Listen to an analysis of a book, film, play, or poem. A philosopher and poet discuss their meaning, themes, symbols, and motifs, with a view to co-creating an entertaining audio essay in real time.
Art and Action in Chekhov’s “The House with the Mezzanine”
In this story, there are two sisters: one introverted, frail, and bookish; the other dominant, opinionated, and politically active. In meeting them, an accomplished artist seems to be confronted with a dilemma. Should art subordinate itself to the project of creating a just society? Or should it focus on serving more spiritual needs? These questions make Chekhov’s “The House with the Mezzanine” an interesting meditation on the relationship between politics and the arts, and whether the windows of our proverbial dwellings are best used to illuminate a new path forward, or to articulate the beauty of the world as it is.
Nipped by Love in Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Little Dog”
Dmitri Gurov does not take love seriously. His wife annoys him, long-term relationships scare him, and his love life consists of brief affairs with women he meets at vacation resorts. In Anna, he finds someone who appears to be the usual victim—traveling alone, tired of her husband, and unlikely to make any effective demands for intimacy, something that seems to be revealed in the diminutive portability of her traveling companion. This time, however, he has met a match too powerful for his predatory ambitions. When is love’s bite bigger than its bark? Wes & Erin discuss Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with a Little Dog.”
Business Gets Personal in “The Godfather”
Out of the darkness of the opening frames comes a supplicant— Buonasera the undertaker. He pleads for the justice that the American legal system denied him. As the camera draws back, we see the outline of a face, a hand... Don Corleone holds court at the confluence of loyalty and duress, generosity and calculation, power and fragility. It is not money, but friendship that he asks of Buonasera. Within and without the world of the film, can one consider Don Corleone a great man? Or does his moral code, like his favor, always hide a transaction? Wes & Erin give their analysis of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 film, “The Godfather.”
(post)script: Post-Hall: Pimps, Pills, and Automobiles
Wes & Erin continue their discussion of Annie Hall; Wes pines to revisit his many unwritten essays, including the one about love and nostalgia in Woody Allen films. We discuss whether Mike Nichols used crack, and the way Google's algorithms mercilessly hunt Wes down to forcibly dose him with information about the director, all because of a few searches. Wes couldn't get through Clue, but that may be due to the variability of his many movie moods, and in any case Erin's Madeline Kahn impression captures a redeeming attitude. We discuss My Favorite Wife (my favorite life?). >> More
Love and Nostalgia in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall”
Alvy Singer is not, he tells us, a depressive character. It’s just that as a child he always worried that the expanding universe would one day break apart; and as an adult that romantic relationships must always fall apart. With Annie Hall, he thought he had finally found something that would last, in part because she could -- like the audiences of Woody Allen -- endure and make sense of his fragmented neuroticism: by finding it, on occasion, funny, or endearing, or even informative. While Annie’s patient, quirky fatalism does not prevent her from outgrowing Alvy and leaving him behind, the nostalgic and wistful frame of Allen’s film does have something to say about what helps keep love alive, and people connected.
Yielding to Suggestion in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”
On the moors of medieval Scotland, three witches hail the nobleman Macbeth as the future king—despite the fact that King Duncan is very much alive, and Macbeth is not in line to the throne. At the suggestion of power, Macbeth’s mind leaps to murder. Later, he fancies he sees a floating dagger leading him to Duncan, and after more bloodshed, believes he is haunted by the ghost of a friend. Is Macbeth merely a victim of divination, goaded by suggestion and his own imagination? To what extent is every ambition an imaginative act—and perhaps a form of prophecy? Wes & Erin discuss the Scottish Play: Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, "Macbeth.”