One can be thankful that it really is possible to ignore the worst excesses of the Holiday Season if one stays away from Midtown and shuns the Media, but it is discouraging to realize that many of the traditional aspects of it which give us the reassuring glow of tradition are in fact clichés, worn-out, empty rituals we attend because there's nothing better around. A few brass instruments and kettledrums in church don't really make a difference. A recent weekend in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, however, showed how lively the Season can be, if one really understands its importance, like the Moravian Protestants who make the Star of Bethlehem their central symbol, celebrate with a gusto seldom found anywhere else, from earnest in the pews to some prodigious eating and drinking.
Irish Arts Center
This is probably the best occasion for me to come out of the closet and confess my secret vice—a mild fondness for the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. A viewing of NYGASP's The Yeomen of the Guard with an entirely unvictorian companion set me to thinking about certain genres of theatre and opera in which performance practices are prescribed by tradition or even some legal entity. NYGASP is well-known for throwing in a few uncanonical details, but basically they cleave to D'Oyly Carte's no longer legally binding restrictions, because their audience of devotees expect that—in fact they derive great pleasure from stage routines which have no meaning whatsover in contemporary theater outside of a G & S. Perhaps the tastes of loving audiences have proven more binding than the D'Oyly Carte copyrights.
You've doubtless read somewhere or another or heard someone say that our relationship to novels is much like our relationships to people (our relationships to their authors, living and dead, are a whole other thing). That may sound trite, but it has its degree of truth. In no case is it so true as in the case of Finnegan's Wake. In most cases James Joyce's last novel is like some celebrity academic, who jets constantly between, say, Paris and Berkeley, but never crosses our path. Others may have approached the great man at the podium after a lecture and tried to ask a private question, only to be