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January 19, 1969 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1969-01-19

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Sunday, January 19, 19%

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Pag

Sunday, January 19, 1969 THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Pace

A merican forms,
twenty years late

By MARCIA ABRAMSON
THE ARISTOCRAT, by Conrad
Richter. Knopf, $4.50.
F$Although a highly polished
novel, The Aristocrat merely
retells the story of the graceful
demise of a "grand old lady" in
the most stereotyped sense of
the expression. Miss Alexandia
Morley is just not the memor-
able individual that the 1 a t e
Conrad Richter (and the book
jacketers) must have wanted
her to be. Miss Alexandria really
is no more than exactly what
anyone would expect her to
be, the ; indomitable and self-
righteous surviving member of
a coal-rich Pennsylvania fam-,
ily which has taken "good care"
of the Morley miners and
household help.
And yes, Miss Morley does
have lots of good Southern
blood, which she talks about in-
cessantly, and yes, she does live
in a grand old Victorian house
with her dedicated old servants.
The Aristocrat is Richter's
twilight novel. Gone is the
coarse vitality which character-
ized The Awakening Land tri-
logy and remeemed the stilted
quality of plot and characteri-
zation. In this last work, Rich-
ter retains the stunted story-
line and character development,'
but substitutes Miss Alex-
andria's upperclass snobbery for
Saird Luckett's strong-willed
determination. Perhaps Richter
meant to emphasize the dif-
ference between the American
pioneer and the, later-day in-
dustrial-rich.
However, if The Aristocrat is
dedicated to this purpose, it is
still much too shallow as a
novel. Not one of the characters
bears more than one moment's
consideration. Furthermore, it
seems much more likely that
Richter is allying Miss Alex-
andria's stubborness to Saird
Luckett's will to survive, with-
out realizing that' the Morley
paternalism stands out as the
most significant - and repul-
sive - aspect of The Aristocrat.
Saird Luckett struggles and gets
the superior.
by; Miss Alexandria conde-
scends because it is the duty of
V Miss Alexandria's benevo-
lence belongs= to another age. If
Miss Morley does save her town
from "machinations" of t h e
Primrose Coal and Iron Co.,
you can't help but react against
her when she is forced to put
most of the miners out of work
for an extended period of time

sbooksboOksbooksbooksL
A couple stabs at meaning, men and music

in order to convince the Prim-
rose people that she is right. On
top of all that, Miss Alexandria
decides to drive out to the min-
ers' part, of town during the
midst of the crisis, and Richter
attempts mistakenly to draw
sympathy for her when her li-
mousine is attacked after she
warns other drivers, "Get over!
It's Miss Alexandria."
Perhaps Richter did not real-
ize that he was writing in a
new time, that someone born in
1949 might be reviewing this
last novel. For, like Richter, The
Aristocrat belongs to a quickly
passing generation. Even The
Awakening Land, a monumen-
tal work for the 1940's, comes
off as too pat, too pioneers-
conquer-the-wilderness-yippee-
America. Our tastes have gone
past both Luckett stoicism and
Morley aristocracy. At least the
youngest of today's readers
cannot really understand Rich-
ter, and this last work shows
that he could not understand
the strange times he was liv-
ing in. So Miss Alexandria
teaches the brash young doctor
gracious manners. But is it
really necesary to say "washing
one's hands" instead of "going
to the bathroom?" And the
days of gracious kindness to do-
mestic servants are gone, as
any suburban matron can con-
firm wen 'she laments about
her uppity maids.
Although she is a fairly stock
character, Miss Morley's morals
at first appear to be turned in
the right direction. She was the
first woman in Eastern Penn-
sylvania o smoke in public, and
she firmly 'stands by the ille-
gitimate descendant of one of
hep sisters. But the problem with
this is that Miss Alexandria
admits that she just likes to be,
different. "We girls kicked over
the traces pretty far in our
day and against a great deal
more opposition, but we never
fogled ourselves that we were
moralistic or were liberating the
world. We did it for devilment;
to be one step ahead of the
crowd," she says. Aristocrats by
definition cannot do what is
ordinary.
So much for The Aristocrat.
It is fluid and can be read with
some interest. But that is all.
The kind of life it' talks about
is gone; Richter makes clear
that he too realizes this. Butthe'
is altogether too fond of the
days that were. Even as an elegy
on a passing life-style, The
Aristocrat falls short, and 20 or
so years too late.

By R. A. PERRY

Music and People, by Ned Rorem. Bra-
ziller, $5.95.
Vibrations, by David Amram. MacMillan,
$6.95.
Some books are central to a field of inquiry,
others may be oblique but valuable'investigations,
and still other books will contain only peripheral
information and interest. In trying to under-
stand, say, Samuel Johnson, Johnson's and Bos-
well's writings are primary; Bate's and Watkin's
studies provide important analyses; 18th century
gossip books, such as Mrs. Thrale's gracious graf-
fiti, add occasional anecdotes of merit. In the
realm of twentieth century music, both Music and
People by Ned Rorem and Vibrations by David
Amram fall into the latter potpourri.
Rorem may well qualify as the Mrs. Thrale of
the modern music scene. The past books of this
composer-journalist, his Paris Diary and New
York Diary, shared with the reader Rorem's so-
cial activities, aesthetic sensitivities, and sexual
inclinations much in the way Paul Goodman's
diaries do. In Music and People, Rorem-who is
best if slimly known for his art songs-has col-
lected essays previously published in magazines
such as the American Record Guide, the Village
Voice and Vogue. The provenance of these essays
indicates the non-technical, desultory, often top-
of-the-head judgments that one can expect to
prevail.
Because Rorem fashions words, as his.songs,
in a delicate, non-insistent manner, he best pro-
duces the quiet, not terribly witty, bon mot. The
music of Lukas. Foss is judged "smaller than the
sum of its parts." On the music of Morton Feld-
man and John Cage, Rorem writes that "rather
than chancing a choice, they choice a chance."
In discussing the paradox of Strauss' musical
fertility rising from such bourgeois (and anti-
Semitic) taste, Rorem says quite rightly that
"Taste, of course, like intelligence, is no prerequi-
site to creativity." Elsewhere he tells us that art
does not change us-then it would be philosophic
propaganda-rather, "art renders us more so."
However successfully Rorem makes it as the
sensitive raconteur, certain of his judgments seem
to me to be quite misleading. During a screening
of Warhol's The Chelsea Girls, for instance,
Rorem turns to a friend and says, "It's a master-
piece, isn't it? And shall we leave now?" As pure
modern insouciance, the anecdote may be pleas-
ing, but since it is based on his belief that "Kids
today can't take Beethoven as a master because
they don't think in terms of masterpieces," some
qualification is needed. Certainly, if Rorem con-

Roremr: Sensitive raconteur?
sidered leaving the film in media res, the work
cannot be a masterpiece. Just as "art renders us
more so,"' a true masterpiece of art transfixes us
by absorbing us into it and by allowing us or
perhaps forcing us to transcend our individuality.
One would never consider walking out on the
film Enfants des Paradis or, the opera Don
Giovanni.
Really what Rorem points to, in announcing
his boredom with Beethoven, is the surface level
of our arts ajid of our attention span, not to
mention the overexposure to art; museums of
twentieth century painting so often elicit window
shopping. If it becomes difficult and uninterest-
ing to enter the dynamic development of a Bee-
thoven symphony, perhaps we may deduce' not
that Beethoven fails but that our sock-it-to-me
arts of late have trained us away from involve-
ment, and toward surface impact and interest.
(The tide has turned, however.) Mary Ellmann
really had it when she wrote (Atlantic, Sept.
1966), "Anyone who spends a half-hour looking
at a tray of pink-iced plaster cupcakes by Claes
Oldenberg confesses that he is either hungry or
hopeless."
Included in Rorem's book are essays on Pou-
lenc (his idol), the Beatles (in which they are
compared to Schubert, Ives, and Poulenc), Lukas
Foss, the composer William Flanagan, Haggin's

book on Toscanini ("platitudinous nostalgia"),
and Ezra Pound. There fs -a very good piece on
Peter Yates' germinal tome on twentieth century
music, and a terrible Vogue piece on manners,
clothes, and music. Interspersed between essays
are excerpts from Rorem's diaries. In all, though
the book both pleases and aggravates, it can be
submitted to the same judgment that Rorem
levels on Foss: it emerges less than the sum of
its parts.
* * a*
David Amram played ,jazz french horn and
made it big as Composer, Conductor, Arranger
and Man About Town in the World of Modern
Music. A Jewish farm- boy (!):who grew up in a
"checkerboard" section of Washington, Amram
scrambled through neighborhood fights, switched
from trumpet to french horn by the time he drop-
ped out of Oberlin to attend Georgetown, swung
with all the beboppers in Washington while sit-
ting in with the National Philharmonic, blew
grass while playing with the Seventh Army Or-
chestra in Germany, and jived in Paris with other
expatriots until, following a pot vision revealing
his Destiny, he came clean and returned to the
jazz and "art music" scene in New York.
At the age of 37, David Amram has written
his autobiography, and it is a terrible book. The
jacket blurb promises the reader that he will
meet in the 469 pages such luminaries as Charlie
Parker, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Rudolf Serkin, Leon-
ard Bernstein, Thelonius Monk, Allen Ginsberg,
Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan, Charlie Mingus, Jack
Kerouac, etc., etc., etc. The truth is that Amram,
who did work with and was influenced by the
leading musicians of our time drops their names
along with a few flattering adjectives, but he
never once tells you anything illuminating or
even interesting about these people. They are just
signatures on the scroll of Amram's life.
For instance, Amram played with Miles Davis.
What does he tell us about Davis? He informs us
that "Miles Davis . . . appealed to me because of
the unique way he used the trumpet." We never
learn anything about that "unique way." Charlie
Parker taught Amram about the significance of
Delius, but the writer never mentions what that
significance is.
As a matter of fact, despite the names, dates,
parties, and jam sessions, Amram's book seriously
lacks content. The writer constantly speaks of,
the "new ideas" he gets from other musicians but
not once does he expatiate on such innovations.
Amram has a thing on "chord changes," but that
is as specific musically as he ever allows himself
to be. He talks of "insight into the French way
of musical thinking" but refuses to share his in-
sights with the reader. Gradually we realize that
Amrarh may swing, but not with ideas.

