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This place matters

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Not with a Bang but a Whimper

In the movie Music and Lyrics, which I totally liked, two characters are debating the literary merits of songwriting. Drew Barrymore's character, an uber-educated English major, argues that writing pop songs is selling out. Hugh Grant's character (a waggish and charming Brit - a big stretch for the actor) is a washed-up 80s pop star. In a speech which I won't do justice to, he says that songwriting is real and important, that it impacts the lives of so many more people than literature, and besides, the greatest works of literature can't evoke the same feeling as "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day." I don't have the quote quite right, but every Blockbuster in the country has my picture up behind the counter.
I have burst into tears, more than once, when Bruce sings "Together, Wendy we can live with the sadness/I love you with all the madness in my soul." Never once has one of Shakespeare's sonnets moved me to tears. The first time I read TS Eliot's "The Hollow Men," I got shivers from my scalp to my toes. But "Tiny Dancer" stops me dead in my tracks every time I hear it and I have to stop and listen, though I've heard it at least a thousand or two times in my life. And while it's true that I read East of Eden at least once a year, I could listen to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" every day for the rest of my life and it would still quicken my pulse every time.
Interesting, that. Then again, when I feel the surging swell in my chest that I get every time I hear the Saint Crispin's monologue from Henry V, I know that I am feeling the same swell that groundlings, kings, actors, and English majors have been feeling for four hundred years. 

Photo courtesy of the great Andrew Tobias Line

And maybe one of the best examples of writing in the English language.

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, 
From this day to the ending of the world, 
But we in it shall be remembered- 
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; 
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me 
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, 
This day shall gentle his condition; 
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed 
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, 
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks 
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lots of movies hit my soft spot... even on the millionth time I see them. In Big Daddy when the childrens services guys come and take "Frankenstein" away from Sonny, I've seen it a ton, but I always end up choking back tears. It brings out a fear that is always in the back of my mind that someone could take the loves of my life away... an irrational fear granted, but still a fear.

Music has always had a really strong effect on me too. There's nothing else that I can lay back, close my eyes and within minutes feel all my stress just melt away (okay, we'll put snuggling with my wife as a VERY close second). Of all mankind's accomplishments, I think we can say it is one of our greatest.