On This Day: July 5, 1954 – Elvis Presley Recorded “That’s All Right”

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“That’s All Right”, what would be the first single, which went off like a bomb (at least in Memphis, although other regions of the South would follow) was recorded on July 5, 1954, by Elvis Presley, Bill Black (on bass) and Scotty Moore (guitar), with Sam Phillips in the control room. Elvis was 19 years old.

Excerpt from Dave Marsh’s amazing Elvis about that day.

They hit the new sound while fooling around between takes. Elvis began to sing an Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup country blues, “That’s All Right”, and Scotty and Bill joined in. From the control booth came Sam’s voice, excited. “What are you doing?” They shrugged. “We don’t know.” “Well, find out …” Phillips commanded. “Run through it again.”

Every rock writer returns to “That’s All Right”, as though to the Rosetta stone. It’s not the greatest record Presley ever made, and it certainly is not the bluesiest. But it has something else: a beautiful, flowing sense of freedom and release. Elvis’ keening voice, so sweet and young, playing off the guitars, Scotty’s hungry guitar choogling along neatly until it comes to the break, where it simply struts, definitive, mathematical, a precise statement of everything these young men are all about. Is it art? Is it history? Is it revolution? No one can know, not anymore, unless they were there to hear it before they’d heard any of the other music Elvis made or any of the rock & rollers who followed him. Is it pure magic, a distillation of innocence or just maybe a miracle, a band of cracker boys entering a state of cosmic grace?

What’s most remarkable, given how assiduously pursued this sound had been, is its spontaneity and unselfconsciousness. “That’s All Right,” like the best of the later Sun material (its B side, “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Milkcow Blues Boogie,” “You’re a Heartbreaker”, and, most of all, “Mystery Train”), sounds casual, the kind of music you could hear any day or every day, the kind of sound that has always been familiar but is still surprising. These men are reaching that elusive noise and once they have it in their grasp, they simply toy with it, flipping the thing back and forth among them as if they have been playing with it all their lives.

They listened to the song afterwards. Bill Black said, “Damn. Get that on the radio and they’ll run us out of town.”

Let’s listen to Arthur Crudup’s version, the version Elvis had listened to and absorbed.

The take Sam Phillips, Elvis, Scotty and Bill got was the take that went out. It’s a live take, all three guys playing at the same time,nothing added. What we hear is what happened in that moment. There is one alternate take in existence. But this, what you hear, is not engineered, manufactured, planned, or edited. That’s how it came out, when they were “fooling around”.

Let’s back into it. Because, of course, there was a preamble.


Elvis Presley, September 1954, 19 years old

On July 18, 1953, 18-year-old Elvis Presley walked into the Memphis Recording Service on 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, a recording outfit that had been created by Sam Phillips in 1950 to record new artists and find new (mostly African-American) sounds, something that obsessed Phillips. For a small fee, you could record a song at Memphis Recording Service, and you would be given a two-sided acetate disc upon completion, with a little label on it, just like you were a real recording artist.

There are varying theories as to why Elvis Presley, who had just graduated from high school, would choose to do this.

He himself said in interviews later that he wanted to give a present to his mother. He also said that he just wanted to hear what he sounded like. But more likely, he had ambition. More likely, he wanted to throw his hat into the ring. He had moved to Memphis with his family when he was 14, and he found himself swept away by the Beale Street scene as well as the rocking music from black churches. He had sung in a talent show in high school and did very well. He was painfully shy and dated a girl he met at church. It’s all a bit of a mystery what was going on with him, although there are numerous stories about how, when he was 16, 17, he started bringing a guitar to school, he started dressing in a distinctive manner to set himself apart, but in general his dreams remained private. Who knows why he walked into that studio.


Marion Keisker’s desk, the foyer of Sun Records

Marion Keisker, Sam Phillips’ devoted business partner, remembers vividly the teenager walking into the office for the first time, and how he asked her if they needed any singers for anything on the fledgling Sun label. He was holding a child’s guitar, and he stood in the doorway, looking ready to flee at any moment. At the time, he had a job at a machinists’ shop. Keisker knew why he was there, she could see the look of hunger in his eyes, but she interviewed him a bit to try to find out more.

She asked him, “What kind of singer are you?”

He replied, “I sing all kinds.”

She asked, trying to draw him out, “Who do you sound like?”

And Elvis replied, in a now famous statement, “I don’t sound like nobody.”

Marion was skeptical (wouldn’t you be?) She asked if he sang hillbilly music (he certainly looked the part) and he said that he did.

Then she asked again who he sounded like, in hillbilly? Elvis replied again, “I don’t sound like nobody.”

On the face of it, they may seem like arrogant remarks, but Keisker’s memory of the moment is that he was sincere, shy, and could barely speak above a whisper. There was something about him she found intriguing, so he recorded two songs on that day: “My Happiness” and “That’s Where the Heartache Begins”. She typed out a little label, put it on the record, and sent the pimply teenager on his way. Sam Phillips, in the control booth, had said to Elvis, “You’re an interesting singer”, an ambiguous statement, and he didn’t seem compelled to leap right up and record more with the boy. (I also would like to point out that it is no surprise that it was a WOMAN who first saw the potential in Elvis.)

And that was that. For some time. Elvis joked that his “overnight sensation” actually took a year.

Nobody was blown away by that first acetate. It was a conventional sound, a pop sound, and Sam Phillips was not interested in pop music. However, Elvis’ claim that he “don’t sound like nobody” is actually borne out a bit, if you listen to those two tracks. There’s clearly something there. But he still is trying to fit into a mold. You can hear it. He’s so young, a virgin, no experience in life except his vast love of music, and the eclectic nature of his musical interests (country, bluegrass, gospel, he loved it all).

Compare “My Happiness” (recording below) and “That’s Where the Heartache Begins” (recording also somewhere below) in 1953 to the songs he cut just a year later with a two-man band put together by Sam Phillips, the songs that would make Presley famous, and it’s like a different person. It’s actually unbelievable that it’s the same guy, and you wonder: Wow, Elvis, what did you DO during that year?

“My Happiness” was a hit song from 1948, which already made it an “oldie”, and Presley plays it straight, in a quavering tenor that sounds very very young. He also shows no hint of the “Is he black or white” confusion that would come just a year later, when he suddenly found a raw rough energy in his voice. You can just imagine Sam Phillips in the booth listening to this, thinking, “Well, at least recording shit like this pays my bills for the time being, but honest to GOD.”

Then he recorded a very pretty ballad the Ink Spots had made famous, “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” (sound clip below). It has one of those long bridges for a narration in it (similar to what Presley would do later in “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”). The narration part is obviously meant for a deep and manly voice, as per the style of the day. Presley sings the song and you can tell his guitar playing is rudimentary at best. He also does the narration during the bridge. I find it hysterical, because he is so completely out of his depth. He’s a teenager, and there he is pontificating on heartache in a phony deep speaking voice, totally making fun of himself (you can actually hear it in his voice), pretending he’s some grizzled middle-aged dude holding a cocktail looking back on the vagaries of youth. It’s quite funny. But you can also understand why Sam Phillips didn’t immediately leap from the booth and proclaim the kid his next big star. Elvis doesn’t seem to complete the song, either. He doesn’t go back to the song after the narration. Instead, he, maybe feeling foolish, it’s hard to tell, says, “That’s the end” and that’s that. The song has a strange intensity (I like it better than “My Happiness”) and he sings it with an ache to it, cut up by his goofing-off Sam Elliott narrator voice. It’s a bizarre recording.

After cutting those tracks, nothing much happened for a year.

He got a job driving a truck. He went to church. He started dating a girl named Dixie Locke from his church, and they hung out all the time. They would go to gospel revival meetings together, and Elvis would tell her how much he enjoyed this musical group, or that one, and how the quartet format of religious music was something he loved. Maybe he could get into that. Maybe he could join a group or something. And he kept stopping by the Sun Studio. Like clockwork. He would chat with Marion, she came to look forward to his visits. He would hang around, check out who was there, talk to people. He was a pest, although always polite. This also tells me that “I wanted to record something to give to my mother” was certainly not the whole truth. Sam Phillips was making a name for himself by recording black artists. Presley chose to hang out there. Unfortunately, later in his life, Presley never really gave interviews, or wrote anything, or wrote a memoir, so we don’t know what was going on with him, but he just kept stopping by. It eventually paid off. But for that long year, he coasted. He dated Dixie, mainly, and they shared a love of gospel music, it was one of their bonds.

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Elvis and Dixie Locke

The whole Dixie thing is actually quite fascinating, because it is the relationship that straddles the not-famous/famous divide. She knew him as deeply religious, they pledged to one another to “remain pure” until marriage, and I suppose she may have had some expectation that should he become a singer he would go the gospel route. She was still dating him when all hell broke loose a year later, and she would go to see his shows with Elvis’ parents – who loved her – and she felt nervous about what was going on in those stands with the screaming girls. Not that what he was doing was bad, but it seemed to be taking him far away from her, from his roots, from who she thought he was. She was shocked by it. He began touring, he was away for long periods of time, Dixie found herself hanging out at the Presley’s house all the time, as she reminisced with Elvis’ mother about how awesome Elvis was and how much they both loved him. He went as her date to her junior prom. Out on the road, girls were ripping his clothes off backstage, and he had most probably abandoned the promise to remain pure until marriage, and yet there he is in the prom photo, in a tux, holding Dixie’s arm. They were good friends.