Of his schooling, Amram writes that at college
he 'found that because I was not emotionally
involved in any way in my academic studies,- I
really began to enjoy college for the first time,"
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.
Amram writes poorly, as well. One stylistic ex-
ample should suffice: " Because_ I got plenty of
exercise playing after school and playing hooky,
I decided that rather than playing on' the cement
playground during recess, I would join the school
band just for something to do. They already had
about twenty trumpet players, but they needed a
tuba player." This example of Flaubertian word
choice typifies Amram's careless prose.
In the end, not Amram's style (he likes the
phrase "zenned out") nor -his lack of elaborating
material undermines our admiration of both man
and book. Rather, behind the gossip and name-
dropping, we slowly see that only Amram counts,
and that, like the girls he seems to take up and
drop like the Sunday supplement, people only
count for the way they impinge upon Amram's
own progress.
THIS ONE BOOK
CAN UPDATE
YOUR ENTIRE
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hundreds of subjects ..+. gov-
ernment, politics, economics,
history, law, sports, nations;
world leaders, celebrities, and
many more. Puts a million
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easy-to-use, concise volume.
Whatever the subject, the 1969
World Almanac is the lastwordl
For over a century, the authorityl
THE 1969 WORLD ALMANAC IS
NOW ON ALE!

i w s :,

The good fight-on the wrongfield

El

- -;

By ROBERT SKLAR
Disobedience and Democracy: Nine Fallacies on Law and
Order. Vintage, $1.45.
It is still too early to expect the important books we need on
the social and political dimensions of our Vietnam catastrophe.
Mailer's Armies of the Night was a fluke, a personal triumph, a
masterpiece, but not the sort of book to help us find out what we
can and must do next. Howard Zinn's Disobedience and Democracy
is at least the germ of such a book, a beginning, and thus a sign
of hope.
Zinn's long essay on civil disobedience is an exercise in the
fine old art of pamphleteering. Last summer Supreme Court Justice
Abe Fortas published a similar short book called Concerning Dis-
sent and Civil Disobedience, and Zinn wrote his book quickly as
a counter-attack. Obviously he wished to get counter-arguments
into the hands of those who might be impressed by a big-name
liberal's distaste for dissent and civil disobedience, to provide a
positive case for civil disobedience at a moment when a national
consensus for repression of dissent seemed to be forming.
These were and are important aims, yet I can't help but feel
that the form Zinn chose was a tactical mistake. He has organized
his book around nine fallacies -he finds in Fortas' argument, and
thus much of his time is spent quoting and paraphrasing Justice
Fortas in order to refute him. This willingness to fight the battle
on the liberal's own ground has only left Zinn open to angry
repudiation-which has' already abundantly come-from liberal
legalists who have him trapped in their own territory. Those of us
who have little trust in Fortas' arguments can only wish for a great
deal less of Zinn quoting the Justice and a great deal more original
Zinn' on his own issues of humanity, morality, and social justice.
America is likely to honor courageous dissenters like Howard Zinn
long after it has forgotten the name of this or that Supreme Court
Justice. m
We need to have a far more solid and substantial foundation
prepared for Zinn's important views on tlie relationship of civil
disobedience to social progress; as it is, Fortas' thoughts seem
to organize Zinn's book, and Zinn's ideas, given as replies to For-
tas, are scattered and fragmentary. There is a good argument
in this book, relevant to last fall's ADC welfare sit-in, on why
persons arrested for civil disobedience are right to plead not
guilty. But it needs to be, stated even more clearly and strongly.
Lawyers and legal philosophers need often to be reminded that law
is made for people rather than people for the law, that justice is
primary, the law a means of obtaining justice and preserving it.
Zinn is at his best in describing the conflict between the
modern state and its citizens. Historically the causes are complex
and ambiguous, as are most historical causes, but Zinn is per-
ceptive and absolutely correct in showing how government power
has grown to be a force separate from and independent of the
citizens whose rights and needs the government was created to
express. We need to think about a wide variety of social programs
and tactics to create a more truly democratic society, to give
people more control over their own lives, to make the government
an instrument for enhancing the lives of its citizens, rather than
an instrument to enhance the power of lawyers, politicians, bureau-

