del Valle Schorske: Obama and Biggie make history

January 19, 2009
“For today, as I go groaning among the shadows, I miss, inevitably, the spectacle that is now taking shape.” —Lévi-Strauss Miss, inevitably, the spectacle? Barack Obama’s people would never. So, if they take Lévi-Strauss to heart, they must avoid “groaning among the shadows,” reliving and rethinking the past. Throughout the campaign, there was nary a »

del Valle Schorske: Autumn’s lessons from alums

November 21, 2008
‘So, after summer, in the autumn air, comes the cold volume of forgotten ghosts, but soothingly, with pleasant instruments, so that this cold, a children’s tale of ice, seems like a sheen of heat romanticized … The instinct for heaven had its counterpart: the instinct for earth, for New Haven …” – Wallace Stevens, “An »

del Valle Schorske: We cry before we change

November 6, 2008
“People can cry much more easily than they can change, a rule of psychology people like me picked up as kids on the street.” –James Baldwin On Tuesday afternoon, I told my roommate that no matter the outcome, I would be crying in a few hours. By the time Ohio turned blue, I knew I »

del Valle Schorske: Beyonce as a boy? It’s not too wild

October 22, 2008
“You must not know about me.” —Beyoncé, “Irreplaceable” No lie, B. I must not know about you. Every time I get to thinking you’re — dare I say it? — replaceable, and relegate you to the comfortable status of guilty pleasure, you get restless. You seem to move — again, dare I say it? — »

After guilt, atonement

October 9, 2008
“My life in art has redeemed me from a thousand deaths. Through my painting, which I have practiced diligently, I have atoned for a guilt I do not know the origin of.”— Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, 1938 Friedl Dicker-Brandeis was a Jewish artist, political activist and intellectual in Vienna before World War II — demanding occupations, even »

Del Valle Schorske: In search of mots perdus

September 24, 2008
“Silence, I believe, avoids me, as water on a beach avoids stranded fish.” —Franz Kafka, in a letter to fiancee Felice Bauer My beginning is fishy, I know — fishy because it is obvious. The very existence of this column confirms that silence avoids me, too. Quoting Kafka is also fishy in a more generic »

A poet is born even before she knows the word

April 25, 2008
“I’m really more of a song and dance man.” Bob Dylan’s sass-in-a-glass reply to the question “Do you consider yourself a poet?” still sounds fresh. It gets its freshness first from the mystical mouth of its speaker and next from the fact that the identity he’s rejecting, that of the poet, still sort of stinks. »