Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Awakening • The Womb of the Collective Unconscious

A dream of power just before waking: I'm conducting the Eroica Symphony. Oddly enough, though, the music is different. It ends in a bizarre rush of triplets, different from the actual ending.

Apart from writing a few trilogies and operas and conducting and designing the poster etc etc. I recently found the time to read the final Harry Potter book. It's pretty good, especially if you can sort of ignore J.K.'s various stylistic insensitivities. Indeed, the whole series, despite all the poopoos from literary detractors, works very well on its own terms. Whether it's a children's literary masterpiece or not, I don't know. Most such masterpieces -- the Alice books, Tolkien, C.S Lewis, Pullman, et al, are not this badly written. But a case could made that, for instance, "The Wizard of Oz" is. There is absolutely no denying the fact that the series has presented The Primal Myth of Western Civilization (the orphan who must learn who he really is, the ancient sage who guides and must die (yet continues to guide from beyond the grave), the unassailable fortress of darkness, the weapons that only the hero can wield, etc etc) in one incredibly accessible package. And I think that it works precisely because J.K. didn't reach for her Joseph Campbell or her Jung, but actually extracted the entire tale, whole and still bleeding, from the great womb of the collective unconscious. And that is a talent that many more "literate" writers ought to envy, because in a very real sense that is what it's actually all about.

Sometimes, though, I wish I hadn't read as many fantasy novels, anthropology books, and analyses of mythoses. Then the books wouldn't be so damned predictable. For all its hyped up hush-hush revelations, I have to confess that the last book didn't have a single surprise in it for me. But you know, I didn't mind that. We don't watch "Star Wars" to be amazed that Leia is Luke's sister -- we ought to already know that from our Wagner. We know that Dumbledore will die and yet still be around -- we've all seen "Star Wars." We enjoy these works in the same way that we enjoy a celebration of the mass: it's a re-creation of a ritual that goes all the way back to the time we lived in caves.

Despite the books' raw power, though, there's a part of me that says that execution still counts. Rowling's prose contains too many howlers for me to revisit it too often. I read the Alice books every year; how often will I read this bloated heptalogy? Still, I will hang on to my set. My children's children, and all that. If nothing else, it's evidence of an un-ignorable cultural phenomenon of the early 21st century. (I also have a complete set of Series I Garbage Pail Kids.) Pity I was too stupid to buy a first printing of No. 1.

Going to the lavatory will now feel like an empty, desolate experience without the next chapter of HP7 to look forward to. However, I've started a truly BRILLIANT children's book ... "The Neddiad", by Daniel Pinkwater. Now, THAT man is a genius. Every sentence is a little miracle.


And so, on to BUTTERFLY. The director, the very imaginative Henry Akina, has told me that he wants to tell this story from a Japanese viewpoint, using techniques of kabuki and such. This week we have been signing up ninjas.

No, they are not going to move silently through the audience assassinating my critics.

These are actually those people in black who are supposed to be "invisible" in kabuki and actually accomplish all the stage effects ... the moving of the screens, the magical opening of the fan, and so on.

Perhaps they can also move my baton while I stand there just thinking about the tempo.

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