Daring to Dream – and Write – in Three Parts

Trilogy is not a four-letter word despite the plethora of modern-day abasements – The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Spider/Iron/Super/Bat/X-Men. The format goes back to Ancient Greece where trilogies of plays were performed as the standard, including Sophocles The Oedipus Cycle and Aeschylus’ The Oresteia. 
My work has little in common with the Greeks or Superheroes, and is more akin to Evelyn Waugh’s The Sword of Honour Trilogy – where there is no honor at all – and Francis Bacon’s harrowing triptychs. Yes, I dare to dream, and in three parts.

Cassandra Speaks

I have watched Fate unfold her pattern; Try endured/ What she endured; her captor now, by Helen’s decree,/ Ends thus.
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I have done with tears. I will endure my death./ O gates of the dark world, I greet you as I come! Let me receive, I pray a single mortal stroke,/ Sink without spasm, feel the warm blood’s gentle ebb,/ Embrace death for my comfort, and so I close my eyes.

Screenshot (1164)Friends, there is no hope, none – once the hour has come./ This is the day. Retreats wins little./ I go. Now in the land of the defeated I/ Will mourn my end and Agamemnon’s./ I have lived. Screenshot (1162)I am not like a bird scared at an empty bush,/ Trembling for nothing. Wait: when you shall see my death, woman for woman; when in place/ Atoned with death woman for woman,

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Then witness for me – these and all my prophecies/ Were in utter truth. This I request before I die. Screenshot (1168)Alas for human destiny! Man’s happiest hours/ Are pictures drawn in shadow. Then ill fortune comes,/ And with two strokes the wet sponge wipes the drawing out.

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Cassandra’s lines (1297-1328) from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon.

Ice Friday: Aeschylus’ “Prometheus Bound”

Suffering and pain are a constant in this life, as the Greek poet Aeschylus attested almost 2,500 years ago in his masterwork Prometheus Bound.

Oh, it is easy for the one who stands outside

The prison wall of pain to exhort and teach the one

Who suffers. All you have to say to me I always knew.IMG_4851

Wrong? I accept the word. I willed, willed to be wrong!

And helping humans I found to be troublesome for myself,

Yet I did not expect a punishment as this —

To be assigned an uninhabited desert peak,

Fastened in mid-air to this crag, and left to rot!IMG_5005

Listen, stop wailing for the pain I suffer now.

Step on the ground; I’ll tell you what the future holds

For me: you shall know everything from first to last.IMG_4909

Do what I ask you, do it! Share the suffering

Of one whose turn is now. Grief is a wanderer

Who visits many, bringing always the same gift.

My Holiday Malaise

A certain malaise descends on me at this time of year. 20140917_183324It is not so much the growing dark – although I am sure that plays a part – so much as the descent into the ‘holiday’ season, a time of year synonymous not for giving and family but for greed and accumulation. 20141122_154013Human nature does not have a positive connotation for a reason; it just isn’t good. We take and hoard until we can almost forget what we really are, even if is for just the briefest of moments. 20140922_161653We say things and make promises, actually believing some of the profundities we claim…. but there is nothing of substance, just the shell of something half-built, the world always the same as before. 20140921_125707The slogans and liquor wear off and we are as we started, creatures who want more.

Aeschylus, Shakespeare and Saramago have had a few things to write about this, but in the end they’re just words, like these, read and discarded on the road to the next thing, the next electronic gadget.

Solar-bikini-powered ipod

Solar-bikini-powered ipod

And so, yeah, I can feel a little low – as Black Friday et. al. approach – and dream about the darkness in Greenland, being alone with the aurora borealis and nobody else.greenland northern lights

Aeschylus & Robert Kennedy

I stumbled onto the work of Aeschylus through Robert Kennedy’s most famous speech delivered in Indianapolis on his 1968 election tour. RFK_speech_on_MLKIt is a remarkable speech not only for its profoundly personal nature, but also in that it helped turn an angry crowd away from violence only moments after they had learned of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. imagesKennedy’s words are also remarkable in that he painstakingly cites Aeschylus as a guide to understanding:

My favorite poet is Aeschylus. And he once wrote. Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. aeschylusWhile rioting broke out in many other cities across the country that night, Indianapolis remained calm, in part due to words of wisdom written some 2500 years before. 

Grief: Not News.

Conjecture on missing Malaysian Flight 370 might make for a good story, even if the cable channels bleed it dry.Flight 370 search routeThat said, relentlessly filming grieving relatives is not news. Nor will it ever be.

If these ambulance-chasers really want to get to the bottom of this kind of misery, all they have to do is read Agamemnon, indeed any Greek tragedy. Gérin_Clytemnestre_hésitant_avant_de_frapper_Agamemnon_endormi_Louvre_5185Failing that, they could kill each other – or go missing – and their relatives could be interviewed instead.Erin-Burnett_OutFront_022912_08-666x374The problem being that no one in their families would care, knowing the disingenuous and self-serving nature of these jabbering shits.

Six Great Heroines of Fiction

It’s a challenge to think of a heroine who isn’t passive, either loving from afar or loving too hard.

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina

And while these passionate characters are to be admired, they tend to limit us in our view of what it is to be a woman of substance. Where are the heroines to rival Odysseus, Atticus Finch and the Cat in the Hat? cat_in_the_hat-300x591I offer you my Top Six.

6. Joy Adamson (Born Free) joyadamsonThe co-protagonist of the Born Free series, along with Elsa the Lion, Adamson is more outspoken and independent in the books – to say nothing of real life – than offered on film.

5. Hannah Arendt  (Hannah Arendt) hannah-arendtThe 20th-Century philosopher, as portrayed in Margarethe von Trotta’s 2013 film, is intimidating, uncompromising and could smoke anyone under the table.

4. Gloria (Gloria) gena-rowlandsGina Rowlands’ portrayal in John Cassavetes’ 1978 film, a modern-day Fury, is striking in her combination of anger and sentimentality.

3. Chihiro (Spirited Away) senEven after her parents are turned into pigs and her name is stolen, Chihiro wants to help everyone, including the evil witch.

2. Clytemnestra (Agamemnon) Guerin_Pierre-ClytemnestraWhile it may be true that she has the blood of her husband and Cassandra on her hands, Aeschylus makes it clear that she has her reasons.

1. Doctor’s Wife (Blindness) blindness2008-012The only hope offered in Jose Saramago’s post-apocalyptic parable is a woman willing to sacrifice herself for the good of everyone else. Imagine that.