Monday, June 16, 2014

Ibsen on the Bus

The last New Yorker issue was a double one, so I've read it by now and as of last Friday have had nothing to read on the bus. (Friday afternoon at work, I desperately printed out articles from Vanity Fair, et al -- any online place that would let me read and print so that I wouldn't be forced to stare blankly into space for the hour trip home after work.)

Today, Monday morning, there was still no bus-reading material... oh, well, except for the thousand books that I have in my apartment. Grabbed the paperback of Ibsen's "Four Major Plays: Volume 1." I was jazzed up after just the foreword, reading the editor's puzzlement when trying to discern why Ibsen painted, at age 17, the biblical prophet Elijah, entitling the picture: "The Prophet Elijah under a juniper tree in the wilderness, I Kings, 19, 5."

The foreword says: "The text referred to reads: 'And he lay down under the juniper tree; and behold, an angel touched him, and said to him, 'Arise and eat.'" And then the text dumbly asks, "What is there in this passage, we wonder, that Ibsen should want to paint it?"

Turns out the preceding biblical verse (what I pretty much suspected was about to come) was: "But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he asked that he might die, saying, 'It is enough now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers.'"

And all this before 8:30am! :)  What a great, mind-blowingly intelligent way to start the day! Reading nothing but the New Yorker for the past few months, I've missed this kind of REVELATION (as opposed to mere "upper-middle-class Conventional Wisdom"-- the New Yorker is smart, but it's usually completely "of the moment" as opposed to "of the ages"; there's very little depth there, more often a compendium of social trends. I didn't used to know this).

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