Purporting to deliver the straight goods on modern sexual interactions, Closer is glossier than last summer’s similarly themed We Don’t Live Here Anymore, and it has a more impressive pedigree—an award-winning director (Mike Nichols), a highly acclaimed British stage play (by Patrick Marber) for its source, and a glamorous cast: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Natalie Portman
It is hard to be moved anymore by films about concentration camps. The grainy images of scarecrow figures; maniacal guards firing pistols on a whim; parents dragged away while children stare—Hollywood has managed to turn such horrors into stock visuals. It has made the unspeakable not only speakable, but almost rote.
The snow in North Dakota asks a question with no question mark, no capital letter, to indicate where it begins and ends or what lies in the middle, for that matter. The question is white and drifts above the cab of the snowplow while in its orange light people lean into the wind along the curb, digging out cars that vanish in the night.
At home their dogs are silent, hearing no sound. The cattle huddle and freeze, and buffalo crossing the buried fence, free now to roam, stand silver and stiff as nickels in the dawn— eyes frozen wide and blank as if they tried to comprehend the question while they died.
“When you pray, go into your room,” He said, so each green dawn as spring light stirs, I sit, womb-snug, in my small room, hushed high above unfurling leaves, with Luke who’s all of five days new, but solid as a loaf of bread, and, oh, such wisdom; petal-soft, in and out, I hear his breath. Receive. Release. That’s all there is. Just this. Quiet. Nothing more.
When Mary Magdalene said she’d seen the Lord it was strangely disappointing One of the worst women saved from the street to have been first I knew it must be true that’s just what he would do but then when I was the only one to fight fear & search for myself the others lagging behind it was like the soldier’s spear went right through me too when I returned to hear the others bragging (that was the worst) that I was the only one not to have been there not to have seen where his hands were pierced I went into denial I won’t believe I said Anything less than my fingers in his wounds won’t be enough My words sounded odd to my ears A week later I was among them when he appeared & called my bluff My Lord & my God Conviction rolled off my tongue
The novelist Ian McEwan wrote, “Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality.” This is the rationale for the Empathy Library, an online resource that recommends fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books, plus films that can help people empathize with the lives of others. It includes top ten lists on different themes such as love, war, or religion. Readers are invited to add their own suggestions and comments (empathylibrary.com).