A Tribute to Charles Marowitz
by Glenn Reed
(Swans - May 19, 2014) And indeed there will be time...
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
I first read these words by T.S. Eliot in a college Brit Lit class. This was back in 1978. They've reverberated in my head ever since. They've crossed the country many times. Gone overseas on too few occasions. Needled in my gut and tickled my brain across the decades. Pushed a slogan in magic marker across a protest sign and held the sign high until arms and shoulders ached. Whispered in penpoint in worn notebooks and tapped out by fingers in pixels through the wee hours.
I'll never meet T.S. Eliot. I never met Charles Marowitz. Their words and those of so many others regularly pull me out of bed with the nagging anxiety of insomnia and unfinished business, driving me to continue the conversation.
I perused Eliot thinly spread across a thick textbook in Roman Times. My mother recited his lines from "The Waste Land," still on the tip of her tongue decades later from a class she took in the 1940s. He speaks, along with Charles Marowitz, through the lambent glow of a computer screen. Charles continued this dialogue, grabbed the peach, the whole bowl of fruit, heaved their juiciness across a stage, let the words drip in their full ripeness, tasted the sweetness, and tossed the pits into the audience without hesitation.
Words. And time. And spitting out the marmalade and tea if soured milk needed to be tasted. Pounding Shakespeare and Ibsen and the victims of Bush and Cheney on the windowpanes.
The Los Angeles Times noted, on the passing of Charles Marowitz, his "blunt manner." (1)
What is blunt? The taste of a sweet peach or the scowling reality of beyond ripe? Or the pain of biting into the pit? Is it what we all taste? Or imagine as we're told or not told as we debate a walk on the beach with rolled trousers while the tide advances?
I scan the titles of work published by Charles Marowitz over the years in Swans and my random drop of finger knows too many of the nooks and crannies. Despite the distance in time and space and presence or experience.
The spotlight hits directly on a neuron or two. Opens the curtain. Sends me wandering back through scrapbooks and notebooks boxed in musty attics and repeating a few lines, verbatim, in déjà vu moments.
Such words trumpeted from hillsides and softly caressed on wind chimes past midnight. Yes, how some do dare and say the hell with it.
Just a small selection from Charles Marowitz that spoke to me personally:
There are many in America who feel that freedom has been transformed by a rapacious greed and fallen into the clutches of a sophisticated Ponzi scheme in which slogans and shibboleths take the place of honesty and fair play. (2)
Like the parlor liberal or armchair intellectual, he can describe every facet of every problem, yet never pull his finger out to deal with them. (3)
Millions of people are without work, forced out of their homes, savings destroyed, unable to feed their families due to the Wall Street greed that was countenanced by tight-ass conservatives whose unwavering policy is to cut taxes for the rich and let the bleeding workers fall by the wayside. (4)
It is the author's microscopic awareness of how his symptoms debilitated his normal functioning that gives fresh insights into the nature of depression. He makes it frighteningly clear that the agony that accompanies the disease is daily and almost ubiquitous. Trips through long, black, empty alleyways full of confusion and pain, and a constant awareness that, despite temporary respites, the demons will always return. (5)
After watching the documentary film Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man, one is left with two overwhelming emotions: Depression and Anger. The depression is due to the fact that the forces mounted against a passionate idealist in America are so deeply rooted and so immutable, nothing can overcome them. Like Sisyphus, Nader rolls the boulder of his good intentions up a mountain and, no matter how great his effort, it comes tumbling down again. (6)
Somehow the idea that military ball-busters and lip-smacking sadists would stop inflicting debasing punishment on Muslim prisoners who might be innocent of every crime but being a Muslim, stirred the president to consider the "nuclear option" of the veto. One is reminded that when he was governor of Texas, the number of electrocutions rose to ghoulish new heights and clemency was virtually never shown. All of this fits into the picture of a rancorous, vicious, insensitive, and inhumane reformed alcoholic who talks compassion, but hasn't a drop of it in his nature. (7)
This havoc of uncertainties dressed up as factual truths mildews the mind and we turn into ourselves to avoid the turbulence of the outside world. In this new wasteland, we can hear the words of T.S. Eliot riding on the wind: "This is the way the world ends -- not with a bang but a whimper." (8)
No "whimpering" in any of these words. Goodbye to a passionate individual.
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About the Author
Glenn Reed is a freelance writer who has worked in the non-profit world for nearly 30 years, both as paid staff and volunteer. He is also a lifelong activist for social, economic, and environmental justice. He currently resides in Fair Haven, Vermont. (back)