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On Ozick’s Lengthy Story, “The Shawl”

Cover of "The Shawl"

Cover of The Shawl

There are politically correct people who would yammer about the Jewish woman, Rosa Lublin—in Cynthia Ozick‘s novella, The Shawl—yelling “Sodom!” when she sees two male lovers lying naked on the beach.  They would foolishly suspect Ozick of being “homophobic.”  But such people understand nothing about war or brutality or trauma—at least the trauma of others.  Rosa was in a German concentration camp, and the Nazis murdered her infant daughter, Magda: the shawl of the story’s title was used in swaddling the child.

Living in Florida, Rosa behaves as though Magda were still alive, for only the past has any substance for her.  The present is dead, incomprehensible.  It is necessary to ask, though, whether Rosa is mad, to which I respond that I think Ozick is presenting her as traumatized.  Not mad, but eccentric and impractical through trauma.

A mother with a single child who is dead can easily be a “crazy woman” (a phrase of Rosa’s).  On the last page of The Shawl, however, Rosa manages to demonstrate a patent sanity, an encouraging note in this strong, excellently written 1988 fiction.


Automation And Other Things In “A Nous la Liberte”

Rene Clair‘s 1931 film, A Nous la Liberte, ends (almost) with a comically ironic look at the replacement of man with machine in the factory—before it was known that society would weather this storm—and it induces us to wonder how relevant this matter is to our own time.  In any case, what is actually central to the film is that an escaped convict, Louis (Raymond Cordy), is hungry for freedom but, after becoming a wealthy manufacturer, leads men into forms of captivity.  He means no harm, though, and finally he loses his business and is free only in the way he was after escaping from prison.  He hits the open road.

Liberte is such a weird little flick it is not exactly my favorite Rene Clair.  Again, statements are put to music and the plot is bulging.  It is as artificial as it is satirical (more so).  But uniqueness is uniqueness; Clair is cannily and charmingly daring.  And Liberte does succeed at making you think.

(In French with English subtitles)


“The Affair” Of Another Season

So far I have seen six episodes of the TV series, The Affair, Season 2, on DVD, and I’m considerably impressed by it.

Noah (Dominic West) has left his wife Helen (Maura Tierney) for a former nurse, Alison (Ruth Wilson), and has also been arrested—the plot just has to be enriched—for the murder of a cad who impregnated Noah’s daughter.

Many of the scenes with Helen are powerful (and one, alas, which is artsy), as when she tells her strident mother to leave her house.  The show examines the ties with other people that cannot quite be severed as well as those that are severed all too easily.  It is intelligent enough, in one episode, to have Alison talk the way the black hero in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man talks: she complains of her own invisibility, that people never see her, Alison the person.

I hope I am not repulsed by anything in The Affair and wish to stop watching it.  So far it’s been riveting, and I’d like to write about the remaining episodes.

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