Bizet is best known (to me anyway) as the creator of Carmen. And the Overture is utterly recognizable while “Habanera” is probably one of the more recognizable vocal operas (you know it). But Bast and co. seem to known Bizet from his piano work, which I didn’t know at all.
I chose “Nocturne in D major” at random. It’s very pretty, but nowhere near as memorable as say “Habanera.”
I don’t play piano and I’m not a huge classical music fan (although I do know many composers). Listening to this piece anyhow, I find it hard to understand how people could recognize Bizet in Bast’s work. Obviously there are dozens of other pieces that may be more representative of a signature sound, but this just sounds like a beautiful (and not overly challenging like Chopin) piano piece to me. It’s also true that this piano piece was written ten years before Carmen, and maybe they are thinking of the music of Carmen as recognizably Bizet (can you even play Carmen on the piano?).
I forgot how much I enjoy this opera though, (or at least the highlights).
[READ: Week of July 30, 2012] JR Week 7
I enjoyed this week’s read very much. It had some real emotional scenes–and a scene that stayed with just the same two people for a long time. It was also interesting to see Gaddis handle sex–in his own detached mechanical way. And I liked starting to see the pieces (Davidoff, the Waldorf) start falling into place (as they may also be falling apart).
But before we get to that we must look at a doctored photo. The photo from Mrs Joubert’s class’ interaction with the folks at Diamond Cable has come back and they have added black to the class. Mr Hyde notices immediately that his son (“tell by his haircut” (461)) has been darkened, “Blackface in every one of them.” “Looks like he’s about ready to get down on one knee and sing Mammy” (461). While Hyde is outraged, the rest of the room is complementing Whiteback and the company for promoting racial diversity. It’s even suggested that this will help the Major’s image on the other side of town. Of course underneath all of this is some festering racism:
it’s probably the most depraved looking bunch of underprivileged I’ve ever seen, your boy here’s right out of Al Fatah and this girl on the end looks like she does it in doorways and look at this one, down front here holding up the stock certificate [that would be JR] ever see so much greed confined in one small face? (461).
There’s another joke at the expense of Hyde’s bomb shelter (“great emergency waste disposal system in that shelter of yours has just doubled everybody’s new sewer assessment” (462)). And although the Major defends his choices (“They’ll be the first ones ripping their knickers to get in when the whole thing starts” (462)), really the joke is on him. “Never get the feeling history’s passed you by do you Major?”
As Simon pointed out in the comments to my post last week, Hyde acknowledges that Leroy has been “sabotaging the whole system right under Dan’s.” But Vern cuts to the chase:
Dan was paid to make Whiteback look good he couldn’t do it and he’s out. Whiteback’s been paid to make me look good he hasn’t done it and he’s out too Major and that’s what America’s all about, but if you think I’m going to try to make you look good over there shitting bullets in that emergency waste disposal system of yours when they come over the hill after you… (463).
Dan runs into Coach Vogel who wishes him well on his new job (Dan says he may have something “waiting in industry” while Coach Vogel is also happy to be out, and wants to look for something in research. The only thing Vogel will miss is, apparently, Mrs Joubert’s ass, which is in the hall. And JR comes out of the bathroom and says hi to her.
Then JR gets in the phone booth and talks to Bast. Bast inst too happy about the Marine guarding the hotel room door–JR says that all the important companies do it. JR also says that Nobili has gone real low so he’s ready to buy some (and he has done his research on the company, boy). JR talks about some other expenses and when Bast questions him, JR says, “see it’s not money anyway it’s just exchanging this here stock around in like this merging it with this here” (465).
JR flies through some other ideas–Mister Wonder and the mines, Charley Yellow Brook and the Indian “preservations.” Bast also reveals that he’s interested in a job at ASCAP, keeping a log of songs played on the radio. JR’s proposal that he wear an earphone to do it pays off handsomely. There is more dissention between the two–JR keeps trying to help him but he says no to it all, and hey, JR does all the work, Bast never goes out to him–JR even bought a $139 answering machine [!], but no one takes him seriously. Pisctaor thinks he’s some dumb… because Piscator filed so much money on his trip to Jamaica, Jamaica when JR knows very well Jamaica is just at the other end of the subway line. (HA)
JR needs to talk about Charley Yellow Brook because the Indians are looking to split the land. This has nothing to do with mining rights but with trees. And JR thinks that they can help bail out the broke Indians. And also (I love how quickly JR thinks on his feet) if JR buys him a transistor radio, then maybe this Ascop will send him to different local markets and pay for his expenses so JR doesn’t have to (until they get their Triangle plane, of course).
