Sondheim’s song “The Ladies Who Lunch”, from Company, is supposed to leave a bitter aftertaste. It is, after all, the song that prompts the protagonist to embrace a version of life which includes commitment: alone is alone not alive. Bobby, in the play, does not want to become a “lady who lunches”, a dinosaur surviving the crunch, someone who, when you look into her eyes, you see that she knows everybody dies. So he goes on and makes his big closing statement.
In this sense “Ladies who lunch” is an odd, unpromising, name for a personal blog. And I thought in those terms, exactly, until I saw Alan Cumming’s triumphant version of the song. In Cumming’s version, the bitter aspects are still there, but there is also a sense of survival, of being above madness, of celebration of life in spite of everything. It may take some detachment, it may take a vodka stinger, it may take wit and a piece of Mahler’s (the composer, not pastry shop), but one decides resolutely to be above all.
And this is what this blog will be about. Thinking and writing as a strategy for survival, an attempt at trying to keep my head above things, to be rational about education, politics, culture and sex. It’s not always easy. And certainly it does not solve things. Lunching, whether with or without vodka, has never saved humanity from its foibles. But, you know what, sometimes, particularly in the world we live right now, being able to look at things in the face brings its own joy. And yes, it may lead to a personal fantasy, and yes it may upset some people, but that can’t be helped. So some of the entries here will be a little bit impertinent, a little bit naive, a little bit grumpy, but always well intentioned and often as honest as one can make it.
This blog is written under the inspiration of Stephen Sondheim and lots of other lovely people who have helped to build the place from where I look at the world: Edith Wharton, Henry James and George Eliot, Vladimir Nabokov, Bob Fosse, Oscar Wilde, Terenci Moix, Miguel de Cervantes, David Lynch, Howard Hawks, Richard Strauss, Philip K. Dick, Billie Holiday, Elaine Stritch, Federico Fellini, Jane Fonda, Manuel Puig, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Franz Schubert, Pedro Almodóvar, Marcel Proust, William Shakespeare, Leonard Bernstein, John Barth, Alfred Hitchcock, James Baldwin, Enrique Jardiel Poncela, Rafael de León, Cole Porter, Bob Mizner, Billy Wilder, Robert Altman, George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, William Inge, Flann O’Brien, Jules Verne, Anton Chekhov, Truman Capote, Arthur Laurents, Fred Ebb, Julio Cortázar, Barbara Cook, Bette Davis, Norma Desmond and many other people out there in the dark. I hope you can hear their voices in mine.