Autumn this week: Seven vignettes.
(1) Walking, I observe small boys playing soccer in a side yard. “Okay, guys, do this,” shouts the smallest one. “Okay, guys, do this,” he repeats. And the pint-sized children do this and then again do this.
(2) A few blocks down the street, older boys play football. “Why don’t you run the ball?” shouts one to the biggest boy. “What, against Robert? No way!”
(3) A local church announces that Sunday, November 10, is RED NECK SUNDAY with BBQ lunch. Y’all come!”
(4) I look up toward the tops of trees to see squirrel nests and mistletoe. I stop to observe and feel the smooth white-grey limbs and trunks of crepe myrtle trees.
(5) Veterans Day. Flags line both sides of the two business streets of town. There was a service at the Veterans Garden on Sunday, which I did not attend. At Mass we sang “America the Beautiful” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and had as service music the hymn of the U.S. Navy, “Eternal Father, Strong To Save.” The homily followed the lectionary, no patriotism there. I invited a friend, an army veteran, and his wife and daughter to a concert featuring the U.S. Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club, a concert largely patriotic. Their performance of Biebl’s “Ave Marie,” sung antiphonally, was moving.
(6) I now walk or drive through showers of falling leaves.
(7) Until Tuesday the weather was crisp and cool, with light frost in the morning. It was not cold, but breezes were brisk, and a light jacket or sweater felt good. Tuesday the afternoon cooled quickly, and there was a light misting of rain, perhaps winter mix. It turned winter cold. The weather foiled the forecast of much more precipitation.
Fiction. Damian Serbu, Santa Is a Vampire. The author, a friend and former student, asked me to copy edit and comment on this manuscript of his latest novel. Of all his novels, this is my favorite to date. Santa is a vampire, with more extraordinary powers than others. He is pure evil, committing unspeakable harm on his rounds at Christmas Eve and at other times. The narrator is Simon, the enslaved elf, foul-mouthed and sharp witted, who makes hilarious quips directed toward Santa and others. Rudolph is adorable, spoiled, a closeted gay reindeer. Mrs. Clause is a witch held captive. Throughout the novel there is gentle and loving satire, directed toward the gay community. (Simon is the only gay elf, he has two Lesbian biochemist elf friends, and there is Rudolph.) The novel is a cynical and hilarious take on Santa and his legends, and it may become a part of my traditional yearly Christmas readings. It was fun to edit and comment on the work. Check out Serbu’s web site. If gay horror is your thing, or witty satire (in this novel), you might enjoy his works.
Concert. Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Mark Doty, in his excellent poem “Messiah (Christmas Portions),” asks ” . . . if art’s / acceptable evidence, mustn’t what lies / behind the world be at least / as beautiful as the human voice?” Those who believe in another reality or realities other than this one would answer “yes.” In Duke Chapel last night, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir gave witness to the magnificence and power of that other reality in two pieces by Brahms, pieces by the twentieth century composers Rudolf Tobias and Alfred Schnittke, and two pieces by contemporary composer Arvo Part. It’s interesting that the Estonian composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries were programmed with Brahms, represented by one sacred piece and one secular piece. The selections emphasized the differences in the nineteenth and twentieth and twenty-first centuries concepts and structures of music. Brahms was rich and glorious. The newer pieces were bold and innovative and emotively much more powerful. In particular, Part’s setting of Psalm 131 (1997) brought us fading phrases which having faded, returned for repetition for emphasis and then fading once again, in waves of beautiful sound. Schnittke’s “Three Sacred Hymns” (1934) featured repetitions of single sounds in various voices, emphasized by overtones, which the Duke University Chapel’s Gothic architecture embellished to full advantage. Part’s “Magnificat” (1989) and “Da Pacem Domine” (2006) presented sheets of sound, overlaid and powerful. The experience was moving, inspiring. I gloried that this is contemporary expression of the grandeur of the reality of a spiritual world.
Thank you for reading. I hope your week will be good.