For a while, he had feet in both worlds – he still could do that – but finally, it just got to be too big and he left Dixie behind.

Listening to his plaintive delicate voice on those tracks in 1953 (Elvis? Delicate? Yes.), it is unfathomable that he would explode the proprieties of the day a year later, sending teenage girls into orgasmic public frenzies, and upending the traditional classification of music genres in one fell swoop.

Elvis Presley wasn’t some mythical God, he wasn’t a legend or something artificially put together like Frankenstein. The Image of Presley may have won the war, but individual battles for his artistry and his journey are still being fought along the way.

When Presley told Marion Keisker in 1953, “I don’t sing like nobody” – how did he know that? Because he doesn’t come roaring out of the gate with those first two tracks. So, alone in his room, was he messing around in the way he started messing around one night during his first real recording session at Sun on July 5, 1954, the moment when Sam Phillips said, “YES. That’s IT!” Did he feel in his bones that vast VOID that was in American culture at that time, a void that needed someone to come along and fill it up? Or … was he working on instinct?

It was probably a blending of both, conscious and unconscious. Sam Phillips was very interesting on his own yearning at that time, saying that he didn’t even know what sound he was looking for, he didn’t know how to describe it because it didn’t exist yet – but the search for it was what drove him on so tirelessly. However, in 1953, Sam Phillips didn’t hear it in Presley. A year later, he did. And then, almost by accident. It was Presley goofing off on this fateful day that made Sam Phillips shout, A HA.

And once that track went out on the local air-waves not too much long after, all hell broke loose. Elvis hadn’t even played a live show at that point. He was completely green. But you wouldn’t know that from “That’s All Right.” The fans in Memphis crowded around the radio station clamoring for more. Elvis’ first time in front of a live audience of any significant size was on July 30, 1954, at the Overton Park Shell in Memphis. He and Scotty and Bill only had two songs in their repertoire at that point. Elvis was so nervous that night that he actually shed tears on the back steps of the Shell before the show. Sam Phillips found him there, pacing and stuttering and panicking. Sam had to talk him off the ledge. And Elvis performed that night and the crowd went wild.

July 5, 1954, during a moment of letting off steam during a frustrating and seemingly unproductive recording session, Elvis busted loose. As a joke really. As a way to relax himself. But also as a way to say, “Here is who I really am.” And Sam was there to record it.

That’s the explanation of what happened. There is still so much more that cannot be explained. It could have been a fluke. It could have been a one-shot deal. It wasn’t. They had tapped into the Mother Lode.


Where Elvis stood when he recorded “That’s All Right” on July 5, 1954

And here it is. The Rosetta Stone. The track that started it all. The track that has in it all of those who came before, the black and white artists whom Elvis revered, worshiped, listened to, admired, the whole of the culture he had absorbed.

Posted in Music, On This Day | Tagged | 13 Comments

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014); directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

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I reviewed A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night for Rogerebert.com, and put it on my Top Movies of the year list.

It weaves some kind of weird spell, with its genre mix of vampire-horror, family-angst-drama, 1950s gearhead/rebel-kids, and Spaghetti Westerns (with lots of Ennio Morricone in the soundtrack, interspersed with Iranian pop songs: maybe the first time that has happened in the history of movie soundtracks?). It’s not just that the film looks so good, although director Ana Lily Amirpour is indeed in love with her images. Somehow her love does not become a fetish. Each gorgeous haunting image serves a purpose and they all slowly accumulate to create a mood of dread. There were some critics who thought she lingered too long on some shots, reveling in her own artistry a bit too much. I can understand that criticism and point of view, but for me – the lingering quality works, and the mood created by those lingering shots is extremely effective. There are images shown in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night that I have never seen before, and that’s saying something, since there is very little that is new under the sun. But a vampire skating down the middle of an empty road, her burqa billowing out behind her? That’s new. A black-and-white Farsi-language vampire film? That’s new.

Aside from the stunning imagery, the film exerts a kind of mysterious emotional power, released through the images, through the placement of figures in the frame and the tension between them. The moments of tenderness (and there are not many) are breath-taking.

And it’s fun to watch a new director, in love with her own creativity and visual power. I really look forward to seeing what she does next.

Here’s a series of shots I love, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Every shot in the film is beautiful, and well-chosen.

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On This Day: 1826

It was July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of July 4, 1776.

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, old men by that point, had been invited to attend celebrations in honor of the day, but due to illness both had sent their regrets and also best wishes, saying they would not be able to attend. Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the mayor of Washington, declining the invitation, ended as follows:

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition and persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government … All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God. These are the grounds of hope for others; for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

Adams was too ill to put pen to paper. The light was going out. For both of them.

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These two men, long estranged due to political differences, (Jefferson referring, in public, to “political heresies” among some of his colleagues, a dig at Adams – the breaking point for the overly sensitive Adams) had finally reconciled. The reconciliation had been engineered by Benjamin Rush, who thought it a shame that these two great patriots, once dear friends, would go to their graves without making up. Benjamin Rush had a dream that Adams and Jefferson became friends again (I wonder if he really had that dream? Or if it was just a fabrication in order to move things along). Rush wrote to Adams,

“And now, my dear friend, permit me again to suggest to you to receive the olive branch which has thus been offered to you by the hand of a man who still loves you. Fellow laborers in erecting the great fabric of American independence! … embrace – embrace each other!”

Adams and Jefferson began to exchange letters, and the correspondence lasted over a period of 12-years, a correspondence that is a must-read: The Adams-Jefferson Letters.

Rush’s dream ended up being prophetic and Adams said so himself: “your prophecy fulfilled! You have worked wonders! …. In short, the mighty defunct Potentates of Mount Wollaston and Monticello by your sorceries … are again in being.” (Adams was always more of an expressive gusher than Jefferson.)

Rush wrote back to Adams, his excitement apparent:

I rejoice in the correspondence which has taken place between you and your old friend Mr. Jefferson. I consider you and him as the North and South Poles of the American Revolution. Some talked, some wrote, and some fought to promote and establish it but you and Mr. Jefferson thought for us all.

Cut to years later: 1826.

On the same day … which happened to be July 4 … which happened to be the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence … John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died. Within hours of each other.

David McCullough writes in John Adams:

That John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had died on the same day, and that it was, of all days, the Fourth of July, could not be seen as a mere coincidence: it was a “visible and palpable” manifestation of “Divine favor,” wrote John Quincy Adams in his diary that night, expressing what was felt and would be said again and again everywhere the news spread.

John Adams’ last words were either “Jefferson … still lives.” or “Jefferson … survives.”

You could interpret it many ways and that’s what I love about it. His old nemesis, outlasting him. Or feeling hopeful that TJ was still out there. It’s great, either way.

Adams had no way of knowing that Jefferson had actually died a couple of hours earlier, which makes this an even better story. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Thomas Jefferson’s last words are in dispute, but there are enough similarities to suggest that something along these lines occurred. (And these actually weren’t his final words – maybe they should be called his second to final words. His penultimate words.)

According to Robley Dunglison, the attending physician, Jefferson dozed through the day of July 3rd, and woke up in the early evening, saying as he awoke, “Is it the Fourth?”

Dunglison told Jefferson that it soon would be.

Nicholas Trist, married to Jefferson’s granddaughter, remembers it this way: Jefferson woke and said, “This is the Fourth?” Trist remembers pretending not to hear the question, because he didn’t want to tell Jefferson that it was still only the 3rd of July. But Jefferson asked again, “This is the Fourth?” Trist caved, and nodded, and he felt very bad about his lie.

Virginia Randolph, Jefferson’s granddaughter, remembers it differently. She remembers Jefferson waking and saying, clearly, “This is the Fourth.” No question. A statement.

Jefferson faded out after that, and the next day, July 4th, he called out for help at one point and someone remembers him saying, “No, doctor. Nothing more.”

Did Jefferson wait? When he found out it was still just the Third of July, did he wait? In order to die on the Fourth?

I wouldn’t put it past him, he loved symmetry.

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Happy 4th of July

Marvin Gaye Sings Star Spangled Banner – 1983 All Star Game – Los Angeles, CA from Neil Gronowetter on Vimeo.

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In Stereo (2015)

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My second review of the week, the first being Faith of Our Fathers. I didn’t think Faith of Our Fathers was any good but it didn’t piss me off like In Stereo.

My review of In Stereo is now up at Rogerebert.com.

