Friday, January 21, 2022

kimball & co.

Thursday was my first scheduled San Francisco Symphony concert after the holiday break, but I wasn't there. Recently established regulations that everyone be boostered, not just vaccinated, and upgrading the facial protection requirements, were not enough to qualm my concerns. So I did not get to hear conductor emeritus MTT lead Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony. Instead, I stayed home and listened to recordings of Gergiev, Paavo Järvi, and - for a taste of the old stuff - Mravinsky in the same work.
I further realized it was wise to have decided not to go all the way up there when I read of last week's concert that was canceled literally at the last minute - they'd already given the pre-concert lecture - when one of the musicians tested positive. Out of an abundance of caution ... Fortunately for the patrons, the guest pianist, who had come for a Beethoven concerto, came out and played an hour of Chopin that he had in his memory. That was nice of him, but it wouldn't have been what I was there for.

This did mean that I was able to attend an online book discussion of Kipling's novel Kim. One of our senior members, who's cherished this book since first reading it at the age of 11, wanted to know what the rest of us thought of it. I'm afraid my reaction was disappointing to fans. I didn't have time to get very far. I grasped who Kim was - an orphaned white child who's immersed into the indigenous society of Kipling-era India - and that he attaches himself to a visiting Tibetan lama who's on an ill-defined quest, but for all the chapters that they travel together, whatever was going on and with whom just eluded my grasp entirely. According to others present, Kim is getting his first education in what will be his eventual profession of spy, but it went past me. I think my problem is that Kim is entirely submerged in a society that's completely alien to me and that I know nothing about, so this kind of narrative isn't going to give me a clue. It's rather like my experience trying to read Patrick O'Brian and drowning in a sea of nautical terminology. Unlike the one-time 11-year-old, who wanted to be Kim, I just felt bewildered. Further evidence that this was my problem emerges when Kim is adopted by a British regiment who identify him as white and try to educate him in their culture. Now I understood who was on the page and what they were doing. Unfortunately this is where I ran out of time before the meeting, in the middle of a dispute over whether to raise him as Protestant or Catholic.

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