Maeterlinck: Memory and the Blue Bird of Happiness

In 1910, the blue bird of happiness landed in the United States, in New York, to be specific, on Broadway. The Blue Bird was a philosophical play written by Maurice Maeterlinck, who would win the Nobel Prize for Literature the following year for it and other works. His Pelléas and Mélisande is better known today, as productions of the Debussy opera continue to enliven the stage. But at the start of the 20th century, The Blue Bird was all the rage, emerging in film and song, baptizing airplanes and race cars, and like most popular cultural symbols, being reduced to its simplest iteration: the blue bird of happiness.

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Little Women in a Time of Little Concern

The 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women got a bit of attention this year, and I could not remember having read it. The book, by Louisa May Alcott, is considered a classic in the canon of books that young women must read, so I picked up a copy I have had on my shelf for many years. It is a 1912 edition, given to my mother by her mother, and possibly by her mother before that. The women in my family tend to be bookish.

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Godless for Our Times

If ever there was a Western for our times, it is Godless. As a genre, a Western allows any story to be told, as long as there is a struggle between at least two forces set on an open horizon, because the cowboy will be moving on at the end. Western films are Frederick Jackson Turner’s theory of American identity turned into a fictional narrative. Mobility is the master key.

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A Soviet Level of Cynicism

Feeling dystopic ? It’s a great word, comes from the opposite of utopia, or the imaginary ideal place. Dystopia thus is the imaginary worst place. The after-the-event place. If you’re feeling dystopic these days, you have lots of company. I know some people who think everything will be fine, but I know more people who are preparing for catastrophe. (Note the poetry, dystopic, catastrophic, philosophic. The Greeks met the Romans, and then…)

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Explaining American Politics Abroad

Again, yesterday, the question. This time from a Belgian, but it has also come from French, Italians, Spaniards. How can someone like Donald Trump possibly have a chance at being president of the United States? There is, of course, no easy answer. Here are some of the reasons I offer, and maybe you have some more to lend me. An American living abroad during election season is always in need of explanatory material.

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