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Faith of Our Fathers (2015)

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The latest Christian movie from the studio that brought out God Is Not Dead. Faith of Our Fathers is an explicitly Christian film, but that’s no excuse for its lackluster presentation or its bad acting. There are plenty of Christian films that are amazing.

My review of Faith of Our Fathers is now up at Rogerebert.com.

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June 2015 Viewing Diary

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 7, “Emily” (1997; d. Kim Manners)
Very intense. Good Lord.

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 8, “Kitsunegari” (1998; d. Daniel Sackheim)
Ty Olsson as the green security guard. Hi, Benny from Supernatural! And Diana Scarwid! Sequel to “Pusher” in Season 3. Pretty creepy mind-control stuff.

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 9, “Schizogeny” (1998; d. Ralph Hemecker)
Chad Lindberg. Always good. Of course he’s Ash in Supernatural but I first saw him in The Rookie. And Katherine Isabelle, too! They’re teenagers! Supernatural reunion alert. Evil child psychiatrist with a ponytail.

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 10, “Chinga” (1998; d. Kim Manners)
Stephen King co-wrote. Holy mackerel! Takes place in Maine. Of course. Loved the teaser. Mulder watching porn in his office. Something’s not quite right about this episode. The tone is off.

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 11, “Kill Switch” (1998; d. Rob Bowman)
Extremely entertaining. I especially enjoy Scully showing up in his “dream” and Ninja-fighting all the sexy nurses in white.

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 12, “Bad Blood” (1998; d. Chris Bole)
A very entertaining Rashomon-inspired episode. I laughed out loud at this exchange: “I checked into the Davy Crockett Motel –” “It was the Sam Houston Motor Lodge.” Also: Luke Wilson!

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 13, “Patient X” (1998; d. Kim Manners)
Veronica Cartwright! Slightly difficult because there are no subtitles on Netflix and there’s a lot of Gulag Archipelago Russkie-speak. Excellent relationship episode: a sort of destabilizing role-reversal.

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 14, “The Red and the Black” (1998; d. Chris Carter)
It’s a maze and I’m lost in it now.

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 15, “Travelers” (1998; d. Chris Carter).
Frederic Lane, so excellent in so many films – from Zero Dark Thirty to Ordinary People – not to mention a crucial role in the early seasons of Supernatural – shows up here in a flashback, calling up the whole world of the HUAC and the Communist witch-hunt. It’s a good episode and the period details are very well done.

Iris (2015; d. Albert Maysles).
Maysles’ second-to-last film, a portrait (Maysels-style) of style icon, interior decorator, woman-about-town-with-the-huge-glasses, Iris Apfel. Ted and I went to see it and had a great time. It doesn’t have the profundity of some of his other films (Grey Gardens, Gimme Shelter and his final film – In Transit – which I would pick as one of his best films) – but it was sweet and entertaining. Regina, care to weigh in?? Ha!

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 16, “Mind’s Eye” (1998; d. Kim Manners)
Lily Taylor! Wonderful! And the kindly doctor who shot himself in the hardware store in Supernatural.

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 17, “All Souls” (1998; d. Allen Coulter)
Very Supernatural Season 4. Anderson does superb work here.

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 18, “The Pine Bluff Variant” (1998; d. Rob Bowman)
Bioterrorism threat writ large. Great shot of the movie theatre with all the dead people.

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 19, “Folie a Deux” (1998; d. Kim Manners)
Written by Vince Gilligan, “Folie a Deux” features some creepy effects involving enormous bug-like creatures. The bond between Scully and Mulder has solidified into something nearly transcendent. Are they the “folie a deux” of the title? It did cross my mind. They are becoming one.

Criminal Minds, Season 1, Episode 1, “Extreme Aggressors” (2005; d. Richard Shepard)
Garth from Supernatural shows up. He’s just a kid! I always got a kick out of this show, because I am a sick individual. Alex and I were watching an episode when I was staying with her out in Los Angeles, and she commented from under her blanket on the other couch: “This show should not be called Criminal Minds. It should be called Women Should Never Leave the House.

Criminal Minds, Season 1, Episode 2, “Compulsion” (2005; d. Charles Haid)
Mandy Patinkin was the draw for me, originally. His performance is so coiled, so focused. I was bummed when he left the show after one season. Years later, I read an interview with him and he was asked about Criminal Minds. He said he devoted himself to the world of behavioral analysis and serial killer research, and it got to him. He had nightmares. He couldn’t deal with it. He had to leave the show. That’s why his performance was so grounded. It was real for him.

The X-Files, Season 5, Episode 20, “The End” (1998; d. R.W. Goodwin).
Season 5 finale. The chess tournament that opens the episode was masterfully done. The entire episode is disturbing, ending with Mulder’s office in flames.

The X-Files Movie: Fight the Future (1998; d. Rob Bowman)
Part of my marathon watch with Keith. LOVED the movie. They almost kiss. Damn that bee-sting.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 1, “The Beginning” (1998; d. Rob Bowman)
Mimi Rogers is excellent in her recurring role. First episode filmed in Los Angeles, and you can perceive a definite shift. Suddenly there are lots of scenes in deserts, beaches, with much sunshine.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 2, “Drive” (1998; d. Kim Manners)
Bryan Cranston OWNS this episode.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 3, “Triangle” (1998; d. Chris Carter)
This ended up being a favorite episode (thus far). Broken up into three acts, each act (more or less) done in one take. So there’s that fun technical challenge to admire. But I also love the time-warp aspect of it, the tesseract element, as well as the fact that you get to see Scully in a flapper outfit – meaning, you get to see her beautiful body. Her clothing is usually so severe and dark and conservative. So to see her dancing around in a tight red dress, showing all this skin … I was like, “There you are!” Anyway, I loved this one.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 4, “Dreamland Part 1” (1998; d. Kim Manners)
I am in love with this two-parter where Mulder, through some problem with the space-time continuum, experiences a body-switch with Michael McKean (who is, not surprisingly, hilarious). Nora Dunn shows up as Mulder’s wife. Hilarious all around.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 5, “Dreamland Part 2” (1998; d. Michael Watkins)
Part 2 of the body-switch. There are a couple things here that delight: Mulder having to deal with being a father, and being totally unprepared for it. Having to deal with his furious and upset wife. Doing a mirror-dance with Michael McKean, both of them in their underwear, which has to be seen to be believed. Silly silly silly. I prefer silly.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 6, “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (1998; d. Chris Carter)
Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin! Awesome!

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 7, “Terms of Endearment” (1999; d. Rob Bowman)
A Rosemary’s Baby take-off and quite disturbing, especially because they ask you to basically sympathize with the devil. Like the Rolling Stones did.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 8, “The Rain King” (1999; d. Kim Manners)
Romantic. Adorable! Love this episode! Top 5, for sure.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 9, “S.R. 819” (1999; d. Daniel Sackheim)
Poor Walter Skinner. That disease was totes gross.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 10, “Tithonus” (1999; d. Michael Watkins)
Fascinating concept having to do with immortality. Written by Vince Gilligan.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 11, “Two Fathers” (1999; d. Kim Manners)
The great Veronica Cartwright re-appears, as does the mythology. The alien invasion is going along as planned until, holy mackerel, a rebel force of aliens arrives, fighting with the already-existing aliens, eliminating the Syndicate and wreaking all kinds of havoc. At least that’s what I THINK happened.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 12, “One Son” (1999; d. Rob Bowman)
Part 2 of the episode prior. More great use of Mimi Rogers’ character, as well as The Smoking Man. The conspiratorial feeling is very high. The Syndicate is no more.

Eden (2015; d. Mia Hansen-Love).
I love her work, in general, and this one is extremely ambitious, maybe her most ambitious. I really enjoyed it. My review is up at Rogerebert.com.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 13, “Aqua Mala” (1999; d. Rob Bowman)
Has there ever been a wetter episode of television? I am surprised nobody drowned. Or got electrocuted. Keith told me that fans did not really like this episode. Huh. I am a huge fan of it. I love the ensemble feeling of it, a group of random people holed up in one room, trying to survive. The power struggles, the humor, the suspicions growing, the need to improvise. All as the rain poured down. I really enjoyed it.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 14, “Monday” (1999; d. Kim Manners)
Excellent Ground Hog-ish day episode. It can’t hold a candle to Mystery Spot, Supernatural’s beloved Ground Hog Day inspired episode, but still: really interesting exploration of the concept.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 15, “Arcadia” (1999; d. Michael Watkins)
Scully and Mulder go under-cover as two suburbanites in a scary planned community. Great evocation of the fear/dread of a “normal” life like that (a dread I share), the conformist nature of it, the pressure to be happy/cheerful, despite uneasy undercurrents. Enjoyed the Scully/Mulder dynamic as well (what else is new). Pretending to be married. Sweater slung over his shoulders, arm around Scully’s shoulder – she’s finally like, “Stop pawing me.” He can’t stop.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 16, “Alpha” (1999; d. Peter Markle)
Evil huge dogs on the loose. A bit “meh.”

