FOUR THINGS TO ASK A STRANGER (almost a parody)

Welcome to Mary Anne Radmacher's blog.

One way to get to know a person you've just met is to ask them to tell you about their favorite friends. It's said that a person essentially becomes an aggregate of the five people with whom they spend the most time.

There's another telling question to ask a stranger. It's all about a book.

1) Is there one book that you have re-read and will read again (and again)?
2) What is the most recent book that you've read and what stands out to you most?
3) What is the title of a book you recommend most often to friends?
4) What was the last book you read that made you so sad when it came to the end? (Because you wanted to keep on reading, not because the ending was sad!).

If the person you are just getting to know has never re-read a book, can't remember what stood out from the last book they read, doesn't recommend books to friends and has never felt sad to stop reading an excellent book...

I suggest that you stop conversing with them. And, perhaps, run. Kidding (not kidding). Perhaps you might consider striking up a conversation with someone else that you might want to get to know. AND start THAT conversation off by recommending a book you've recently read...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

WHAT ART DOES

WHAT ART DOES/THE KENNEDY CENTER HONORS 2009

Writer, composer, actor, director, and producer Mel Brooks; pianist and composer Dave Brubeck; opera singer Grace Bumbry; actor, director, and producer Robert De Niro; and singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen.

I like to watch one awards show each year. This is the one. The one that acknowledges with full national force the significant role that the ARTS play in the life of America. The work of my day was put away. I turned off my phone. For two hours I was transported. Commercial breaks were taken in conversation with my husband about what we had just seen. Each performer honored had a place of significance in my our histories. And tonight their stories were part of my story. Because THAT is what art does. It engages. It draws you in. It’s the train wreck you have to watch and it’s the prolonged note, the beauty of which pulls across the skin of your life like a knife and draws blood. ART. It’s not the neat and the orderly. It is the inspiring and the impacting. It’s immediate. Dangerous. And essential.

As Bruce Springsteen’s music ran its full brush across the palette of the evening, I saw it again. The ART of America stirring the soul. I saw the memories playing on the screens of every person in attendance there in the Kennedy Center. In my home and home’s in the broadcast reach. Springsteen’s lyrical presence, like Whitman, like Sandburg, uniquely calls out that which is undeniably American in our experiences. They were dancing. They were clapping. They could not remain still. They, we, were calling to mind that which once was. That’s what ART does. It calls to mind that which was before and brings it again, alive, in this moment. Not predictable and anticipated but wild and utterly breath stealing.

My husband and I dried our tears. I uttered a holy expletive under my breath and declined bed for a bit. “I have to write.”

I am compelled. Because THAT is what ART DOES.

mary anne radmacher, December 29, 2009 11:15 PM

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