1. c. Edith Wharton, in The House of Mirth (1905). “Marry Anto’nette—that’s what we call her: after the French queen in that play at the Garden—I told George the actress reminded me of you, and that made me fancy the name” explains Nettie Struther, a one-time charity case who now is thriving as a mother and wife. Lily Bart’s encounter with this woman and her child takes place shortly before the end of the book, when Lily takes an overdose and is found dead. (Artfully, beautifully dead, with all her bills paid). The ironies fold on top of each other, as the mother, in naming her child with the Americanized “Marry Anto’nette,” is actually commemorating a failure, historical and modern-day: the miserable plight of the unskilled, unwanted if once decorative woman. (Penguin classics, p. 314.)
2. d. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden, chapter two, “Where I Lived,” first pub. 1854. In Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience, ed. Michael Meyer (NY: Penguin, 1986), 139.
3. b. The queen collected fine lacquer boxes. For more insights into the many ways French artists and artisans have borrowed from Japanese culture, read Nancy Hass, “The Borrowers,” T: The New York Times Style Magazine (2/21/21): 132.
4. a. 1960s-1970s, and today, in certain circles. The song was initially composed as an anthem for the popular unity government, reflecting the spirit behind the mass mobilization of working-class people who in 1970 had elected Salvador Allende for the socialist transformation of Chile. During Allende’s campaign, El pueblo unido jamás será vencido was a frequent slogan. Thanks to Sabor Radio Show, KBCS FM Seattle, 3/07/20, where I first heard this stirring ballad!
5. b. The lyrics are from the heart-breaking, ever-wonderful song, “Tangled Up in Blue” from Blood on the Tracks, 1974. (That Nobel Prize was well-deserved!)
6. d. The correct lyrics for these lines are: “There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock news / And no pictures of hairy armed women liberationists / And Jackie Onassis blowing her nose”.
Scott-Heron first recorded the song for his 1970 album Small Talk, on which he recited the lyrics, accompanied by congas and bongo drums. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” was originally a popular slogan among the 1960s Black Power movements in the United States and a response to the spoken-word piece “When the Revolution Comes” by The Last Poets, which opens with the line “When the revolution comes some of us will probably catch it on TV”.
7. b. Jacques-Louis David’s painting, Marat assassiné (or Marat’s Death). The original can be seen at Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, in Brussels.
TV AND FILMS
8. a. Xavier Beauvois—or beautiful to see (beau à voir)–is the director of this would-be restaging of the storming of the Bastille. The film is to be a massive hymn to the people’s power to change the world for the better… its fate remains, of course, up in the air.
9. b. He learns he has AIDS—or we discern as much–in a scene which closes on him hearing his name called in the AIDS clinic waiting room. He had long avoided going back to that clinic since the blood test. This moment leads to the tragic news and his rapid decline to a horrible death. But in the time between the test and his finally seeking the results, he sleeps with many other men. This makes him a willing accomplice to death… and a morally bankrupt, if adorable and totally endearing, hero for our times.
FOOD & CUISINE
10. c. 1891. In January 1891 the play Thermidor by Victorien Sardou opened in the Comédie-Française theatre. The play took its name from a summer month in the French Republican Calendar, during which the Thermidorian Reaction in 1794 occurred, overthrowing Robespierre and ending the Reign of Terror. Madame Paillard, a restaurant owner in the theater district (near the Porte Saint-Martin) named the dish to provoke people and capitalize on the play’s notoriety. During these years of the Third Republic when Robespierre was undergoing something of a comeback in nationalist historiography, a reminder of the Terror was unwelcome. In fact, the performances were stopped by order of the French government, and did not re-open until March 1896.
For a great example of a history textbook from Mme Paillard’s time, see C. Calvet, Histoire de France (Paris: Bibliothèque d’Éducation, 1902). The description of Thermidor is startling! « Arrêté avec son frère et quelques amis, il aurait pu se sauver sans doute en faisant appel à l’insurrection. Mais il refusa, donnant, à cette heure suprême, un dernier exemple d’obéissance à la loi. Il fut exécuté le 10 thermidor. Cette date marque la fin de la Terreur et le retour à un gouvernement moins sanguinaire. » (Calvet, Histoire de France, p. 193).
Arrested with his brother and some friends, he could doubtless have escaped by calling for a widespread insurrection. But he refused, and instead at that supreme hour, he gave one last example of obedience to the law. He was executed on 10 Thermidor. That date marks the end of the Terror and the return to a less bloodthirsty government. –Calvet, Histoire de France, p. 193, my trans.
See also Wikipedia’s good article on cuisine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobster_Thermidor
Thanks for reading!
Merci d’être venu!