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 17, “Trevor” (1999; d. Rob Bowman)
“Should we arrest David Copperfield?”
“Yes. Yes, we should. But not for this.”

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 18, “Milagro” (1999; d. Kim Manners)
This episode is a psychological and emotional mind-fuck. Written for the great character actor John Hawkes, he is intense and creepy as the novelist who becomes obsessed with Scully. They have a scene in a church (he stalks her), where he tells her who she is, what he sees in her, what he has sensed – and watch Gillian Anderson’s close-up reaction in response. Incredible acting, of the RE-acting variety. What he says takes her breath away, terrifies her, moves her (he SEES that in me?), and repulses her – all at the same time.

Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 16, “Roadkill” (1999; d. Charles Beeson)
A re-watch for the re-cap, which is here. I love this episode.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 19, “The Unnatural” (1999; d. David Duchovny)
David Duchovny written and directed. I love baseball. And the final scene is a masterpiece, one of the most romantic scenes in the entire series.

Love & Mercy (2015; d. Bill Pohlad).
I absolutely loved this movie about Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. Thoughts here. It’s in my tentative ever-changing list of Best Films of 2015 so far. Other contenders (and many of these were made in 2014, but released in 2015, so that’s what I go by): Clouds of Sils Maria (Review here, Mad Max: Fury Road, In Transit (Albert Maysles’ final film – review here, Girlhood (review here), Ex Machina, The Ocean of Helena Lee (review here), Welcome to Me.

Goodbye First Love (2011; d. Mia Hansen-Løve).
Re-watched in preparation for her latest film, Eden, reviewed for Rogerebert.com. It’s a beautiful and poignant story about first love, told in Hansen-Love’s very unique style.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 20, “The Three of a Kind” (1999; d. Bryan Spicer)
A Lone Gunmen-centric episode and that is always a good thing. I love those guys.

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 21, “Field Trip” (1999; d. Rob Bowmans)
A Rashomon-ish (kind of) episode, where we see Scully and Mulder’s different interpretations/experiences during a hallucination. Fascinating psychologically because you see what Mulder needs from Scully, you see what Scully needs from Mulder, and neither of those things are really fore-fronted when they both are in their right minds. This episode, in some ways, reminded me a lot of Supernatural‘s “What Is and What Should Never Be,” in my Top 5 episodes of the entire series. I’ve seen it the most times, and it never gets old. The Supernatural episode is a similar exploration into entering into an alternate reality, and how seductive those paths not taken can be. The tricks your mind plays on you … to show you what you ultimately want … and how difficult it is to even perceive that that is an alternate reality. I loved “Field Trip.”

The X-Files, Season 6, Episode 22, “Biogenesis” (1999; d. Kim Manners)
Oh my God.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 1, “The Sixth Extinction” (1999; d. Kim Manners)
Thrilling.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 2, “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (1999; d. Michael Watkins)
Part II is even better. Again with the exploration of alternate reality, a road not taken. With a killer emotional final scene. This episode killed me.

Hondo (1953; d. John Farrow).
Yeah, I think I covered my thoughts on Hondo here.

Ex Machina (2015; d. Alex Garland).
Great and provoking film. My review here, and excellent conversation in the comments.

Catchfire (1990; d. Dennis Hopper).
What the hell happened. Great cast: Dennis Hopper, Jodie Foster, Dean Stockwell in a small part. My favorite actor! Catherine Keener shows up in one scene. But it is not a good movie. The romance part (which is what the story ultimately is about and leading towards) does not work at ALL. But it’s always good to see all of these people.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 3, “Millennium” (1999; d. Thomas Wright)
Well. A lot happens but all I care about is: OMG THEY KISS.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 4, “Rush” (1999; d. Robert Lieberman)
Tormented teenagers. I was mainly thrilled to see a young Nicky Aycox, who played such a crucial role in Supernatural. She’s totally different here, too.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 5, “The Goldberg Variation” (1999; d. Thomas Wright)
Shia LaBeouf as a sick child. Wow. Willie Garson, too! I first saw him in his recurring role in Sex and the City but guy has been around forever.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 6, “Orison” (2000; d. Rob Bowman)
Some pretty cool special effects in this episode, showing how this guy could slow down time. Beautifully done.

Siberiade, Parts III and IV (1979; d. Andrey Konchalovskiy).
Watched Parts 1 and 2 of this epic last month and finally got around to watching the final two parts as I was recovering from surgery. The entire movie tells the story of 20th century Russia through the focus on one village in Siberia. There are no scenes in Moscow or St. Petersberg. Those cities are very very far away. The village, though, is impacted by the gigantic events happening thousands of miles away. It’s a haunting and beautiful film, made in the final gasp of Communism before the Imperium crumbled. It’s honest, angry, and true. Terrifying, really. I highly recommend it.

Magic Mike (2012; d. Steven Soderbergh).
I love this movie. I love Channing Tatum. I love strippers, especially male strippers. One of the actors, Joe Manganiello, became so fascinated with the world of male strippers that he made a documentary about them. I reviewed for Rogerebert.com. And Channing Tatum is incredible. A natural. The way he flirts. It’s so friendly. Guys who don’t have the knack for it will never understand why the girls go for such men. It is because he treats women with kindness and a sort of egalitarian humor. The romance aspect of Magic Mike was fascinating. Michele and I are going to a screening for the sequel on Monday night, so I figured I should re-watch to get in the mood. As if the sexy trailer didn’t already put me in the mood. Soderbergh is great, but for me this is about the performances. Also the fact that Channing Tatum is filmed dancing in long takes, so we can perceive that it is actually HIM doing all that incredible movement. The movie is a celebration of the beauty of the male form and how much we straight ladies love it. More of that, please.

Felon (2008; d. Ric Roman Waugh).
Starring Stephen Dorff and Val Kilmer. About a guy (Dorff) imprisoned for murder (in what was obviously involuntary manslaughter.) It’s a pretty typical prison drama, elevated by Dorff’s raw honesty (he’s amazing) and Kilmer’s performance as a brutal murderer who will never get out of prison, who takes Dorff under his wing. Sam Shepard shows up. Harold Perinneau has a huge part (I love him, I was in a class with him and his wife – and she plays his wife in Felon as well – many years ago. Good kind people.) Nate Parker, whom I fell in love with in Great Debaters and then fell even more in love with in Beyond the Lights plays a rookie prison guard, horrified at the treatment of prisoners. Worth checking out, for the acting alone.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003; d. John Singleton).
Comfort food. Why do these movies work SO WELL? So many reasons. The presence of Paul Walker, who is friendly and open and has a good sense of humor about himself. The 100% diverse cast. The car chase scenes are amazing. Eva Mendes was wonderful and looked phenomenal in her white pants. The joshing-around of all the guys. Friendly and funny. The presence of women everywhere, not just as hot babes in bikinis, but also as race enthusiasts and outlaws. Just like the guys. It’s exhilarating and it’s kind of a world I want to live in, as weird as that sounds.

The Searchers (1956; d. Tom Ford).
Masterpiece. I cry through the last 10 minutes, every time. From the moment Wayne lifts Natalie Wood up into the air, her terror, her little helpless fists … to the final walk-away, seen through the door. I did this whole post on John Ford’s use of doorways in The Searchers.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 7, “The Amazing Maleeni” (2000; d. Thomas Wright)
This episode started off a mythical day with Keith where we watched 10 episodes in a row. When we emerged from the dark room, Dan – who had had a full day, had gone into the city, seen a show, had some lunch, returned home, did some writing, watched a movie – all as Keith and I did one thing all day – looked at us and said, “You two …” and then trailed off. We waited. Dan said, “You need help.”

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 8, “Signs & Wonders” (2000; d. Kim Manners)
Kim Manners in top form. Terrifying episode with scary backwoods religions, and lots and lots of snakes.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 9, “Sein und Zeit” (2000; d. Michael Watkins)
An extremely sad episode, with Mulder starting a search for a little girl who disappeared. He becomes convinced it is connected to his sister’s disappearance.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 10, “Closure” (2000; d. Kim Manners)
Part II. With a frankly emotional ending scene that lay me flat. I was in tears. The episode is about letting go.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 11, “X-Cops” (2000; d. Michael Watkins)
An entire X-Files episode done in the style of the reality TV series Cops? Yes, please. Hilarious.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 12, “First Person Shooter” (2000; d. Chris Carter)
A video-game episode. Interesting gender dynamics here. It’s a boy’s world, and the girls are just living it, but it is the girls, ultimately, who are in power. Who dominate. Who save. The boys don’t get it. The episode leaves that element of it unspoken but it is there. The blinders of boys who honestly believe they are Top of the Heap and can’t understand that there is more to life than that. They aren’t evil, these boys, just blinkered to some degree. I really liked this episode.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 13, “Theef” (2000; d. Kim Manners)
Billy Drago is superb as the “villain” in the piece. He is legitimately frightening. He has tapped into this guy’s objective in a very real way. He’s not phoning it on or sketching it in. It feels real and inhabited.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 14, “En Ami” (2000; d. Rob Bowman)
WEIRD. Written by William Davis (i.e. The Smoking Man). I found it fascinating and disturbing, Scully lured away from Mulder, hiding things, lying, keeping secrets. Just a reminder of how close these two have become.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 15, “Chimera” (2000; d. Cliff Bole)
A raven stalks the land. A bad omen. Yet another episode showing domesticity and suburbia and normal life in a sinister light. Mulder and Scully do not live in that world, and at this point, they COULDN’T live in that world.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 16, “All Things” (2000; d. Gillian Anderson)
Holy shit-balls. This episode wrecked me. I’ve lived it.

