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.
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
The diaries of World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon have been digitized and made available to the public by the University of Cambridge. Sassoon, a British soldier, was quickly disillusioned by the war and became an outspoken war critic. His diaries feature poetry, prose, and drawings and include his 1917 antiwar “Soldier’s Declaration,” which got him committed to a hospital for the duration of the war. He described the first day of the Battle of Somme as a “sunlit picture of hell” (BBC, July 31).