Wednesday, May 26, 2010
What is this series doing in this blog? Lakin is a longtime Californian who still resides here. She had a successful television career, both as a writer and eventually as a producer. She wrote many movies of the week, and has won a variety of awards, including the prestigious Edgar Allen Poe Award for mystery writers.
So you have a mother retired in Florida? Here's what to send as a mitzvah to give her a dose of the best medicine, lots of laughs. Ok, she may kvetch back, but just roll your eyes and keep quiet. Of course, read the book first for your own pleasure.
Rita Lakin also has a blog, and a new book about to come out, Growing Old is Tres Dangereux.
Monday, May 24, 2010
We met as novice sociologists at a woman's group. She had managed an unfortunately short-lived job at Stanford and lived in SF. Coming from the east, as I did, we were sympatico from the start. I was a single mom, and she lived with a sweet Japanese photographer, David, who taught me to surf fish. We both shared a fascination with photographs in sociology, and Barbara's first book was on professional photographers. Her home was a welcoming respite during some hard times for me, both for her intense intellectualism and her wild sense of fun.
We were less in touch when our personal lives shifted. She shifted into a gay life style, and I was unhappy with one of her choices for a partner. We had some fights, good ones, that we eventually got over. Then I remarried and she found Sandy, the kind of opposite that works so well in building a solid relationship. In her forties, Barbara was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. She remarked that she guessed she would have to teach the rest of us about dying, which she did with abandon. She travelled, she continued her intellectual and teaching life. The last time I saw her, I took a portable microscope and tiny flowers for her to study. She was honest to the end, and kept all of her friends informed of her condition. I still miss her, over 25 years later, and regret we can't wonder over the latest political morass.
She and Sandy co-wrote one of the best books ever on intimates dealing with a fatal disease, Cancer in Two Voices. It won some awards, but I don't think it remains in print. Find a copy if you can.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
During the early 1920s she toured as an accompanist for the Metropolitan Opera, performed as a soloist with symphony orchestras, and published in her favorite format, the choral work. Moving to Los Angeles, she studied orchestration and wrote her first symphonic work, "The Harp Weaver," set to the poem of Edna Vincent Millay. Critics described the work as "melodious, picturesque, and imbued with appropriate feeling...effective tone-painting" and praised the composer's "genuine creative talent." The premiere of was conducted by Antonia Brico at Carnegie Hall in 1936. Warren found herself set among other neo-romanticists, such as Samuel Barber and Giancarlo Menotti.
Intensely private and comitted to her craft, she continued with numerous songs, choral pieces, and symphonic works, often referring to English poets for inspiration. This accompanied a full family life with a supportive husband, a professional singer, who kept the children away when she was working. Despite the rise of atonal music, she refused to shift her preferred style, and had the satisfaction of seeing her works performed throughout the country. Further evidence of her achievement was the commissioning of works, such as her "Symphony in One Movement."
To understand obstacles what she faced, consider this exchange, and note the recent date:
"I don't think compositions, whether they're large or small, have a gender, as far as the music goes, and I think it makes no difference to state `this is a woman composer,' `this is a man composer,'" Warren commented in a 1987 interview.
"I've had many people say to me `You play like a man,' or `Your music sounds as if it were written by a man.' I think they associate any kind of music that is rather strong or powerful with manliness."
When the interviewer observed, "Because the work is so big and we just don't expect that of a woman," Warren shot back, "I don't know why. Women have thoughts too!"
More than 200 of Warren's works remain available in publication form, and several major works in CD by leading artists. One of these was created when she was 86, when Cambria Records asked her to accompany singers on an album of her works. An organization
On a personal note, I wonder about my own stifled musical career. What if the orchestras I visited in my youth included women? What if my education had included the long line of noted women composers? And why did it require a web search to learn about Warren when I have been in choral groups all my life? After all, the repertoire of my current group includes Samuel Barber. I think I have some education to do with some local conductors....and send them to the Elinor Remick Warren Society.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
One unexpected source concerns an index of newspaper articles from the Press Democrat between 1969 and 1978. Clicking a box in the graphical display offers the headline and particular source information. The first two articles in 1969 exquisitely reflect the cusp of change. One concerns a Candlelight Ball, while the other announces a luncheon for war mothers, this being the era of Vietnam. Skimming over later titles, one is reminded of the enormous commitment of women then to establish support groups in various fields, to rally against discrimination, to pressure for new laws, and more. Those of us who lived through that time wonder why that history has been relatively forgotten. How often do my cohort members comment upon the set belief of so many young California women that equality is here, when that is not the case? We feel cranky, but when I survey what we attempted, perhaps we deserve to feel such annoyance.
Monday, February 15, 2010
I read Leffland's 1970 novel Rumors of Peace several years ago, yet many of its scenes still resonate. The story takes place at the start of World War II in fictional Mendoza that resembles Martinez or Carquinez. Told through the viewpoint of young Susie Hansen, the war's approach takes on the particularity of its location. A tomboy when the bombers attack Pearl Harbor, she has learned to appreciate her burgeoning womanliness by the time of Hiroshima. Guiding her on this journey is the radical and brilliant older sister of her best friend. Susie's mentor helps her to navigate a self-acceptance that acknowledges her new sexuality without compromising and swallowing the standard female role of the time. So it is a path many, including myself, have followed.
This book works on so many levels, as coming-of-age, as the war's effect upon California, as a commentary on the difficulties of friendship, and more. I was dismayed to discover it is no longer in my library, though that absence means someone else is enjoying my copy, perhaps a purchase at a library sale. Highly recommended for all readers, and would serve a special gift to young adult readers and fans of California history.
Leffland's latest book, which I have yet to read, concerns a biography of Hermann Goering. One of these days...