an elephant with flowers painted around the eyes and painted toenails four zebras sipping water *   *   * luxurious green tent on safari white bone ornaments through noses armed for the hunt and cocktails already served three African bushmen in a field of wrinkled flesh eyelid (the elephant) the rain is needed, sticky or no […]


When it comes to the fine arts, we love our biographies of tortured genius, and Ludwig van Beethoven serves the storytellers admirably. Baptized December 17, 1770, in Bonn, his tempestuous and tragic life was one of failed love affairs, strained friendships, and especially the deafness that accompanied his greatest musical achievements. And yet many of us find him not only speaking for us but also extending inspiration in the quest for fullness and fidelity.

In part it’s a story of the way Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven reestablish the center of classical music, centering it in the German-speaking world far from its Italian roots and the Renaissance genius of Monteverdi and Palestrina.

As I discussed earlier this year, Beethoven’s popularity rests largely on works that he wrote in the second half of his life, past the age of Mozart’s death, the years that encompass what are known as his Middle (or Heroic) and Late periods. The years accompanied by deafness.

For much of my life, I’ve not been alone in finding that what most appealed to me were the works from the Middle period – the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth symphonies, the violin and “Emperor” piano concertos, the Rasumovsky string quartets – stirring works raging with dramatic struggle and promised victory. With all of their emotional parallels to athletic contests, these have justifiably ensured his enduring public adoration.

More recently, though, they’ve given way in my estimation as the Late period works have risen in preference. Quite simply, these have never been considered all that accessible. Many of them defiantly turn their back on the audience in a pursuit of boldly intricate, often extended, musical puzzles that plumb the depths of human despair, loneliness, resolve, as well as lofty heights. Indeed, for years the assumption has been that these are not for public consumption but are rather reserved for private investigation among the cognoscenti, should they be so honored.

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to embrace something with the wisdom of the final round people crowding the boulevard in Baltimore to watch Robert Kennedy’s funeral train pass overhead in that portrait of seven famed figures Annie, turned to stone under a blue-jay feather how that small town in snow looks more like Pennsylvania or Midwest than New England Blake, […]


reading the inscription on your tombstone an abandoned road soon becomes impassible except on foot or horseback dumplings, broiled, steamed, and fried involving pork, chicken, Chinese cabbage, tofu. more ginger and any amount of garlic, scallions, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts a bronze bespattered snake coils elegantly through an alligator-skin sandal nothing funny about us, […]