Mrs Joubert is still waiting for the phone. She wants to call Washington DC, JR knows immediately it costs 80 cents. But before he rescinds the phone he talks to Davidoff (“What that’s your last name?” (469)) who is now with Pomerace. Davidoff wants to talk about corporate image, biography and logo. He also says they’re closing the midtown office. JR is yet another person who takes an instant dislike to Davidoff.
He has an argument with Piscator as well–he never told Piscator to do anything illegal–he has Pisctaor to make sure what he wants to do is legal. He wants to take advantage of depletion allowances (in other words, drill everything out and then get paid for there being nothing left). He also realizes that the matches that break easily can be repacked as “added snapoff safety feature” and “sure raise the price” (471). And as far as that fiasco with the green aspirin, well, just repackage it… “It’s green!”
Mrs Joubert finally gets to the phone and wonders about the handkerchief on the mouthpiece. JR uses that “germs” ruse and says that with “this here cold season coming on like maybe that’s even where you got yours you know? from these here…. –Mine? –From how your eyes look….” Then she asks about his paper on Alaska (Alsaka).
Joubert calls her father, Monty, but he still in a meeting. So JR offers to walk with her to the train station. And JR talks to her about doing different things in class, like “futures” and “bellies” (frozen pork ones) and “hedging.” She replies that she doesn’t know much about it and they can’t ask the class to bring in their on money again (he replies that it costs hardly anything). She says that he should ask Mr Glan… JR realizes she was going to say Glancy and says “I bet nobody’s asking him something now boy did you hear about this here brand new Cadillac he….” Mrs Joubert is upset about the whole thing but JR keeps going on about all the features in the car [I didn't know they had such features in 1975] and how someone made a million dollars off of that.
Joubert snaps at him, “Is that all you think about!” (474). She tells him to just stop and look “at the evening, the sky, the wind, don’t you ever just stop sometimes and look? and listen?” JR responds that sure he does, “I mean it’s like getting dark real early now” (475). Then he asks if she’s going on another field trip, like to museum. He’d like to see the stuffed Eskimos at the Museum of Natural History. Joubert is devastated, “Can you really think that? That they’d take Eskimos and, and…” (475).
She hugs him and runs off to the train where she runs in to Jack Gibbs. And the first thing she says is “Oh no you’re… No.”
This leads to a very lengthy couple of scenes with Amy and Jack and no one else. The beginning is an uncomfortable train ride into the city. Jack is drunk and can’t sit still and Amy is annoyed by him. He soon reveals that he won the horse racing double (and he is flush with hundreds and looking to start a new life). We also learn that he has bronchitis and needs to get his prescription filled. Jack goes on a tangent that is quite affecting–it’s the first time in history that someone can do anything he wants…like be a dry cleaner. “But that damn Protestant ethic have to justify your own existence.” Jack falls asleep. Amy wakes him up at her stop. He says he wanted to take her to dinner. She says he’s not taking her anywhere. He has nowhere to go so she brings him back to Lucien’s apartment.
She takes a shower and he orders a ton of pastrami and egg roll. She’s initially upset at the state of the floor but eventually joins him in the feast. They finish and he gets ready to leave but she says it’s raining and his throat sounds bad. He says he’s not a child, she say he’s acting like one. After a little more back and forth, he grabs a towel and gets ready to sleep on the couch. She says don’t be silly and invites him into bed with her. He does. And he climbs on top of her and after a lot of words she comments, “it happens to everyone.” [Doh!]
When he wakes up she is gone and he tries to get his act together, even trying to figure out where he is. He makes a call from behind a chair when Amy walks in and wonders what he’s doing. He’s hiding in case Lucien came home. She explains their situation and he relaxes and realizes that it’s okay. She went out to get him clothes (actually Lucien’s clothes from the dry cleaner) and some penicillin.
She doesn’t understand why he is such a mess. She looks in his pockets and finds clippings from newspapers (one that is four years old) from things like B.F. Skinner, and the Physical Review of Letter. And then she finds a handwritten list of quotes and ideas for his own story. She likes some of his observations. He takes that as a sign to brush her leg. She gets mad, he starts acting sullen. She gets madder. He asks about last night and she says “you’d been drinking and you were tired there’s nothing to be…” (487).
They go out and come back with dinner. They are having a nice time, although when he tells a risqué joke she disapproves. Then she reveals that Lucien wasn’t the jealous type. Then she pulls her hair across her lips like a mustache and kisses Jack. She asks if it’s like kissing a man. And then they consummate the deal that they failed to last night.
Ever the romantic, the first thing he says afterward is that the apartment has fleas; she starts asking him about flea circuses.
Jack calls Mr Eigen and finds out he’s not there anymore. He tells Amy about Schramm and he gets very dark, which upsets her. He talks bout failure and Eigen’s novel and she insists that they are not him. If he keeps talking that way he’ll believe it. They have an intense discussion which begins to get physical again but the phone rings.
It’s Mr Beaton. She gives him hell and explains that she doesn’t care what the foundation does. She’s really angry and Jack keeps trying to get her in the mood which gets her more pissed off. She takes a shower (although he makes her laugh before she goes in).
He calls Tom and a bunch of things are revealed. He tells Tom that he won the double (and apologizes for puking in his suitcase). He reveals that he’s not at the school anymore. And we learn that his five shares have been sold “Worth how much? But …Well good God no, broken down old family company I never imagined it was worth…” But on the other side, Tom’s custody hearing went okay. He says he hasn’t been up to Grynzspan’s in ages he assumes Bast is still there writing music. He asks if Tom remembers the parlor game he thought of (Tom doesn’t). Then Tom reveals that Stella called him. Jack says he didn’t know he gave her Tom’s number. Tom asks if they can get together but Jack is…busy.
Amy has a few more words–she seems somewhat exasperated with him, but really she just wants to get some air).
They go out and come back (he turned off the light, hates to see energy wasted, mentions Grynzspan’s place. She is mad at him for the way he acted in the elevator. He explains, “Sometimes there are situations that just don’t seem to have any solution in their own context do you, do you see what I mean. And the only way to the only thing to do is step in and change the whole context” (496). She is lightening up about it and then mentions bellies and JR.
And we actually learn JR’s last name! Vansant! She is sad for him: “he so earnest so, he thinks there’s a millionaire behind everything he sees and that all he does see, it just so sad really…if only he weren’t so eager about all the wrong things, they’re not bad things really just, things….” ((497). Gibbs acknowledges that he owes the kid a dollar. She says she regrets taking the teaching job, she says at first she really thought she could help. But that “dreadful Mister Whiteback, that poor little Mister diCephalis and his ghastly wife” (497).
Gibbs sums up, “Create a second class profession you fill it with second class people.”
They talk some more about Vogel and JR and her father and she suddenly says that she may have to go away for a while. First he says he’d like to get back to work on his book (it’s about the war). She thought it was about art. And then she asks who is Stella (he mentioned her on the train). Was she the one who came to the school that he introduced as Mrs diCephalis? [Yes, she was]. He explains that she is Bast’s cousin. Of course Amy remembers Bast, in fact, her friend (Crawley) just gave him a commission. She thinks he’s dear.
Then Amy notices the starches on Jack’s back. She’s embarrassed but he just say I love you. Then he realizes what day it is and he calls his ex-wife to talk to his daughter. He slams the phone down and Amy wonders who it was. Daddy? But Jack gets mad–“you don’t want me to answer your phone” (501). She dismisses that concern. Oh and by the way Jack collects paper bags.
