The current law says that I was grown up at age 18, though I had to learn that retroactively, so to speak. When I was 18, I didn't know I was grown up. I thought I had to wait three more years. But the legal definition decrees the length of my adulthood, so I will go with that.
I now have fifty years of grown-up observation behind me – each of them, in its own way, "a very good year." I thought it was time to celebrate by inaugurating a new column reflecting on things I like and have continued to like since I first encountered them.
I will try to keep from writing about things that everybody likes, because you could write your own columns about those. Instead I write about things either unique to my experience or things that deserved to survive but rarely surface today. Their day in the sun was all too short, in my view; they deserve still to be read, to be heard, to be pondered, or simply to be remembered.
I will warn you in advance, in case you keep checking this column out, that there is no accounting for taste. Mine is unpredictable. As applied to literature and the fine arts, I have a few gourmet tastes along with an insatiable appetite for junk food. My favorite things extend beyond such limited categories, however; the only way to know what I am writing about in a given column will be to check in every two weeks. I am either a generalist or a trivialist; the line between them is very thin. Here are some clues as to what is coming, broadly stated.
My favorite books are not necessarily those that should be my favorites. They are those that fall apart in my hands after a decade or three of handling. My favorite movies are of three kinds.
- Those I see but once, but live through so vividly I don't want or need to see them again. (I saw The Color Purple and Ordinary People more than once, not because I needed to or wanted to, but because I was teaching a college course that had them as part of the curriculum.)
- Those that require nothing of me, like certain old musicals, except for me to sit there and soak them up.
- Those in which I participate vicariously. I see them every five years or so, if I can.
My favorite plays have nothing in common except perhaps the skill of the playwright. They tend to be as readable as they are performable. One critic put it something like this: Great drama always has the potential of great theatre, but great theatre is not always great drama.
My favorite people have been those who are comfortable in their own skin. They are more than I can write about or even name. I don't know whether they outnumber the others or not, and I'm not sure that I qualify myself. The miscellany and memories have just one thing in common, that I discern now: shared pleasure.