Weekend Miscellany II…

May 4, 2008 at 7:28 pm (books, Eloquence, Film and television, Horses)

Horse racing is the only sport I care about. This interest is a legacy bequeathed to me by my Dad, who went to the track religiously every Saturday. (This led me as a child to believe that everyone’s father worshipped at the shrine of Belmont, Flamingo Park, Hialeah Raceway, etc. etc.)

So yesterday, we watched the Kentucky Derby and witnessed the triumph of Big Brown and the simultaneous tragedy of Eight Belles. Veterinarian Larry Bramlage called the breakdown of Eight Belles “almost inexplicable,” but according to Sally Jenkins’s angry hit-’em-where-they-live opinion piece in today’s Washington Post, it was anything but.

Big Brown, winning the Kentucky Derby

Eight Belles, as horse lovers will want to remember her


Since leading a discussion of The Professor’s House, I’ve been needing more Willa Cather in my life. Recently I listened to a wonderful reading by Barbara McCulloh of O Pioneers. Then last night we watched the Hallmark Hall of Fame production made in 1992 and starring Jessica Lange and David Strathairn. It was, quite simply, outstanding.

O Pioneers is the story of Alexandra Bergson and her family, immigrants who came to America in the late 19th century in order to farm the rich, open prairie lands of Nebraska. The Bergsons are Swedish, but they count the French and Bohemians among their friends and neighbors. This is a tale of struggle, conflict, sorrow, and ultimately, endurance. The film brings Cather’s story vividly to life: it is beautifully acted and visually very compelling. The drama is abetted by Bruce Broughton’s surging soundtrack- maybe too surging, in some spots? – but never mind; it was great, too, Mr Broughton seems to have channeled Aaron Copland in this magisterial score, for which, BTW, he won an Emmy.

O Pioneers was shot entirely on location in the Cornhusker State. There’s plenty of “waving wheat” – the place looked gorgeous! If you have a chance to see the film, watch for the scene in which several dozen young men on horseback ride out to meet the bishop. They have come to receive his blessing and escort him safely back to their church, where is to officiate at a funeral. It is a deeply stirring sequence.

There is much great writing in the novel. I was really pleased that the film included this sentence: “The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.”

And speaking of terrific writing…

I continue to make my way, slowly and carefully, through The Age of American Unreason. Susan Jacoby’s erudite book – is it a treatise? a jeremiad, perhaps? A polemic? – demands close and careful reading, filled as it is with history, philosophy, and portraits of fascinating – and often infuriating – people.

Anyway, in order to describe certain metaphysical theories, such as social Darwinism, that fly in the face of actual facts, she came up with a phrase that I just love: “bloviating arrogance.” From now on, I shall have my antennae attuned to pick up signs of bloviating arrogance in everyday life. Something tells me I won’t have to look far!

1 Comment

  1. Preakness 2008 « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] pressure now being brought to bear on this magnificent animal, his jockey, and his trainer. After the tragedy of Eight Belles at the Derby, the anxiety is […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: