For Madame George

This opera and that opera, this Schubert and that Schubert, this drama and that drama. This is all my ranting. He’s trying to get a word in. “Yes, but how about Bob Dylan?” “Who?” I say. “Never heard of him. Or wait.” I’m having an epiphany.” Yes, yes, of course, isn’t he the one who’s banging on that instrument that is so deafening?” “Sorry,” I say, “except for Wagner, I don’t like loud and disconcerting music.” “Fair enough,” he says, laughing at such embodied ignorance. He has seen better days and women. He decides to go for Van the Man. He doesn’t answer either to the Irish or the English stereotype of the man of the day. Larkin has both the priest and the doctor running around in their long coats over the field after having solved the puzzle of what a day is good for in this life. Van laments: “Oh, won’t you stay, Stay a while with your own ones, Don’t ever stray, Stray so far from your own ones”. Van is into astral weeks not days. Some formal introduction is needed, we all feel. “Madame George, Camelia Elias, Camelia Elias, Madame George.” “Elias is from Vienna, a good acquaintance of Stefan Zweig,” he says. La George bows. She knows Zweig’s work on astral hours. And Elias is totally into prophets. “Let’s go see one,” she says. But as she doesn’t like the train, she suggests that they all take the plane and fly to Israel. Elias needs to see her mother before the fall. The other two have businesses of their own.


Bent said…
Poor Bob got left by the wayside there, but at least you picked a good Van Morrison song (vintage 1968, like yourself):

"Madame George is the album's whirlpool. Possibly one of the most compassionate pieces of music ever made, it asks us, no, arranges that we see the plight of what I'll be brutal and call a lovelorn drag queen with such intense empathy that when the singer hurts him, we do too. (Morrison has said in at least one interview that the song has nothing to do with any kind of transvestite - at least as far as he knows, he is quick to add - but that's bullshit.) The beauty, sensitivity, holiness of the song is that there's nothing at all sensationalistic, exploitative, or tawdry about it; in a way Van is right when he insists it's not about a drag queen - it's about a person, like all the best songs, all the greatest literature."

That was Lester Bangs, one of the best critics ever to write about the ritual aspect of performance of rock music. He continues:

"Van Morrison is interested, obsessed with how much musical or verbal information he can compress into a small space, and, almost, conversely, how far he can spread one note, word, sound, or picture. To capture one moment, be it a caress or a twitch. He repeats certain phrases to extremes that from anybody else would seem ridiculous, because he's waiting for a vision to unfold, trying as unobtrusively as possible to nudge it along. Sometimes he gives it to you through silence, by choking off the song in midflight: 'It's too late to stop now!'"

In Madame George the transcendent moment occurs when Van intones:

"And the love that loves the love that loves the love that loves the love that loves to love the love that loves to love the love that loves" - paraphrasing, whether knowingly or not, Raymond Federman's first love, Sam Beckett (another Irishman in exile) whose lines you know well: "The laugh that laughs at the laugh..."

That's entrainment (and great laughterature, too)!
Anonymous said…
Whimsical, ironic, engaging. I am left many questions.

Camelia said…
As they say, Eda. The questions are the hardest. But they are also the most rewarding. And let's hope we don't find any answers. I find answers to be deadly to the soul.

Popular Posts