Inside Out (2015; d. Pete Docter)
A profound film. I sobbed openly in the darkness at one point. I loved how one of the main themes was that Sadness was side-lined, she was not allowed to be in charge of anything, Sadness is seen as bad or wrong in our psychotic culture. Inside Out puts it out there that Sadness is important, Sadness is necessary, Sadness breeds compassion (responding to someone who is devastated with chirpy chippy Joy is actually callous and cruel, however well-intentioned the chirpy person is). Sadness also intensifies Joy, when it comes. I loved the film.

Inherent Vice (2014; d. Paul Thomas Anderson)
My third time. It’s amazing how the shots stick in my brain, even though I’ve only seen it 3 times. I have memorized shot sequences in many other movies, through repetition and study and all that. But Inherent Vice‘s shot-construction stuck in my brain instantly. And the performances just get better and better with repetition, and I’m seeing more and more. I am in love with this film. It’s a masterpiece. And that final shot! Bittersweet nostalgia mixed with raging paranoia, the glance at the headlights in the rear view mirror. YES. The 1970s in a nutshell. America in a nutshell. My original post about Inherent Vice is here.

Magic Mike XXL (2015; d. Gregory Jacobs)
To die for. Just as good as the original. I read a comment on Facebook from some person I don’t know: “Everything that is good about this movie is due to the cinematography.” (Because Steven Soderbergh shot it.) BZZZZZT. WRONG ANSWER. The cinematography is, indeed, great, because it allows us to see all of these guys dancing – and it films it in a way that shows us they’re really doing all that. It’s not a quick-cut frenzy like so many dance films utilize. But I would say that “everything that is good about this movie” has to do with Channing Tatum’s presence, and the raucous hilarious ensemble around him and how they create the relationships between all those guys. Honestly, the director-focused auteur theory of movies is so limited. It means people can’t SEE properly. How can you watch that movie and credit its success ONLY to the cinematography? How can you not see the effectiveness of the ensemble acting and not perceive that that is really why the whole thing works? Ugh. Anyway, let’s not focus on that unpleasantness. I went to a screening in a packed theatre with my friend Michele and the majority of the audience were women. Who screamed and hooted and hollered throughout the film. It was a fabulous atmosphere. I’ve got more to say about this film and how friendly it is about female desire/sexuality … but I’ll get into that at another time. LOVED. IT. I’ve had a rough month. I went on a promising date with a guy I really liked that then went very wrong in the last 5 minutes. I’m disappointed, and the disappointment is exacerbated by the fact that three days after the date I had surgery on my lady-parts and have felt helpless and scared about it. I’m exhausted and disheartened. The disappointment of the date was then immediately followed by a sexual assault (by a stranger) that went down 5 minutes after the date ended. I can’t make this shit up. I walked away from the date thinking, “What the hell was THAT” and headed down to Port Authority, and 5 minutes later a man jumped out of the shadows, literally, and attacked me, grabbing my breasts, hard, and shouting in my face. I survived, obviously, punching the guy off me, shouting “Fuck off” in his face (all of this happened on crowded 8th Avenue) but it was upsetting (although the date was more upsetting – I think because with the assault I reacted in the moment and left nothing held back: I experienced it, I reacted appropriately, and it was over. With the date, I felt … deceived. And couldn’t really address it. So it cast a shadow. I crack myself up because once I got the guy off me, I kept walking down to Port Authority, thinking, “Okay, so where was I. That date. What the hell was THAT?” It was like getting a bug-bite. A slight annoyance.) Anyway, in the intervening time, however, somehow the entire experience has been looped together into one experience: Bad date (Raiders: “Bad dates”), sexual assault, something seriously wrong with lady-parts. I am trying to untangle it because they are all separate things, but they all happened at the same time so they feel connected. My sexuality under attack. Anyway, I’ve felt blue and beat up. Magic Mike XXL helped give me my Mojo and confidence back – or at least feel that buzz of desire and happiness again. I don’t mind going personal. That’s what movies can do. I walked out of the movie feeling good and happy. And sexed up. Life is good.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 17, “Brand X” (2000; d. Gillian Anderson)
Too many bugs, thankyouverymuch.

The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 18, “Hollywood A.D.” (2000; d. David Duchovny)
Ridiculous and funny. “Hollywood Babylon” in Supernatural obviously takes its cue from this episode, as well as the whole Carver Edlund book-series thing, with Supernatural being turned into first a television show and then a musical. Where Sam and Dean have to play themselves, or watch high school girls play them, and how strange it is. Here, Mulder and Scully are played by Garry Shandling (WTF) and Duchovny’s real-life wife at the time Tea Leoni. There’s one scene where Shandling, doing research for his character, asks Mulder, “Right or left?” Meaning penis placement. Mulder is mortified, amused, tuned into the surreal. But even funnier, in the background of the scene, Tea Leoni has asked Scully to show how she runs in those heels. And Leoni whizzes back and forth, back and forth, charging across the background, “practicing” her running. It’s hilarious.

Posted in Movies, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

You Said It, Eddie

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The Books: The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West 1911-17; “The Future of the Middle Classes: Women Who Are Parasites”

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On the essays shelf (yes, there are still more books to excerpt in my vast library. I can’t seem to stop this excerpts-from-my-library project. I started it in 2006!)

NEXT BOOK: The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West, 1911-17

Here, in this Nov. 1912 essay published in The Clarion, Rebecca West takes the gloves off. On second thought, I don’t think she ever had her gloves ON. The fight for enfranchisement was important. Rebecca West believed women needed to be full participants in the culture, and did not need men to protect them. Especially since the men who fought to block women voting ended up showing their real colors, their small-minded vicious natures. I am going to let such bozos decide my fate? Her life was punctuated by assassinations of world leaders, which she gets into at great length in her masterpiece Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. And as nations organized themselves into war machines, she resented it on a profound level. The world of men (politics, leadership) was in charge, but women were dragged along in the wake of these catastrophes, having no “say” in any of it because they couldn’t vote or lead. Rebecca West was not stupid and did not believe that if women were in charge things would go much better. But she certainly wanted to participate, fully, so that she felt somewhat in charge of her own fate. Voting is powerful that way. It may be somewhat illusory, but it gives you a sense of agency, and if your country is going to drag itself into war, and women’s husbands and brothers and fathers would march off to be slaughtered, then, yes, women had an interest in that. It affected them personally. And to have such gigantic events occur, repeatedly, without participation in the ballot box … was outrageous.

But West was always interested in multiple things at the same time. She was not a one-issue kind of person, and her “take” on things often differed from her suffragist sisters. When the suffragette movement moved in an anti-sex way, she balked. When the suffragettes focused only on domestic things, she clocked it as the middle-class bullshit that it was. There were real problems in working-class England, and the suffragette movement was mostly a middle-class one, with middle-class concerns. West burst onto the scene, guns blazing, with a Socialist mindset. She wasn’t just interested in getting the vote. She wanted the entire system to be changed, so that people got paid a decent wage, people had clean water to drink, people weren’t ground down by poverty. The vote was just a PART of the struggle and it was disheartening to her to see suffragettes focus only on the vote. Her columns were always a cry for MORE change.

And here, she takes on the middle-class woman, what she called – repeatedly – “parasite women.” Society was set up in a certain way, with certain assumptions. Victorian culture was a monolith, and its values were omnipresent and engrained. The middle-class woman was born and bred to be a “parasite” on society – far more than working-class women, who may have needed help from the larger culture, but were out there participating in the economy. Middle-class women sat at home, and organized church mission societies, and lived off the wealth of others. They did nothing. They had babies and kept a nice home and were never expected to work for a living. West could be vicious towards the parasite woman, although she understood why they had become parasites – the entire culture had a vested interest in keeping women out of the public sphere. But that time was over. Revolution was coming – social and economic – and women needed to walk out their front doors, put on their big-girl pants, and try to make it out there in the world, without protection of husband/father/whatever. The economic situation of England was too dire. Girls in that economic class may still have been raised with the expectation that they would marry someday, and be taken care of for the rest of their lives – but real world situations was making that an old-fashioned fantasy.

