- One of the most intoxicatingly irritating things about the past is people being absolutely floored and gobsmacked by things that seem quite ordinary.
- I am joking, mostly. Social mores evolve and public morals change, and in many
waysthe history of the 20th century is the history of people rapidly getting used to things that once seemed absolutely inconceivable.
- Still though. I’ll read something about the riots at the premiere of The Rite of Spring, or about people becoming weak and hysterical at a Fauvist exhibition and I just think: grow up.
- It’s impossible to imagine myself into the mind of someone who would have their world rocked by something like that.
- I do not say this in an effort to come across as “urbane” or unshockable. It’s more just that I never feel as disconnected from previous generations as I do when thinking about how the grandparents of Britain became inconsolable at the thought of The Beatles. Just GROW UP.
- This is why “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences” is so good. I have no trouble at all in grasping that it was one of the most shocking things its audience had ever heard.
- 63 years ago today, speaking at a secret session of the Soviet Communist Party’s 20th Congress somewhere in the bowels of the Kremlin, all those men with their giant pallid faces, Khrushchev denounced Stalin in a speech that took a little over four hours.
- According to Soviet sources, some delegates were so convulsed with fear and bewilderment that they had heart attacks right there in the room. Other delegates went home and shot themselves.
- According to Leonard Michaels and his story called In the Fifties, when Khrushchev denounced Stalin, Leonard Michaels’s roommate “shit blood, turned yellow, and lost most of his hair.”
- Leonard Michaels was probably taking one or two poetic liberties, but I basically believe him when he says that the leader of the Communist Party’s public debunking of the myth of Stalin was a shocking, shocking thing. A life-changer.
- For whatever reason, it is as easy for me to understand this as it is impossible for me to understand becoming even slightly sweaty with alarm at the premiere of a Stravinsky ballet.
- I don’t know what this says about me other than, as usual, “nothing good.”
- Happy Birthday.
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