Fair is fair.
Just as I guiltily relish certain forms of trash, some enumerated here, there are those high- and middlebrow pleasures appreciated by thoughtful, astute people but that try as I might, I can’t seem to appreciate myself. Here follows my partial list.
Mozart. Everyone raves about his perfection. To me he sounds like a perfect music box: tra LA la la, trippy skippy. Too many notes. I do like his later symphonies and the requiem better, when he gets darker, but for the most part, after years of listening to and playing Mozart from time to time and waiting for the light to dawn, I still don’t get him. (As a child I thought of Mozart as an inexplicable grown-up pleasure, like salmon or a preference for conversation to outdoor play, that would surely seize me in adulthood. Now I like both salmon and conversation, but Mozart has never taken. Maybe in my forties?)
Haydn is worse. I could do without a lot of the twentieth century as well. I’m afraid that when it comes to music I’m positively reactionary: I almost consider it an open question whether any good music has been written since 1750 (or, at any rate, I like to say this to scandalize).
See here for snippets from other anti-Mozart curmudgeons.
Jazz. I know it’s the great American art form, our true classical music and all that, and once in a while I’ve stumbled across something I like (Pat Methene) but in general, I don’t get it. So sad when I turn on public radio and the Bach I think should be there has been preempted by someone named Count Basie?
Opera. Same thing. There are arias I love (“Caro Babbo Mio” from Gianni Schicchi, and there’s a fabulous one in the middle of Verdi’s Otello that I’m too ignorant to know the name of) and I have friends who are opera singers, but I don’t really get the whole thing all put together–the music, the acting, the costumes–it seems wildly overblown. My husband, on the other hand, will go to extraordinary lengths to attend any performance of La Boheme he can reach, which is one of the things I love about him.
Musicals. I simply don’t understand why people onstage should suddenly, for no apparent reason, burst into song, usually just when the plot’s getting interesting. However, I did like Into the Woods, and last year my husband dragged me to what I have to admit was an outstanding performance of Oklahoma!, so I may be educable on this point.
Cooking for fun. A few months ago, at a gathering at a professor’s house, everyone started talking about how much they enjoy cooking to relax. I do realize food has to be prepared, and I’m deeply grateful to anyone who prepares it. I just can’t seem to find any intrinsic pleasure in preparing it myself, though I like good food and I have no problem eating too much of it. (For what light it might shed, I come from a line of women who don’t like to cook. My mother doesn’t. Neither did my grandmother.) On this blog, I think S and Melyngoch may be the only people who cook for fun, although I’ve seen both Kiskilili and Lynnette produce some truly exotic dishes (Baloney-Os, anyone?). I love to organize things, and I’d rather clean than cook. It’s hard to make too many mistakes doing the dishes, but cooking offers endless possibilities for disaster.
Home decorating. On this score, once again I’m fortunate to have a husband whose strengths compensate for my weaknesses–a man who drools over the Pottery Barn catalogue, who once subscribed to Better Homes & Gardens, a man who can be pried from CSPAN only by HGTV. I appreciate the end result, but left to my own devices, I’m afraid I wouldn’t bother.
Alexander Pope. Maybe I’ve just heard him quoted in too many church talks. (Vice is a monster of so frightful a mein, etc.)
Chess. This, I’m convinced, has to do with a deficit in processing visual information. Last time I tried chess, my husband got my queen in five moves. However, I have been seduced by Settlers of Catan, so maybe there’s hope for me on this one as well.
On a slightly more serious note, a while ago I read somewhere (I’m still looking for the reference) about a literature professor whose final included an essay question in which students had to write about the literary work they disliked the most and what deficit in them that dislike revealed. I was enchanted by the question, partly because I’ve graded so many student responses in recent years consisting of observations such as “This was boring. I couldn’t get into it,” but also in considering my own literary tasts and the personal limitations they may reflect. I hated, despised Wallace Stevens when I encountered him in high school–I adore him now. Mediocre teaching may have been somewhat to blame, but the flaw was definitely in me. So what does it say about me now that I don’t like Paradise Lost or Pope or those dreary naturalists?
Are the faults in the stars, or in ourselves?
- 5 August 2006