The working-class was suffering. The middle-class was shattering, and also finding it hard to support itself in the way that they thought they would be accustomed to. Certainties were breaking up, falling apart. The year is 1912. Just two years before Gavrilo Princip stepped out of the crowd in Sarajevo, his action cracking apart the entire edifice of the world, the final nail in the coffin to Victorian certainty about itself. West sensed something was coming. She didn’t know what it would be. But things were ending and it was not going to be pretty. Women needed to participate, fully. Society could no longer support them or protect them. That type of life was done. Middle-class women (and men) were, of course, the last ones to understand this, and they held on tightly to what they were accustomed to. West went after them, and after them hard, in column after column.

For her, suffrage was just one teeny part of the puzzle. The much bigger element was economic and social reform, and because she was educated and understood world history, she knew that that “reform” probably would not march forward in an orderly manner. She knew that bad times were coming and she was deeply concerned about the fact that middle-class women put their hands over their ears and eyes and refused to acknowledge it. She did not understand such passivity – she had always had to work for a living (and remember, she’s only about 19, 20 years old here). Whatever was coming was going to be huge, and she wanted women to gear up, be ready for it, throw themselves into the fray. All of them. Working-class women were already doing the lion’s share of the work. They had been working for generations. The fantasy of “little wife at home” was purely middle-class in origin. That world was about to end. West sensed it. And she sensed revolution of some kind would follow. Economic strife/change often lead to revolution. I mean witness the panic going on in Greece at this very moment!

Her piece here is a long one, but I’ll excerpt the opening bit. I love her analogy about the railyard at the bottom of the hill.

Excerpt from The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West, 1911-17: “The Future of the Middle Classes: Women Who Are Parasites”, by Rebecca West

Life ought not to be divided into watertight compartments. Apparently feminism seems a simple matter to many suffragettes, like floating a patent medicine. One advertises the principle of the equality of the sexes with immense vigor and publicity until the public begins to swallow it. As to the effect it has on the public the suffragette cares as little as the patent-medicine vendor. Indeed it is often explained at suffrage meetings that the women’s vote will have no appreciable effect on the social structure, and will simply act as a police des mouers to suppress the White Slave Traffic. It is strange that the middle-class woman, who forms the backbone of the suffrage societies, should believe that one can superimpose the emancipation of women on the social system as one sticks a halfpenny stamp on a postcard. For in the social developments consequent upon the emancipation of women she will probably play a great and decisive part.

For the middle-class woman comes of a class that is in a state of chaos. The present position of the middle classes may be symbolized by certain distracting disturbance of the residents of Hampstead. On a hillside starting at Church Row and extending down to the Finchley Road there is an area of immensely valuable house property. Those who dwell in Fitzjohn’s Avenue and the surrounding parts have arrived at the summit of the middle classes. After that they can only soar upwards to Park Lane. They have everything that money can reasonably be expected to buy, and certainly more than is good for them.

Yet at the bottom of the hillside there is a railways goods yard. That means a persistent and uproarious disturbance of the middle classes every night in the year. Engine whistles shriek, trains puff and rattle, men shout, and there is that particularly maddening reverberation of buffers all night long. Up in Fitzjohn’s Avenue members of the middle classes may be dying, and members of the middle classes may be being born – these last in the minority, for birth-rate is very low in such parts – but this infuriating disturbance goes on. There is also the uncomfortable circumstance that every now and then a shunter gets crushed or a boy gets mauled to death by a runaway capstan, but these things rarely come within the cognizance of Fitzjohn’s Avenue. Even without that the night is made hideous.

Now the people in Fitzjohn’s Avenue are the railway shareholders and directors. It was entirely on their shoulders to organize the railway system so that the good yards and sidings were at some distance from human habitation. It was their business to discover that all those vans that are shifted about are not really necessary: most of them work about six months out of a life of seventeen years, and spend the rest of the time wilting in sidings and being repaired. But they did not take the trouble. So now the world of work, which they refused to organize economically and justly, has its revenge on them by destroying their night’s rest.

There you get the position of the middle classes today. It used to be imagined in Victorian days that to be a member of the middle classes was to be in a position of perfect security. One rose from the working classes by the practice of what one Samuel Smiles called “self-help”; that consisted of practicing the baser Christian virtues in order to steal the job of the man above you. Thus one attained in the middle classes, and after an unexciting life, died, leaving a large middle-class family, perfectly confident that they, too, would have large middle-class families. There would, please God, always be a sufficient residuum of the self-helpless, idle, thriftless and drunken to do the work.

But now there is no such feeling of security. The special circumstances which helped the middle classes to this prosperity do not now operate. The wealth that flowed into England at the beginning of the last century was largely due to the fact that after the industrial revolution the manufacturer found himself in power over a vast reservoir of amenable labor. Trade unions were still illegal combinations, so the adult worker was cheap indeed, and cheaper still the labor of little children. Out of this slavery England sweated enough wealth to enable herself to resist Napoleon without unduly feeling the financial strain. Thus she was able to pursue her commercial way unruffled at the time her European rivals were hopelessly overcome by the Napoleonic Wars. Again, we see that the poor, in asking for a greater share of the national wealth, are neither thieves nor beggars, but simply workers presenting an account for services rendered.

But England has outlived these advantages. The European countries have recovered and, with wits sharpened by adversity, are formidable rivals. The middle-class man is hard hit by this readjustment of things. Moreover, his two errors of judgement are coming home to roost. First of these is the idea about the thriftlessness and worthlessness of the working classes. The working classes have rebelled against him; and they are so clever and so fit that they have got a good deal out of him already and they are going to get a lot more. Free education, free libraries, the Workmen’s Compensation Act – all such things as those come out of the middle-class man’s right-hand pocket. His other error of judgement, snobbishness, which makes him love all loves as one should only love the Lord, makes him feel deeply surprised when the rich and great do not assist him in his hour of need, but pick his left-hand pocket with their demands for rent for their overpriced and capriciously disposed-of land. Between them he is plucked very clean. That is, of course, only from his own point of view. But it is perfectly true that there is a very black future for the middle-class man. There is not the slightest prospect of his being able to live up to his present standard of comfort for more than one generation.

That means all hands to the pumps. The middle-class woman will have to come out and work for her living. Not as the exception, as it was ten to twenty years ago; not in the minority, as it is now; but as the general rule. The middle-class woman will have to stop being a parasite.

There is no question that she will be able to compete equally with men. But what will happen next? What will be the effect on the labor market?

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Happy Birthday, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “Voici mon secret. Il est tres simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”

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Today is the birthday of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. His writing meant a great deal to me when I was 15, 16, and I have never forgotten that.

Here is an extraordinary excerpt from Wind, Sand and Stars – a book I last read in high school, when I was in my Richard Bach-airplane-writing-soulmate-search phase. Listen to this prose.

And yet we have all known flights when of a sudden, each for himself, it has seemed to us that we have crossed the border of the world of reality; when, only a couple of hours from port, we have felt ourselves more distant from it than we should feel if we were in India; when there has come a premonition of an incursion into a forbidden world whence it was going to be infinitely difficult to return.

Thus, when Mermoz first crossed the South Atlantic in a hydroplane, as day was dying he ran foul of the Black Hole region, off Africa. Straight ahead of him were the tails of tornadoes rising minute by minute gradually higher, rising as a wall is built; and then the night came down upon these preliminaries and swallowed them up; and when, an hour later, he slipped under the clouds, he came out into a fantastic kingdom.

Great black waterspouts had reared themselves seemingly in the immobility of temple pillars. Swollen at their tops, they were supporting the squat and lowering arch of the tempest, but through the rifts in the arch there fell slabs of light and the full moon sent her radiant beams between the pillars down upon the frozen tiles of the sea. Through these uninhabited ruins Mermoz made his way, gliding slantwise from one channel of light to the next, circling round those giant pillars in which there must have rumbled the upsurge of the sea, flying for four hours through these corridors of moonlight toward the exit from the temple. And this spectacle was so overwhelming that only after he had got through the Black Hole did Mermoz awaken to the fact that he had not been afraid.

In 1939, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry met Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

What follows is just one excerpt from War Within & Without: Diaries And Letters Of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1939-1944, that describes the weekend encounter with Saint-Exupéry.

The volume opens with the Lindberghs returning to America in 1939 after a couple of years living in England and France. 1939 was a dreadful year, and Europe was hunkering down for war. The Lindberghs settled down on Long Island. Charles Lindbergh was causing an uproar, through his involvement with America First, and much of Anne’s diaries at this time were an anxious apologia for his views. Most of Anne’s family lived in New Jersey, so she was thrilled to be back close to them, and also thrilled that her children of school age could experience American schools for the first time.

Within a month of their return, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry comes to visit the family. The two aviators had never met. Saint-Exupéry had written an introduction to one of Anne’s books and had made an observation about her that cut Anne to the core, something about her being like a little kid, running eagerly to catch up to the grown-ups. “He had seen all that in me?” she thought, almost embarrassed. She felt, even before she met him, that he was a kindred spirit. The entries of his brief stay with the Lindberghs (complete with multiple car breakdowns) goes on for pages and pages and pages. Perhaps Anne was feeling a bit isolated in her own marriage. She didn’t have an affair with Saint-Exupéry, at least not an actual physical affair, but it is clear that she has fallen head over heels for him. Something has opened up in her in her encounter with this man. Something profound. When he disappeared in 1944, she grieved it as hard as if she had known him all her life, even though she had only spent one weekend in his presence. More than anything, what she felt when she met him was a sense of recognition, and the Saint-Exupéry entries are some of the most romantic things she has ever written.

