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October 23, 1989 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-10-23

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01

Page 10 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 23, 1989

Dutch

treat

discovered
BY MARK SWARTZ
FOR readers of brat-fiction rife with Joy Division lyrics and cocaine
soir6es in the ladies room, Hella Haasse's In a Dark Wood Wandering
might take some getting used to. Not only did the Dutch novelist, who
reads from her work this evening in the Michigan League, write the work
some 40 years ago, but the subject matter takes us back even further into
history. Set in the 15th century during the Hundred Years War between
France and England, the historical epic breathes life into the kings and
queens of the Middle Ages.
Understand the scope of this ambitious piece of fiction. Its powerful
characters include the mad King Charles VI and his Bavarian wife Isabeau,
the King's brother Louis, Duke of Orleans, his sensitive Italian Duchess,
Valentine, and their son Charles, who inherits in addition to the dukedom
a feud with the powerful and scheming Duke of Burgundy. There is also
Louis' bastard son Dunouis, the fruit of his seduction of the wife of a
courtier, and a born soldier who becomes the right arm of Joan of Arc. On
the other side of the Channel, there are the English monarchs: Richard II;
his enemy Bolingbroke, who becomes Henry IV; and Henry V, the archi-
tect of the British Army.
"The political intrigues," lauded the Times Literary Supplement of the
Dutch version in 1950, "the changes of fortune of many actors on the his-
torical stage, and the social background are here described with scholarship
and admirable lucidity." In the Netherlands, the book went through 17
printings, selling over 100,000 copies in the Dutch language alone. Con-
sidering Holland's population, this is no run-of-the-mill achievement
even for its most widely read, most prolific, most honored and most
translated female author.
The story of this story, and how it has finally reached these shores,
almost exceeds the epic nature of the work. It begins in 1953, when
Lewis Kaplan, a Chicago postal worker and aspiring literary figure who
had taught himself Dutch, came across some reviews of Wood and decided
to tackle it. After obtaining permission from the author to translate it, he
set out on a five-year enterprise, working late into the night after having
stuffed mailboxes all day. He completed an 1,100-page first draft and then
died suddenly of a heart attack. The bulky manuscript, with no identifying
title page, was lain to rest in a closet, where it remained for 20 years.
Luckily, the translator's son Kalman saved the work from the wreck-
age of a fire. He brought it to the attention of Anita Miller, editorial di-
rector at Academy Chicago, who polished up Kaplan's work and prepared
it for release. After all that, flying Haasse over to read from the novel is a
comparatively minor achievement.

.'~..~ ~
"S.4 .4:..~4
IN

4
eivi

Ip

,t
s.

No slack:
P.D.Q. zips
through show
P.D.Q. Bach, says one of my
friends, is not "great." He is a pim-
ple on the face of classical music,
the "last and least" of Johann Sebas-
tian's 20 or so children. With this in
mind, I must agree - P.D.Q. Bach
is not great.
But he's everything else.
Friday night at the Michigan
Theater, Professor Peter Schickele,
aided by a pianoer, a mezzanine-so-
prano, the manager of the stage, and
a handy stagehand, brought some of
P.D.Q.'s works to our humble city.
The great P.D.Q. was discovered by
Schickele, a member of the faculty
of the University of Southern North
Dakota at Hoople, where he is a pro-
fessor of Musical Pathology.
The show actually started on time
on Friday. Rather, the house lights
went off on time. The manager of
the stage, William Walters, fashion-
ably dressed in purple plaid blazer
and blue jeans, came out to stand at
the podium and make snide com-
ments to latecomers. He was required
to inform the audience that the Pro-
fessor was held up in Lansing -
four or five hours away - and
would it be ok with the director of
the theater if they cancelled the
show? Just then, thankfully, Profes-
sor Schickele came tearing down the
aisle, tripped onto the stage, and
took his place at the podium.
The Professor introduced P.D.Q.
Bach's life and music: he was born
to Johann Sebastian and Anna Mag-
dalena Bach in 1742 and died in
1807, despite the fact that his tomb-
stone reads 1807-1742. His music
can be divided into four periods: the
Initial Plunge, when his most ma-
ture music was written, next the
Soused, or Brown Bag, Period, when
he proceeded to forget everything
he'd ever learned. He skipped his

next period and went right to Contri-
tion, which apparently did little;
good.
The Professor added a shameless
plug for his latest P.D.Q. project, a.
CD recording entitled The 1712
Overture and other Musical As-
saults, in the middle of which he
stopped, held the disc up, and flashed
reflected-light patterns on the walls,
the balcony, and the audience..
"Never thought you'd get a light.
show at a classical music concert,"
he said.
After introducing the first piece
on the program, selections from the
Little Notebook for "Piggy" Bach
(P.D.Q.'s Uncle Schweinhard)
Schickele announced that the pia-
noer, Peter Lurye, was out running
and he - the Professor - would
have to play all the pieces himself.,
We - the audience - prayed Lurye
wouldn't be gone long, as the Pro-
fessor seemed to be having a hard
time with the third and fourth selec-
tions. The third piece, which trans-
lated from Latin into "Shine Shine
Diminutive Star," involved the Pro"
fessor playing the bass with one
hand, the treble with the other, and
the melody with his nose. The
fourth piece was a duet; the Profes-
sor was obliged to play both parts o,
the duet, switching between two pi-,
ano stools, until Lurye jogged down
the aisle in running shorts and t-shirt
and vaulted on stage, just in time t.
play the last chord. The Professor
was not amused.
For the second piece on the pro-
gram, "Four Folk Song Upsettings",
for mezzo, devious instruments, and
piano, Lurye put on a tuxedo jacket,
and tie but remained in his shorts.
Schickele introduced the mezzanine-
soprano, Dana Krueger, who bowed,
to the audience and then did her,
warmup exercises. For the piece "Oft
of an E'en Ere Night Is Nigh,"
Krueger was accompanied by Lurye
on piano and Schickele on ocarina,
also known as potate dolce or sweet
potato. The last song, "The Farmer
on the Dole," a commentary on
Reagan's farm policies, brought hys-
terical laughter from the audience for
the words as well as the sight of
Schickele playing the pastaphone -
two pieces of raw manicotti, Ron-
zoni #91.
After the podium blew up during, .
"technical difficulties" and a subse-
quent short intermission, the concert
continued with the ."piece of re-i
sistence," a tragicommodity in one
act entitled "The Magic Bassoon"'
with the Professor playing the part
of Pan. Krueger sang the part of the
woodland nymph, and guest artist
Randall Jeffries - "well-known in
the ti-city area of Saline, Pinckney,
and Hell" - was to sing the Dart of
See REVIEWS, page 11

HELLA HAASSE will read from IN A DARK WOOD WANDERING
tonight at 8 pm in the Henderson Room of the Michigan League. The au-
thor will also sign copies of her book, which will be for sale at the read-
ing. Netherlands America University League is sponsoring the event.

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