So I'm feeling a bit more sanguine about the fantasy/sf conference, which is coming up next week. I finished (a draft of) my paper, and managed somehow to steer myself into something I know pretty well – high modernism, that is – by the end. The thing is probably short on theory – lamentably short on theory – the only really theoretical moment is some ideas lifted from one of Samuel Delany's essays from ages & ages ago – but I'm hoping it's ballasted enough with careful close readings & bibliographical observations that that doesn't really matter. And I've talked to some colleagues who are pretty deeply into this scene in a professional way, & they tell me it's a good conference: plenty of intellectual rigor if you look for it, but the old pros aren't totally sadistic assholes to us newbies. I might be singing a different tune in a week's time; we'll see.
I'm continuing to read Ruskin, or at least around Ruskin. A hole seems to have formed in my life since I finished the Library Edition some weeks ago, and I've been trying to block it by reading ancillary texts, some of the many volumes of Ruskin letters I've accumulated. Fascinating stuff, for the most part, tho lots of thank-you notes and scheduling dithering as well.
We exhausted ourselves last weekend by taking the girls to Orlando & doing a pair of Disney parks. The less said about that perhaps the better.
Tonight I went to see Salome at the Palm Beach Opera. A decent performance, but no better than decent. The orchestra at least was excellent, which made up for many deficiencies; I'm very fond of Strauss, and this is one of my favorite operas. The magnificent Denyse Graves, playing Herodias, had some hip emergency right before the opening; she sang her part in full costume in a wheelchair downstage right, while an actress in a very modern sheath dress mimed her part among the other actors. It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen. Erika Sunnegardh played Salome as a perverse 14-year-old, which makes a certain amount of sense; she's the only Salome I've seen who could dance a lick.
Alas, the audience.... Opening night, but the hall was only half full. It's odd to sit among such well-heeled folks, shelling out real money for tickets, who seemed so innocent of the classical repertoire. Murmurs around me: Is she really going to take off her clothes? Will she kiss him? And afterward: "Well, I didn't expect that!" "That was a strange one, wasn't it?"
I shouldn't rag on the poor snowbirds. They want their culture, after all. And the funniest such moment I can remember was actually on Broadway, at the end of Janet McTeer's stunning rendention of Nora in Doll's House maybe 12 or 13 years ago. Nora has left her husband, has gone "downstairs"; Thorvald is brooding alone on stage, hoping she'll return. And then, as the play's final moment, you hear a resounding door-slam. From in front of me, a quavering voice wonders, "What happened? Did she shoot herself?"