Her feelings for Saint-Exupéry were so strong that Charles admits he feels a little bit jealous. Although there was a language barrier, and Anne was in charge of translating, her French wasn’t that good, so the three people communicated as best they could.

Excerpt from War Within & Without: Diaries And Letters Of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1939-1944

Sunday, August 6th

M. St.-Ex comes down while we are all at breakfast and tells us with some amusement that when he went to bed last night he didn’t notice there were two doors to his room. This morning he got up, went out the wrong door, and could not find his way about. “The bathroom was the second door on the right …. but there is no rightje suis fou!” Land comes in – a cherub with golden hair. St.=Ex looks at him, overcome, it seems to me, with his beauty.

Jon takes him out to see the tortues and talks French to him. “Mais, il parle trés bien le français!” says St.-Ex, delighted.

We talk all morning on the porch, C. and he on Aviation, Germany’s strength, England’s next move, France’s inherent strength, war tactics. Of war: it is so terrible, I say, it must be avoided at almost any price, and he agrees.

Also, C. tells the Göring lion story and at the crucial point Land hands St.-Ex a turtle, which proceeds to act. “Tout a fait comme le lion de Göring!

There is really nothing to say at this point but “Heureusement que vous n’êtes pas dans un uniforme splendide!

I ask him to write in our copy of Wind, Sand and Stars, which he does – something polite besides his name – and C. says then that I must write something in Listen! the Wind, which we have given him. I can think of nothing to write except, “In gratitude for the adventures he has given us” and then a quotation from Whitehead on adventure (in English, of course).

We go swimming at 12, and then C. and I take him to his friends outside of Huntington. I don’t know exactly how we find the way, because he is talking all the time about a crash he was in, under water and almost drowned. (He has been in an incredible number of crashes – bad ones – but I don’t see how a man who is that much of an artist can fly at all.)

We ask him if he will come back again and he says he’d love to come back for supper. So we plan to come for him at 5. C. and I talk about him, going back. I am convinced he is going to be killed if he goes on flying. C. talks of the impossibility of being absolutely first-rate – perfection in the world of action – and being anything else (at the same moment). And I suddenly remake an old discovery. It is the striving after perfection that makes one an artist. It is the sense that one is imperfect, unfulfilled, unfinished. One attempts by a superhuman effort to fill the gap, to leap over it, to finish it in another medium. And one creates a third and separate thing: “Adventure rarely reaches its predetermined end. Columbus never reached China. But he discovered America.”

The stutterers (or those who cannot speak well or quickly like me) write. But it is not enough to be a stutterer. One must also have glimpsed a vision of perfect articulateness which presses one on to compensate for one’s inadequacy.

After a quiet lunch I lie in the sun, try to comfort my body after these intense hours of living only in the mind.

Then we go for St.-Ex at 5. He is doing card tricks on the porch with his friends. One man is so ill that it makes me tremble to be near him, to feel his tremulous nearness to Death. I am so conscious of him and his lassitude – life flowing out of him and the gap between us and him, and also of his wife’s tired, carved, sharp and patient anguish – like an old hurt – that I can hardly pay attention to anything else. Is there as much of a gap between life and death.

Then we come home and swim – only I can hardly immerse myself in it; my mind is going so hard, is so quickened, that I can only think of more and more things to say. I can only feel horizons breaking and then breaking again in my mind, like the locked ice pack in the spring – pieces breaking off and flowing away, with a tremendous roaring.

And all the time the sense of life being so precious and running away so fast that not one fraction of a second must be lost.

Coming home in the car we talked – he and C., really, I translating – of missing the desert, of desert weather. How danger and solitude are the two factors that go to form a man’s character, that do the most for him. There is a kind of mountaintop, clear, cold-air austerity about him that reminds me of Carrel or of a monk, dedicated to something – what?

He says he can talk to us as to his own family, and how quickly one recognizes that one is on the same level. “Je comprends tout ce que vous dites.” (“I understand all you say.”) “There are the people one can talk to and there are the people one cannot talk to – there is no middle ground.” The three greatest human beings he has met in his life are three illiterates, he says, two Brittany fishermen and a farmer in Savoy.

“Yes,” I say, “it has nothing to do with speech – quick brilliant speech – though one thinks it has when one is young.”

“Oh, yes,” he says, “mistrust always the quick and brilliant mind.”

And then he goes on to say that the great of the earth are those who leave silence and solitude around themselves, their work and their life, let it ripen of its own accord.

I believe this so utterly that it is like my own thought.

Of the Despiaur head he says that it is a chef d’oeuvre because it does not say it all the first time one looks at it but bit by bit. And that he had thought from my writing that I could sculpt!

We have supper on the porch – with a very red sea and very green trees – and they talk about the state of France, what is wrong with it, various ills, alcoholism. We talk about Dr. Carrel, too, and how they must meet. (And we get bitten by mosquitoes). A little June bug gets caught in my hair. I take it out hastily, a little afraid, and then put it on the table. (If you kill it … I think.) But he picks it up gently and looks at it. “It is trying hard to take off,” he says, and when it does, only to land on his arm. “It was hardly worth taking off for such a short flight!”

Then we walk down to the beach. He talks about the south of France (the interior), where he says we must go and which we would like, and people he would like us to meet.

I say of La Grande Chartreuse: “Quelle vie admirable!

And we talk of Illiec, where we want him to come. Though in this changing world I fear neither of those things will come true. We are living in a dream interlude – before what cataclysm, I don’t know but fear.

We walk home through the heavy drowning sea of cricket song.

St.-Ex talks of Baudelaire, his life, his poetry. He says that Baudelaire was great not for what he said but because he was one of those who knew best how to knot words, and he recites some of his poetry to me and goes on, about his theory of style – that the same words arranged differently became banal, did not mean the same thing. The unexpressed finds expression in style, rhythm, etc. – words carry only half the freight. Of how inverted words sometimes gave quality.

Yes, I say, it is the breaking of rules, but cannot explain all I mean by that, which is much more – a union of the familiar and the strange which makes for an artistic creation – in fact, for any creation.

Then he talks of the poetic image – which is, technically – very exciting. He describes how in comparing things one has one object and another object and a bridge with which they are linked – so-and-so is like so-and-so. Like is the bridge. But sometimes one has no bridge. The mind must vault the gap, one’s mind creates the bridge. It creates a new thing entirely. A whole new civilization – in the case of “Les Archevêqyes de la mer” one’s mind imagines a whole hierarchy of things, an imaginary world.

“But perhaps this doesn’t interest you?”

“Oh, yes … yes!”

Then he takes the example of the stereoscope – two pictures of the same thing taken from a different angle – you put them together and the mind makes the adjustment. The mind supplies a third picture.

I tell him about the missionary in Baker Lake, translating the 23rd Psalm – the Lord is my shepherd – to the Eskimos in terms of reindeer and whale blubber. He asks about the Eskimos – where they interesting people? I talk a little about their rigid codes. C. disagrees and cites their changing of wives.

Yes, I say, but for utilitarian reasons, not for pleasure. Is that more moral? C. asks. Of course, St.-Ex and I answer together, looking at C.

I hardly know, looking back, which are my thoughts and which his, for he would start a train of thought and I would go off on a line of my own, jumping ahead, finishing his thought, whether correctly or not I can’t tell.

All of this, of course, is not accurately stated, because it has been translated and filtered through my mind. I wonder if it would not be the same if I met any of the people whose minds have touched mine in books – Rilke, or Whitehead (but no, I could not talk to him), V. Woolf (when I most admired her), L.H. Myers (for his preface to The Root and the Flower and Strange Glory), Thornton Wilder, for his Our Town. The man who wrote They Came Like Swallows. Victoria London for Jenny in February Hill. Perhaps my excitement comes because so rarely do I tap that world (my world – even if I am not a master in it – world of artistic vision). I have not yet found my circle, my friends, my nation. If this is true then “O brave new world, that has such people in ‘t!”

What a commentary it is on human communication in this world. How impossible it is to know other people. When one finds a person who has the same thought as yours you cry out for joy, you go and shake him by the hand. Your heart leaps as though you were walking in a street in a foreign land and you heard your own language spoken, or your name in a room full of strangers.

We get ginger ale and milk and C. and he talk on what he wants to do in this country and see – planes, factories, etc. St.-Ex says he wants to see the Grand Canyon!

Then to bed, very tired. What a comfort is C.’s unspoken understanding. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Littleprince

And finally I will post what is probably the most famous chapter of The Little Prince – the chapter where the prince meets the fox. I’ll post it in English – but then I also must post it in French, because I first read it in French in high school French class, and the English translation is just not as beautiful. It is meant to be heard in French.