[This whole scene is emotionally wrenching because Jack is practically bipolar in his love and care for her and his utter mistrust, and I have to wonder if it says something about Amy or Gaddis that their "fling/relationship" lasts an entire weekend.] Then he comments that she’s not even near 30 yet and he’s old enough… She’s dismissive of that. If she wanted someone thirty, she’d get someone thirty. He’s a little jealous of Bast but Joubert says that Bast is even younger than her. Then she says she’s always gone with older men and he says “I gathered” [I like Jack, but man he's a dick]. She asks why he says that. Because of the “it happens” comment and the douche in the bathroom. She says that’s not hers [but whose else would it be?].
They begin their what is it, third, fourth arousal session when the phone rings again, it’s her dad. She is mad about Francis, and that Monty didn’t help and the he and Uncles John Cates are only interested in the money from Lucien. She slams the phone down and Gibbs jokes that her dad sounds like a great guy, and so does her Uncle John. Perhaps he and Amy should move into Monty’s house. Gibbs says he sounds like man who likes to win. Amy replies that he likes to win dimes. He’s always hated FDR, still does, so he collects dimes to get them out of circulation. [I adore this weird character tic]. She says she hasn’t been there since Mama died. They banter a bit and then she says that she has to go to Geneva to settle things. Right now. He’ll give her the money, she can fly one way first class [!] for $465, plane leaves in three hours. [Ah, the days before the TSA!].
She heads out, implores him to take care of himself (don’t drink too much) and to not think negatively about himself and to work on his book. He leads her out to the cab when Mister Beamish say “Mister Gibbs?”
Gibbs begins talking obscenities in Spanish (ha) and Beamish escorts Mrs Schramm and Mister Duncan away from the man who looked like Gibbs.
From the start of this scene, Mr Duncan believes that Beamish is fixing him up with a lady (everyone misunderstands what he means by “fixing up”). So first Duncan plans to escort Mrs Schramm home, but Beamish wants to bring him to the Waldorf. Where Mister Davidoff is waiting! He is now the public relations account executive for JR’s company. They arrive in the room and it is all chaos for the next 25 pages. Davidoff is off and running (he doesn’t really stop talking at all).
Beamish has called, but Virginia (who is really really dumb: I like that she typed “dental” for Oriental, that Davidoff had abbreviated funeral as fun and she said fun parlors on the phone) anyhow, Virginia believed that he was bringing Brisboy (from Wagner Funeral Homes and who will not appear this week). She offers them a sandwich or a shot. Duncan asks to be fixed up with Virginia. There’s also “a black” sitting in the corner who does not speak English, he’s looking at an old Ray-X catalog. A bass flute player shows up (we learn later that Bast asked for him to come by). He is sent away.
A golf practice set is delivered (Davidoff can’t work with all this stuff in here–piano, golf set, etc, he tells them to bring it uptown). And, hilariously, Davidoff believes that Bast is using a hearing aid because of JR’s earphone for his ASCAP work.
There’s also a Mister Ten-forty who is coming “call him that because we got him through some computer management service” (514).
From here on in it’s really hard to delineate what exactly happens next because so much happens concurrently. The hotel is calling for Mister Bast about the bill (which should go to Pomerance Associates). This whole time Davidoff has been calling Duncan “Brisboy.” That finally gets straightened out and is blamed on Beamish. Davidoff also claims that the midtown office (the cafe) is closed and they have new one opening on Madison. They are retitling Her magazine as She–a new concept in women’s magazines. [For historical context Ms. magazine first appeared in 1972).
Davidoff keeps calling JR “the Boss” and there is so much double talk and accusations that although it’s fairly easy to keep most of it straight it is really hard to explain. There’s lots of figures and data. The Boss wants a water tower painted to look like toilet paper. Meanwhile, Beamish is trying to straighten things out with Duncan, Daviodoff ironically says, “may speed things up to get Skinner out here for a rundown the way these legal boys make twenty words do the work of one” (514).
Davidoff says that he brought Skinner on board when he left Diamond. And we learn that Skinner just got married [to Gibb's ex-wife!] and picked up 5% of General Roll company stock in the divorce which he put up as a down payment for the purchase of Duncan’s stock.
