TV Men: Lazarus

August 1, 2007 at 1:28 pm 3 comments

Anne Carson

Listen

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: VOICEOVER

Yes I admit to a degree of unease about my
motives in making
this documentary.
Mere prurience of a kind that is all too common nowadays
in public catastrophes. I was listening

to a peace negotiator for the Balkans talk
about his vocation
on the radio the other day.
“We drove down through this wasteland and I didn’t know
much about the area but I was

fascinated by the horrors of it. I had never
seen a thing like this.
I videotaped it.
Then sent a 13-page memo to the UN with my suggestions.”
This person was a member

of the International Rescue Committee,
not a man of TV.
But you can see
how the pull is irresistible. The pull to handle horrors
and to have a theory of them.

But now I see my assistant producer waving her arms
at me to get
on with the script.
The name Lazarus is an abbreviated form of the Hebrew ‘El’azar,
meaning “God has helped.”

I have long been interested in those whom God has helped.
It seems to often be the case,
e.g. with saints or martyrs,
that God helps them to far more suffering than they would have
without God’s help. But then you get

someone like Lazarus, a man of no
particular importance,
on whom God bestows
the ultimate benevolence, without explanation, then abandons
him again to his nonentity.

We are left wondering, Why Lazarus?
My theory is
God wants us to wonder this.
After all, if there were some quality that Lazarus possessed,
some criterion of excellence

by which he was chosen to be called
back
from death,
then we would all start attempting to achieve this.
But if

God’s gift is simply random, well
for one thing
it makes a
more interesting TV show. God’s choice can be seen emerging
from the dark side of reason

like a new planet. No use being historical
about this planet,
it is just an imitation.
As Lazarus is an imitation of Christ. As TV is an imitation of
Lazarus. As you and I are an imitation of

TV. Already you notice that
although I am merely
a director of photography,
I have grasped certain fundamental notions first advanced by Plato,
e.g. that our reality is just a TV set

inside a TV set inside a TV set, with nobody watching
but Sokrates,
who changed the channel in 399 B.C. But my bond with Lazarus goes deeper, indeed
nausea overtakes me when faced with

the prospect of something simply beginning all over again.
Each time I have to
raise my slate and say
“Take 12!” or “Take 13!” and then “Take 14!”
I cannot restrain a shudder.

Repetition is horrible. Poor Lazarus cannot have known
he was an
imitation Christ,
but who can doubt he realized, soon after being ripped out of his
warm little bed in the ground,

his own epoch of repetition just beginning.
Lazarus Take 2!
Poor drop.
As a bit of salt falls back down the funnel. Or maybe my pity
is misplaced. Some people think Lazarus lucky,

like Samuel Beckett who calls him “Happy Larry” or Rilke
who speaks of
that moment in a game
when “the pure too-little flips over into the empty too-much.”
Well I am no explaining why my documentary

focuses entirely on this moment, the flip-over moment.
Before and after
don’t interest me.
You won’t be seeing any clips from home videos of Lazarus
in short pants racing his sisters up a hill.

No footage of Mary and Martha side by side on the sofa
discussing how they manage
at home
with a dead one sitting down to dinner. No panel of experts
debating who was really the victim here.

Our sequence begins and ends with that moment of complete
innocence
and sport -
when Lazarus licks the first drop of afterlife off the nipple
of his own old death.

I put tiny microphones all over the ground
to pick up
the magic
of the vermin in his ten fingers and I stand back to wait
for the miracle.

I know, I know, this isn’t really a poem about movies, but it’s close enough. What I love about this poem is the distance it travels, as well as the way it blends ideas and images, the ancient and the modern, the lyrical and the prosaic.

Anne Carson has been pretty much my poet of the month this past July (I’ve blogged about her here and here) so it felt fitting to include some of her work on Poi-tre. This one comes from Men in the Off Hours and is just one of many, many brilliant poems in that collection.

[falstaff]

P.S. BM points me to an article about Men in the Off Hours in Slate

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Entry filed under: Anne Carson, English, Falstaff, Poems about Movies. Tags: .

My Career as a Director Ave Maria

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Space Bar  |  August 2, 2007 at 2:36 am

    What a fantastic poem. Thank you. Three words, ‘repetition is horrible’ and so much rests on it.

    Reply
  • 2. Sarah Sarai  |  February 28, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Mary & Martha side-by-side on the couch. The vermin in his ten fingers. This poem is astonishing. I just chanced on your blog. Great.

    Reply
  • 3. Sylvester  |  August 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    I am regular visitor, how are you everybody? This article posted at this website is in fact nice.

    Reply

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