On the Music of Beauty and the Beast

I was an early Disney consumer; I hesitate to say fan because I’ve never been to the theme parks and it wasn’t like I sought Disney productions out specifically. Yet, I’m not sure I can count the number of times I watched Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, my anglophenia well indoctrinated through these movies. My grandmother also took us to see every Disney revival when it hit the movie theaters. I saw Cinderella for the first time on a big screen. Also the Great Mouse Detective and Oliver and Company, roundly panned animated films from the 1980s, although I like both. I was just at the right age–late tween/early teen–for the Disney revival lead by Howard Ashman and Alan Mencken, who turned animated film into Broadway quality musicals. Beauty and the Beast is the culmination of their efforts. It takes the problematic parameters of the fairy tale and turns it into a believable journey for both Belle and the Beast. Get a hanky for this lovely tribute to Ashman, who was dying of AIDS as he completed work on the film. 

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Commonplace: Derek Walcott, “Love After Love”

The time will come when, with elation 

you will greet yourself arriving 

at your own door, in your own mirror 

and each will smile at the other’s welcome, 
and say, sit here. Eat. 

You will love again the stranger who was your self. 

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 
all your life, whom you ignored 

for another, who knows you by heart. 

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 
the photographs, the desperate notes, 

peel your own image from the mirror. 

Sit. Feast on your life.
-Derek Walcott, “Love after Love” 

Walcott passed away today, March 17, 2017

Margaret Atwood on The Handmaid’s Tale’s enduring legacy

Margaret Atwood has an essay in the New Times this week on the writing of and meaning of her 1984 dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Key points on the type of narrative she sees her novel as:

But there’s a literary form I haven’t mentioned yet: the literature of witness. Offred records her story as best she can; then she hides it, trusting that it may be discovered later, by someone who is free to understand it and share it. This is an act of hope: Every recorded story implies a future reader. Robinson Crusoe keeps a journal. So did Samuel Pepys, in which he chronicled the Great Fire of London. So did many who lived during the Black Death, although their accounts often stop abruptly. So did Roméo Daillaire, who chronicled both the Rwandan genocide and the world’s indifference to it. So did Anne Frank, hidden in her secret annex.

There are two reading audiences for Offred’s account: the one at the end of the book, at an academic conference in the future, who are free to read but who are not always as empathetic as one might wish; and the individual reader of the book at any given time. That is the “real” reader, the Dear Reader for whom every writer writes. And many Dear Readers will become writers in their turn. That is how we writers all started: by reading. We heard the voice of a book speaking to us.