ARTS: One of my favorite songs is Peter Gabriel’s “Book of Love.” The singer here grumbles about the confusing various faces of love, alternating between praise for the bracingly ennobling nature of romantic love (“some of it’s just transcendental”) and the heartbreak of disappointment and disillusionment (“some of it’s just really dumb”). The chorus, however, proclaims the singer’s ultimate devotion to the mature relationship that produces this weird magic.
I’ve read some purist critics say they prefer the original by indie band The Magnetic Fields, but two things make Gabriel’s cover superior. First is the addition of some understated strings, which can add to a song that’s already reflective a profoundly nostalgic dimension (case in point: R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming”). Second, Gabriel’s voice. It sounds weary throughout, perhaps from being burdened by intense emotional experience, but in the choruses it climbs into a realm of subdued power that sounds like sandpaper soaked in whiskey.
Surprisingly, there aren’t very many good videos for this song on YouTube. One decent version is set to scenes from 2005’s Pride and Prejudice. Most every melancholy love song has a YouTube video made of scenes from this movie. Also available are a few amateur covers, most of which are actually quite good. Below is one set to some well chosen companion images.
EDUCATION: “Everyone ought to have the opportunity to transcend the limitations of his linguistic environment, if it is a restricted one–which means he ought to meet a few schoolmarms in his childhood…It is fatuous to expect that the most complex of human faculties, language, requires no special training to develop it to its highest possible power.” -Theodore Dalrymple, “The Gift of Language,” City Journal, Autumn 2006
HUMOR: excerpted from “Anticlimactic Twilight Zone Episodes,” by Jim Stallard, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, 8/5/05:
Eye of the Beholder
In a hospital, her head completely wrapped in bandages, a young woman waits for the result of a last-ditch operation to alter her disfigured face so she will not have to be sent to live at a reservation of outcasts. Throughout the episode, the viewer hears the voices of the doctors and bedside family members but never sees their faces. When the bandages are finally removed, they reveal a plain-faced woman with several visible scars. The woman’s father says the surgeon probably did the best he could under the circumstances and sends his daughter to Sarah Lawrence.
LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: “No man can write well who thinks there is any choice of words for him. The laws of composition are as strict as those of sculpture & architecture. There is always one line that ought to be drawn or one proportion that should be kept & every other line or proportion is wrong, & so far as it deviates from this. So in writing, there is always a right word, & every other than that is wrong. There is no beauty in words except in their collocation. The effect of a fanciful word misplaced, is like that of a horn of exquisite polish growing on a human head.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal, July 8, 1831
LIFE has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.
Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.
-Sara Teasdale, “Barter,” 1917
POLITICS AND SOCIETY: “Human beings love freedom much less than equality. And they love it much less because, flowing into collectivism, equality relieves the individual from the burden of responsibility. Because equality does not demand the sacrifice that freedom demands, does not require the courage that freedom requires.” -Oriana Fallaci, The Force of Reason
RELIGION: “To be redeemed is to be atoned. From this it should be clear what kind of onenessis meant by the Atonement—it is being received by the Lord in a close embrace of the returning prodigal son, expressing not only forgiveness but oneness of heart and mind that amounts to identity, like a literal family identity as John sets it forth so vividly in chapters 14 through 17 of his Gospel.” -Hugh Nibley, “The Meaning of the Atonement,” Approaching Zion (see also here)