Three things to read/ listen to/ watch

13 February 2012

I don’t do this often enough: recommend things I’m reading, especially considering how much these three pieces have provoked my imagination during the past week. Don’t want to overwhelm you, so I’ve narrowed it down to three:

First: the wonderful playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in AmericaThe Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures) recently received the Puffin Prize, The Nation Institute’s prize for Creative Citizenship — a highly lucrative award. Watch his funny, self-deprecating, and thoughtful 20-minute speech here — he’s not the most natural orator, but what he says is lovely; or read his full speech at The Nation’s site. (Actually, do both, because you miss some things in the video version.) He talks jokingly at first about winning prizes and then eloquently about what it means to be a citizen, even a bad one. Also: how he intends to spend all that money:

Second, read this smart piece about Rick Santorum’s particular appeal to Christian women, written by Kathy Ferguson of the University of Hawaii. Whereas I’ve been inclined to make fun of him, full stop, she does a magnificent job of thinking about how he performs the role of a parent who has suffered grief (of a dead baby, a severely disabled child) and hence touches some women in deep ways. In “Making Sense of Rick Santorum,” Ferguson showed me that I need to come to grips with — well, if not Santorum, at least the women whose self-identification as mothers trumps everything, and even leads them to vote for such a man.

And third, finally, Terri Gross’s interview of Meryl Streep on Fresh Air was such a riveting and good-humored account of acting — acting as a form of singing (with special reference to Barbra Streisand); the similarities and differences between the voices of Julia Child and Margaret Thatcher; the way that coming of age as a girl eager to attract boys is a form of acting. I loved every minute and have added Streep to my list of Dream Dinner Party guests. (You can listen to it online or download it to your iTunes. I seem to listen to podcasts all the time now — at the gym, the grocery store, walking to work….)

Which reminds me: why don’t we have more female interviewers getting serious with other women artist/creator/politician interviewees on subjects that don’t devolve back to boys alone? Or weight loss? Can it be that women themselves don’t pass the Bechdel Test often enough?

Anyway. I do love seeing smart people being smart on the page/in person. Enjoy the pleasure of texts that sit above the usual.

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3 Responses to “Three things to read/ listen to/ watch”

  1. Hattie Says:

    Allow me to strike a sour note. Politicians know that women respond to sentimentality, personal tales, stories of hardship. Santorum’s soap opera is a box office winner, and he will exploit every last detail of it. .
    I can cultivate hard heartedness on this one. This man is my enemy, and I don’t cozy up to my enemies.

    • Didion Says:

      Sour away, Hattie. I’m trying to write about this perspective of Santorum’s — that he appears so caring and ingratiating to these ordinary republican women, yet what he really seeks is to throw women back to a world of the 1950s, when pregnancy meant shame, the end of life, back-alley abortions. Ferguson’s piece doesn’t create sympathy for Santorum, but an explanation of why his numbers have gone so far up with those women who’ve experienced parental grief, and he exploits it.

      Most of all it’s all very easy for him because he’s rich, white, and male. Easy to preach values to people when your wealth makes everything in your life easy, including 8 children. So obviously don’t mistake my appreciation for Ferguson’s essay for a change of heart about Santorum! I’m taking him seriously now as a contender so I can best mobilize arguments against his candidacy.

  2. Hattie Says:

    I’ve experienced parental grief, big time. Try having a 25 year old daughter with breast cancer. This was two years of sheer horror.
    (I am happy to say she survived and is now 36 and OK.)
    I’m glad Santorum is giving Romney some pain. And I want to see Obama whip some Republican ass this coming Novermber.


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