Saturday, December 1, 2012

1. “Lucinda”

Randy Newman: 12 Songs (Reprise, 1970);
composed by Randy Newman
If Randy Newman’s second and greatest album had a theme, it was not so much alienation as anomie: the breakdown of social bonds between individual and community. 12 Songs posed an unsettling corollary: What if anomie was something you liked? Accordingly, the narrators of these songs are mostly creepy guys at the end of their tethers. “Suzanne” comprises an obscene phone call, for example. In “Lucinda,” a young woman is lying on a beach in her graduation gown at sunset. The narrator lies down beside her, for reasons unstated. Since she never speaks, he only gradually realizes that she is really just there to wait for the beach cleaning truck to come along and scoop her body up with the day’s trash. And it does. After he fails to avert this, the narrator’s dumbstruck explanation is that “She just wouldn’t go no farther.” This recalls my pet theory about why The Night of the Hunter is a truly scary film: because Charles Laughton probably empathized most with the Robert Mitchum character. “Lucinda” reminds me of the town drunk incapacitated by his discovery of Shelley Winters’ bound corpse in the river - an utterly appalling image with few rivals in American cinema.
Note: 25 secular essays (each one exactly 200 words long) about 25 songs, intended to appear one per day during Advent from Dec. 1 through Dec. 25. Or so.

No comments: