Category: David Ross

God’s Empty Chair

GOD’S EMPTY CHAIR: On the Road continues to impresses me, as it has always done. Notwithstanding Truman Capote’s famous quip—“That’s not writing, that’s typing”—it bears up not just as a cultural manifesto but as literature in the tradition of Thomas Wolfe. It really is intricate, weirdly atmospheric, mythic, ingenious in its re-grafting of quest romanticism […]

Tarkovsky’s Solaris: Tarkovsky, Bach, and God

TARKOVSKY, BACH, AND GOD IN TARKOVSKY’S SOLARIS: I first heard Bach’s choral prelude Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (“I call to thee, Lord Jesus Christ”) in Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972). It seems to me one of the most beautiful compositions, and Tarkovsky’s scene, in which the piece harmonizes with the camera as it plays […]

Music for Airports

MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS: For several years I’ve been teaching film and science-fiction and feeling vaguely guilty about abandoning “real” literature. I realize that my standard explanation—that I’m exploiting rare exceptions to the rule of student literary disinterest—are false, and that in truth I’m drawn to this material because it lets me consider the historical disruption […]

Strange Fruit

STRANGE FRUIT: Netflix is now streaming an informative if straightforward documentary of the life of Nina Simone called What Happened, Miss Simone? (an unfortunate borrowing from a Maya Angelou poem). The documentary depicts Simone as the rare artist not in love with her art, indeed at war with her art, with her instrument, with her […]

The Bounty of Sweden

THE BOUNTY OF SWEDEN: Ever since Christopher Ricks published Dylan’s Vision of Sin (2004)—this from the famed critic of Keats and Tennyson—I knew the Nobel was in the works. In one of world culture’s more arch practical jokes, Dylan has received what Leo Tolstoy, Henry James, Marcel Proust, Wallace Stevens, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Ezra […]

Elegy in Red and Gold

ELEGY IN RED AND GOLD: The D.C.-area chanteuse Eva Cassidy (1963–1996) died young of cancer, so we can enjoy her work only elegiacally and with the kind of autumnal wistfulness with which we listen to Sandy Denny, a similar and even greater singer-songwriter who departed all too soon. I stumbled upon Cassidy’s epochal version of […]

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