There is a very funny pause in the action (thank you Gaddis) where there are reviews of the trade list of Duncan books. My favorite: “the outside world of American life is described so imperfectly and so superficially as to make us feel that the novelist himself has never known it” (515). Also Gall will be writing them a new Western called The Blood in the Red White and Blue (as soon as his play is produced). He’s also writing a script for the Indian gathering that Bast is to attend (which pops up throughout this section).
Then there’s a lengthy amusing section about books. Turns out that JR intends to put advertising in books. If magazines do it why not books. That includes novels and targeted ads in text books. There is utter disregard for the authors. Davdiofff notes that authors “come in spouting art and literature what they really mean’s a big advance on royalties” (517). They’re already putting ads on the matchbooks–it’s working great just see how the new green aspirin is flying off the shelves. Textbooks are logical, “it’s not the kids, if they find a Cheerios or Reese Peanutbutter Cups spread in the middle of their math lesson they’ll think its’ a ball it’s the parents that make the trouble” (518). The plan: “Gum cereals candy bars all that stuff and junk is the primary grades bikes sports equipment records seventh and eighth on up nothing till French Three and advanced algebra on deodorants tampons all that bla bla bla…” (518). There’s also a little slagging of The New Yorker (“540 columns, 200 was text the rest was ads”). Beamish notes “I do believe I recall a cartoon some two years ago I found quite amusing” (517).
There’s also talk of when the USDA agrees to the legalization of pot. And they’re prepared. An ad in ninth grade algebra: “I’m Mary Jane, fly me.” And as for the magazines, like She, they’re going to give it away for free and make their money on advertising.
Virginia proves useless at typing (the carbons are backwards). They should have the Xerox machine that’s uptown.
Davidoff describes Duncan as a dirty old man, wouldn’t have picked him as a publisher. Mister Hyde calls and is put on hold for a long time. When he speaks to Davidoff, they talk of the collision course about the mining rights, and the Diamond salesman he brought along to work on the Endo divestiture. They’re sending the appliances to the Indians, but they need to get someone out there first because they won’t know what to do with the stuff. Davidoff tells Hyde he’s sending out Bast. Hyde asks about Bast, but Davidoff says it can’t be the same one that Hyde knows. [It is].
The Indian script threatens that the Great Spirit will take away their language and other offensive stuff. The gist is to give the Indians the whole kit and caboodle of backdated inventory get them on our side for the leases and write off the cost. Hyde is concerned about them getting shot but Davidoff says most of them have never even seen an arrow. There’s even a joke that Chief Yellow Brook could be confused with the Yellow Stream (by I P Daily [Gaddis will do anything for a laugh]). Then Hyde “hangs up” on Davidoff (after Davidoff said goodbye) and Davidoff gets mad at Hyde.
Beamish proves to be the only voice of reason in the room, questioning advertising in books and the legality of just about everything. Davidoff tells him not to worry about it, that Piscator will take care of everything. Beamish: “there are aspects of this enterprise I find frankly disturbing. You may well regard me as old-fashioned but I find posing as benefactors to these Indians simply in order to take advantage of their rights to possible mineral or gas deposits on their own lands quite as distasteful as advertising chewing gum and…” (522).
Davidoff’s response: “We don’t do it first Beamish somebody else will.”
Subject changed, Beamish mentions Crawley who seems concerned about Bast. But they can ignore Stamper, he’s window dressing–hunting buddy of Crawley, never got past 4th grade. [Incidentally, Bast told Crawley the Boss never got past 6th grade]. The upshot is that Typhon wants to grab any cobalt they can because of the war in Gandia. Broos speaks for the self-determination of the people, leads for nonintervention and bans anything exported out of the country. And don’t forget pork belies.
Beamish’ reply to this is great “this constant near frenzied emphasis on the letter of the law at the expense of, in fact too frequently in direct defiance of its spirit is something I frankly find…” (525). Davidoff says “Way the big boys think Beamish why the Boss is where he is and we’re down here pushing pencils” (525).
Then the recording studio calls for Bast. Since we don’t know too much about what Bast needs (yet), we don’t know how badly Davidoff screws this up, but he seems to get an orchestra at the studio for some $26,000.
And then we learn that all this time, Bast has been in the bathroom playing the piano. It was the only door with a lock, so they removed the legs and put the piano in there. Someone even says it sounds like Biz… [a nice call back to Bizet from very early in the book].
