Arts+Culture

Arts+Culture

We Are the Eighth Day, © Melanie Weidner

Film

The Reader

Bernhard Schlink’s 1995 novel The Reader is a tricky book to adapt to film. The plot—about how Michael Berg, a teenager in Germany in the 1950s, falls in love with an older woman with a mysterious past—may seem neat and tidy, but the story is actually about fear and guilt, ethical responsibility and moral ambiguity.
Poetry

Grace

He awakens on February first, stunned again by that odd
wonder: how quickly old has come. Of course if his will were done
he’d have risen youthful, but age is here, he’ll own it. He thanks God

for its coming without companion pain, without reliance on medicine.
As he has since he was younger, he puts on snowshoes and clambers
      over
drifts and up a daunting bluff. As much by determination

as muscle he powers on through the powder. The view from here—a
      blessing:
eastward the white White Mountains all seem to be staring placidly
      down on
ice-dams hunched in the river. He kicks his feet out of leather bindings

to climb a tree. West, a neighbor’s strange herd of alpacas mills,
all wool, though mere months back—short-shorn, with feeble reeds for
      necks—
they were fragile creatures, naked, susceptible, silly, same as us all.

He forces air out through his teeth—birdwatcher trick—and imagines a
      lisping
cloud, his sounds small jets of steam. Let kinglets come, he dreams.
Did an eagle shriek? Too far to tell. But golden-crowned kinglets are
      flying

from his south to land all around, on his limb and all the way up to the
      crown,
then are gone so quickly he all but missed the marvel: the kinglets
      come.









Film

The Class

A marvelous new film by the French director Laurent Cantet sits on the cusp between fiction and documentary.
Poetry

One time

1. Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Then I looked down into the lovely cut
of a missing river, something under dusk’s
upflooding shadows claiming for itself a clarity
of which my eyes were not yet capable:
fissures could be footpaths, ancient homes
random erosions; pictographs depicting fealties
of who knows what hearts, to who knows what gods.
To believe is to believe you have been torn
from the abyss, yet stand waveringly on its rim.
I come back to the world. I come back
to the world and would speak of it plainly,
with only so much artifice as words
themselves require, only so much distance
as my own eyes impose. I believe
in the slickrock whorls of the real
canyon, the yucca’s stricken clench,
and, on the other side, the dozen buzzards swirled
and buoyed above some terrible intangible fire
that must scald the very heart
of matter to cast up such miraculous ash.



2. 2047 Grace Street

But the world is more often refuge
than evidence, comfort and covert
for the flinching will, rather than the sharp
particulate instants through which God’s being burns
into ours. I say God and mean more
than the bright abyss that opens in that word.
I say world and mean less
than the abstract oblivion of cells
out of which every intact thing emerges,
into which every intact thing finally goes.
I do not know how to come closer to God
but by standing where a world is ending
for one man. It is still dark,
and for an hour I have listened
to the breathing of the woman I love beyond
my ability to love. Praise to the pain
scalding us toward each other, the grief
beyond which, please God, she will live
and thrive. And praise to the light that is not
yet, the dawn in which one bird believes,
crying not as if there had been no night
but as if there were no night in which it had not been.