But we tend to regard their non-violent civil disobedience as
something more fixed and more serene than it ever was. Thoreau,
as few seem to be aware, quickly abandoned the position he took
in his Civil Disobedience essay of 1849 and within a few years was
supporting John Brown's armed rebellion against a government
which suported black slavery. Just before his murder in 1947
Gandhi had confessed the failure of civil disobedience as a tactic
that could achieve his political aim of a united Hindu-Moslem
state; indeed, he had- undertaken a fast unto death to prevent
partition. We are perhaps more familiar -with Martin Luther
King's dilemmas and his 'growing militancy over the Vietnam War,
before his murder.
Zinn is aware of these issues, of the need for different kinds
of thinking and different forms of action in the movement for
social justice. Indeed, the clarity, the candor, the sensitivity he
demonstrates in Disobedience and Democracy suggest that he has
thought about such problems a good deal more than he has time
to write about then here, given the primary task he set himself
of disputing Fortas. Nodoubt Zinn will be saying more about these
important and difficult issues-it would be an excellent thing if
a student organization could invite him here this term for dis-
cussion and debate on these matters that affect our lives and
futures so directly.

WRITER-IN-RESIDENCE PROGRAM

presents

KURT

0

EGU

r

JANUARY 20-FEBRUARY 2

Official Schedule

date day
Jan. 20 Monday

time

event

place

Afternoon

t

Reception with Committee

Today's writers ...
R. A. PERRY is The Daily's
regular music reviewer, despite
the fact that his formal train-
ing is in ┬░art history. He is cur-
rently pursuing an advanced
degree in the history of orieptal
art.
ROBERT SKLAR is assistant
professor of history and chair-
man of the MichiganAmerican
Studies Association.
Daily night editor MARCIA
ABRAMSON is a junior in the
literary college majoring in
English.

Jan. 20

Monday

8:00 p.m. Opening Lecture: "Teaching Writers to Write"

Rackham Lecture Hall
Rackham Lecture Hall
Canterbury House

Meet Your

Jan. 21 Tuesday

12 noon

Reception following lecture
Luncheon Discussion:
"The Paranoid Vision in American Literature"

Mate

Jan. 21
Jan. 22
Jan. 22
Jan. 23

Tuesday
Wednesday
Wednesday
Thursday

8:00 p.m. 'Reading and Discussion
11:00 a.m. Prof. Bailey's English 232 Class
8:30 p.m. American Studies Seminar

through the
Daily
Classifieds

Jan. 23 Thursday

Jan. 23
Jan. 25

Thursday
Saturday

12 noon
3-5:00 p.m.
8:00 p.m.
Afternoon
8:00 p.m. &
11:00 p.m.
5:30 p.m.

Luncheon Discussion
Hopwood Tea: Open to all interested
"What's Happening"-A discussion with Prof. Mann
"Open House"
3-D Whathaveyou

Living Rm. of Markley
4007 Angell Hall
Guild House
Guild House
- Hopwood Rm. Angell Hall
Rackham Amphitheater
Canterbury House
Canterbury House

11,1

i

Jan. 25 Saturday
Jan. 26 Sunday

Dinnerwith DAILY Senior Staff

Jan. 27
Jan. 27
Jan. 27

Monday
Monday
Monday

11:00 a.m. College Honors 199
4:00 p.m. Prof. Blau's English 269 Class

8:30 p.m.
Noon

"Life Engineering-the Solution"
Luncheon Discussion-"The Revolution that Fails"

~UMt 1Mr41!zrn I4ati
BOOK PAGE

Jan. 28 Tuesday
Jan. 28 Tuesday
Jan. 29 Wednesday
Jan. 30 Thursday

8:30 p.m. Symposium-"Writers of the Sixties"
Speakers to be announced

To Be Announned
1412 Mason Hall
Aud. in Phy. Astr. Bldg.
Canterbury House
To Be Announded
Aud. D, Angell Hall
Aud. B., Angell Hall

4:00 p.m.
3:00 p.m.

"Mass Mediocrity?" a symposium with Professors
Ron Fusfeld, Robert Weeks and Marston Bates
Professor Felheim's American Studies
Film Course, "Comedy"

- - . i

II in n Tkiimrl AJV A-nA m. rtr'e WrktnTo S-AnR uc

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