Then they are talking about Ray-X. And mineral exports for their thermocouples. Mister Ten-forty worked with Haight on Ray X’s new product Frigicom which promises to take sounds and freeze them solid for later use.
Beamish jumps in and says it seems legal although “the notion of rendering sounds to a solid state by freezing them is simply, is really quite beyond the bounds of even the most childish fan…” (528). Davidoff says he won’t argue but it’s “hard to believe what these science boys come up with” (529).
Then Davidoff talks to Colonel Haight on the phone (he was expecting Moyst and was quite unprepared for the belligerence from Haight). Haight wants a university or a football team in his name. Then there’s a joke about Haight U. Moyst finally gets through and they read the press release which Virginia has typed up and she has typed it up verbatim like “A member of the caps JR Family of Companies” (527). There’s also a wonderful joke in the press release about the “effort involved in reading and turning any more than two hundred pages period new paragraph getting all this?” (527). Then he asks how the Army is fixed for toilet paper. “Oh barring a mass defection by the military thought you said a mass defec…” (528). [HA].
Then a bunch of things happen as the scene nears and end. They say that Bast needs to add names to the board now that the company is getting bigger. They’re looking for a man named Walldecker. And Davidoff wants to get the bio of JR done–some ideas: slashing prices of textbooks to help kids, play up that he never made it past sixth grade, the drug donations and appliance gifts to Indians, and why not dig up president’s speeches on the Protestant work ethic.
Davidoff then says they are trying to set up a shipping company to get a government payroll subsidy. Beamish says he doesn’t think it’s… and Daviodoff says that yes it’s small potatoes to what the big guys do.
Then back to Nobili, the drug that may be causing deafness in children? The Boss says not to make any more once this supply has run out.
Then good ol’ Coen calls (Cohen joke once more). He talks about General Roll and Nathan Wise and the pill hurting their business (a nice call back). As the scene comes to an end a messenger comes with the papers from Gall, a Private Detective comes looking the whereabouts of … and the “black’ is representative from Malwi and he’s looking for Mister Schepperman. Davidoff can’t believe that name is back again and “now he’s lining up his friends for a handout every black in sight’s an artist” (533).
Finally Mister Bast comes out of the bathroom in a new suit (which looks unisex). Davidoff says that he’s putting out brush fires while Bast works on the Foundation project. Davdioff says he’s taken care of the studio’s phone call already. When Bast says the music lasts 2 hours and 8 minutes, Davidoff recalculates the recording studio at $77,000. And the bass flute player. And a pipe organ and….
When Davidoff mentions Beamish, Bast wants to see him, but he’s gone down to the lobby. We also learn that the Duncan who has been here all this time is the wrong Duncan. Davdioff gives his excuse: “all lined up before I came on deck” and that it’s “another of Crawley’s stunts” (534). Davidoff also gets the last word this week, which is passing the buck: “Beamish sits here for an hour bends my ear with his legalese never does get to the point has to call back to tell me this publishing house acquisition the Boss meant to pick up this Isador Duncan Company little man gone to the toilet makes wallpaper.” (535).
Bast says that Crawley told him about that, so Davidoff gets to say “Crawley” ala the way Seinfeld says “Newman.” And we can take a break now.
This week was really enjoyable. It was fun to see Gaddis describe sex. It was nice to see two people actually communicate (most of the time), and as I mentioned, it’s nice to see plot lines pan out. I feel a little bad for Bast (I thought he might be better for Amy), but then Amy may have questionable taste anyhow.
For me there are two big confusions in the book. The first is that I really don’t have a sense of how old the adults are. We know that Amy is 27 (I assumed she was older) and that Gibbs is over 30 (presumably much older?) and that Bast is younger than 27. Perhaps because I’m older, I keep reading these teachers as older. My second problem is the time frame of the novel. Everything seems to be happening in the same day or the next. There are clearly some passages of time, and yet some things (like Gall’s play getting produced) seem to happen more quickly than would be real.
It’s hard to believe there’s only 200 or so pages left. I can’t wait to see how he wraps it up.