Here is Chapter 21:

It was then that the fox appeared.
“Good morning,” said the fox.
“Good morning,” the little prince responded politely, although when he turned around he saw nothing.
“I am right here,” the voice said, “under the apple tree.”
“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.”
“I am a fox,” said the fox.
“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”
“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”
“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince.
But, after some thought, he added:
“What does that mean– ‘tame’?”
“You do not live here,” said the fox. “What is it that you are looking for?”
“I am looking for men,” said the little prince. “What does that mean– ‘tame’?”
“Men,” said the fox. “They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?”
“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean– ‘tame’?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”
“‘To establish ties’?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”
“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower… I think that she has tamed me…”
“It is possible,” said the fox. “On the Earth one sees all sorts of things.”
“Oh, but this is not on the Earth!” said the little prince.
The fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.
“On another planet?”
“Yes.”
“Are there hunters on this planet?”
“No.”
“Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?”
“No.”
“Nothing is perfect,” sighed the fox.
But he came back to his idea.
“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life . I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the colour of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…”
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
“Please– tame me!” he said.
“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me…”
“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the little prince.
“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me– like that– in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day…”
The next day the little prince came back.
“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you… One must observe the proper rites…”
“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.
“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all.”
So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near–
“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”
“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…”
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“Then it has done you no good at all!”
“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.” And then he added:
“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”
The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”
And the roses were very much embarrassed.
“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you– the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.
And he went back to meet the fox.
“Goodbye,” he said.
“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose…”
“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

petitprince.bmp

Okay, so here comes the French!

Chapter XXI

C’est alors qu’apparut le renard.

-Bonjour, dit le renard.

-Bonjour, répondit poliment le petit prince, qui se tourna mais ne vit rien.

-Je suis là, dit la voix, sous le pommier.

-Qui es-tu? dit le petit prince. Tu es bien joli…

-Je suis un renard, dit le renard.

-Viens jouer avec moi, lui proposa le petit prince. Je suis tellement triste…

-Je ne puis pas jouer avec toi, dit le renard. Je ne suis pas apprivoisé.

-Ah! Pardon, fit le petit prince.

Mais après réflexion, il ajouta :

-Qu’est-ce que signifie “apprivoiser”?

-Tu n’es pas d’ici, dit le renard, que cherches-tu?

-Je cherche les hommes, dit le petit prince. Qu’est-ce que signifie “apprivoiser”?

-Les hommes, dit le renard, ils ont des fusils et ils chassent. C’est bien gênant! Il élèvent aussi des poules. C’est leur seul intérêt. Tu cherches des poules?

-Non, dit le petit prince. Je cherche des amis. Qu’est-ce que signifie “apprivoiser”?

-C’est une chose trop oubliée, dit le renard. Ça signifie “Créer des liens…”

-Créer des liens?

-Bien sûr, dit le renard. Tu n’es encore pour moi qu’un petit garçon tout semblable à cent mille petits garçons. Et je n’ai pas besoin de toi. Et tu n’a pas besoin de moi non plus. Je ne suis pour toi qu’un renard semblable à cent mille renards. Mais, si tu m’apprivoises, nous aurons besoin l’un de l’autre. Tu seras pour moi unique au monde. Je serai pour toi unique au monde…

-Je commence à comprendre, dit le petit prince. Il y a une fleur…je crois qu’elle m’a apprivoisé…

-C’est possible, dit le renard. On voit sur la Terre toutes sortes de choses…

-Oh! ce n’est pas sur la Terre, dit le petit prince. Le renard parut très intrigué :

-Sur une autre planète ?

-Oui.

-Il y a des chasseurs sur cette planète-là ?

-Non.

-Ça, c’est intéressant! Et des poules ?

-Non.

-Rien n’est parfait, soupira le renard.

Mais le renard revint à son idée :

-Ma vie est monotone. Je chasse les poules, les hommes me chassent. Toutes les poules se ressemblent, et tous les hommes se ressemblent. Je m’ennuie donc un peu. Mais si tu m’apprivoises, ma vie sera comme ensoleillée. Je connaîtrai un bruit de pas qui sera différent de tous les autres. Les autres pas me font rentrer sous terre. Le tien m’appellera hors du terrier, comme une musique. Et puis regarde! Tu vois, là-bas, les champs de blé? Je ne mange pas de pain. Le blé pour moi est inutile. Les champs de blé ne me rappellent rien. Et ça, c’est triste! Mais tu a des cheveux couleur d’or. Alors ce sera merveilleux quand tu m’aura apprivoisé! Le blé, qui est doré, me fera souvenir de toi. Et j’aimerai le bruit du vent dans le blé…

Le renard se tut et regarda longtemps le petit prince :

-S’il te plaît…apprivoise-moi! dit-il.

-Je veux bien, répondit le petit prince, mais je n’ai pas beaucoup de temps. J’ai des amis à découvrir et beaucoup de choses à connaître.

-On ne connaît que les choses que l’on apprivoise, dit le renard. Les hommes n’ont plus le temps de rien connaître. Il achètent des choses toutes faites chez les marchands. Mais comme il n’existe point de marchands d’amis, les hommes n’ont plus d’amis. Si tu veux un ami, apprivoise-moi!

-Que faut-il faire? dit le petit prince.

-Il faut être très patient, répondit le renard. Tu t’assoiras d’abord un peu loin de moi, comme ça, dans l’herbe. Je te regarderai du coin de l’oeil et tu ne diras rien. Le langage est source de malentendus. Mais, chaque jour, tu pourras t’asseoir un peu plus près…

Le lendemain revint le petit prince.

-Il eût mieux valu revenir à la même heure, dit le renard. Si tu viens, par exemple, à quatre heures de l’après-midi, dès trois heures je commencerai d’être heureux. Plus l’heure avancera, plus je me sentirai heureux. À quatre heures, déjà, je m’agiterai et m’inquiéterai; je découvrira le prix du bonheur! Mais si tu viens n’importe quand, je ne saurai jamais à quelle heure m’habiller le coeur…il faut des rites.

-Qu’est-ce qu’un rite? dit le petit prince.

-C’est quelque chose trop oublié, dit le renard. C’est ce qui fait qu’un jour est différent des autres jours, une heure, des autres heures. Il y a un rite, par exemple, chez mes chasseurs. Ils dansent le jeudi avec les filles du village. Alors le jeudi est jour merveilleux! Je vais me promener jusqu’à la vigne. Si les chasseurs dansaient n’importe quand, les jours se ressembleraient tous, et je n’aurais point de vacances.

Ainsi le petit prince apprivoisa le renard. Et quand l’heure du départ fut proche :

-Ah! dit le renard…je pleurerai.

-C’est ta faute, dit le petit prince, je ne te souhaitais point de mal, mais tu as voulu que je t’apprivoise…

-Bien sûr, dit le renard.

-Mais tu vas pleurer! dit le petit prince.

-Bien sûr, dit le renard.

-Alors tu n’y gagnes rien!

-J’y gagne, dit le renard, à cause de la couleur du blé.

Puis il ajouta :

-Va revoir les roses. Tu comprendras que la tienne est unique au monde. Tu reviendras me dire adieu, et je te ferai cadeau d’un secret.

Le petit prince s’en fut revoir les roses.

-Vous n’êtes pas du tout semblables à ma rose, vous n’êtes rien encore, leur dit-il. Personne ne vous a apprivoisé et vous n’avez apprivoisé personne. Vous êtes comme était mon renard. Ce n’était qu’un renard semblable à cent mille autres. Mais j’en ai fait mon ami, et il est maintenant unique au monde.

Et les roses étaient gênées.

-Vous êtes belles mais vous êtes vides, leur dit-il encore. On ne peut pas mourir pour vous. Bien sûr, ma rose à moi, un passant ordinaire croirait qu’elle vous ressemble. Mais à elle seule elle est plus importante que vous toutes, puisque c’est elle que j’ai arrosée. Puisque c’est elle que j’ai abritée par le paravent. Puisque c’est elle dont j’ai tué les chenilles (sauf les deux ou trois pour les papillons). Puisque c’est elle que j’ai écoutée se plaindre, ou se vanter, ou même quelquefois se taire. Puisque c’est ma rose.

Et il revint vers le renard :

-Adieu, dit-il…

-Adieu, dit le renard. Voici mon secret. Il est très simple : on ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

-L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux, répéta le petit prince, afin de se souvenir.

-C’est le temps que tu a perdu pour ta rose qui fait ta rose si importante.

-C’est le temps que j’ai perdu pour ma rose…fit le petit prince, afin de se souvenir.

-Les hommes on oublié cette vérité, dit le renard. Mais tu ne dois pas l’oublier. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé. Tu es responsable de ta rose…

-Je suis responsable de ma rose…répéta le petit prince, afin de se souvenir.

70DEE1546

Voici mon secret. Il est tres simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

prince.bmp

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