisingly complex instead of being sketched, the arias were shorter so I felt less as if I was listening to this
(that's a repeat sign), and the cast was, with one exception, breathtakingly wonderful.

Also, it was Mozart. I will never, ever miss an opportunity to swim in Mozart.

In other news, I finished Slaughterhouse-Five, and I'm...not sure about it. I don't know if I don't get it, or if I do, and the confusion is the point. Also, I felt growing dread and sorrow as we got closer and closer to Dresden, and then the actual experience of the horrors of Dresden felt kind of minimal. I'm not denying that there was despair seeded all in and throughout the book, but I expected (not wanted, expected) a more horrific climax. There's a reason he did it the way he did it, and I haven't grasped it yet. Unless he simply tried to imitate the experience of life, in its weird inconclusive experientialness.

I read the first two stories of Olive Kitteridge, and...uh...this won the Pulitzer Prize? I'm going to read until at least page 100, but if by then I have no further insight about what's so awesome there, I'm giving up.

I also started 2666. It is very long. It's by Roberto BolaƱo, a South American author who died unexpectedly not unlike Stieg Larsson, only on the other side of the world. (RB was born 1953, died 2003; SL was born 1954, died 2004. Weird, eh? But RB had a lot of success as a fiction writer before he died.) I haven't gotten lost in a lovely long novel like this one in seemingly ages, and I think it's time. After 50 pages, I still feel like we're cruising pre-Plot Point One, because I seriously have no idea where the writer's going with this. It's a delicious feeling, because it's fascinating what happens on every damn page, but there's no arc of any kind developing. It's just a story. Or really a series of stories which occasionally envelop other stories.

Sort of speaking of that, I finished Lost in the Funhouse. I found it mostly frustrating, with some pointillist delights. I want to read it again in ten years when I've read more experimental lit. Maybe by then I'll have more recently read ancient Greek lit too and will have some idea of what he's talking about in the second half of the book.

Definition of ALSO-RAN (Merriam-Webster online)
1 : a horse or dog that finishes out of the money in a race
2 : a contestant that does not win
3 : one that is of little importance especially competitively

Well, I suppose. If you even accept that Mozart had winning and losing works. Which I'm not sure I do.

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