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After we’ve been wiped out… where will the “Cool English Teachers” come from?

Thinking about Macca after Glastonbury, and also engaged in sectoral grief for English Departments across the UK… I thought I’d repost this anticipatory elegy for the “cool English teacher”…

conradbrunstrom

Paul McCartney talks a lot about his cool English teacher throughout his recent Lyrics book, crafted with the help of Paul Muldoon. Alan “Dusty” Durband had F.R. Leavis as his tutor at Downing and inherited all of his tutor’s intellectual zeal with none of the spikiness. Macca now credits Durband with helping him to feel excited about language and the enjoyment of the sounds and ambiguous resonances of words and phrases. Durband was cool. He changed lives for the better.

I had several cool English teachers and it is hard to imagine my adolescence without them. My son, thankfully, has had one cool English teacher.

Why is the cool teacher most likely to be an English teacher? It’s no reflection on the moral character or assiduousness of those teaching other disciplines at second level, but an English teacher with a love of the actual discipline is someone who respects ambiguity…

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Thinking about old Macca at Glastonbury

He can play whatever he wants, can’t he? We’re reaching a historical moment where the mid-point of Paul McCartney’s career is about 1990. If he wants to come out and just play the Memory Almost Full album and then go home, then we should just listen respectfully. Puzzled but respectful we should be.

Actually, there’s a bit of a gap in Macca’s current performance repertoire. He plays Beatles songs, and he plays Wings songs, and he plays twenty-first century material. The 80s and 90s get short shrift. But who am I to complain? I’m not even there – I’m sitting at home, warm and snug with a bed rather than a tent to crawl into imminently. This eighty year old man plays and sings for two and a half hours and I want more, not less. Even after the final encore, even after the end that is “The End”, I want him to sneak back on stage after a thirty second gap and sing “Her Majesty”.

Now Macca could have come out and played a half hour acoustic set and everybody would have been more than grateful. However, one thing he has retained for his entire performing career is a joy in making a tremendous amount of noise. He actually loves noise for its own sake. Hence last night, this old man played “Junior’s Farm”, “Live and Let Die” (the best song in the world to destroy iconic buildings to) and finally, astonishingly, “Helter Skelter”. I don’t even like “Helter Skelter” much. Confession time – I find it a bit dull. But I love that Macca loves it. I love seeing the pleasure it gives him, and this gives me a strange sense of pleasure that merely listening to the White Album track doesn’t give me.

Lets be honest, he hasn’t become a grumpy reactionary old git. In this day and age, that’s a deal to celebrate.

There’s a distinction to be made between a great song and a song that works well in concert. The Egypt Station songs proved very buoyant and resilient on stage even though they aren’t actually in my top three songs from Egypt Station

Of course, his voice was fragile and exposed at times. A voice loses raw power and piercing definition over time. But what can be preserved into old age is the emotional intelligence needed to cadence a lyric. Old age can even focus and enhance this particular talent. Last night in my living room I heard “Blackbird” phrased in a way I’d never quite heard before. Last night I heard Macca being maybe amazed in an entirely different to the context that provoked the reasons why he was maybe amazed in 1970. Old age gives “Here Today” even greater emotional power, although since I tend to turn into a liquid mess of incoherence as soon as it is evident to me that “Here Today” is about to be performed, I’m not really a very clinical judge of how “well” it is ever performed.

What we heard last night was a study in how to address ageing. Macca refuses to age gracefully, refuses to surrender to the stereotypes associated with being an octogenarian. He will attempt to do shouty rock and roll for as long as he can be propped up. But at the same time, he is talking with and through his own antiquity, allowing the cracks and wobbles in his voice to inform his renewed understanding of words he has sung a quadrillion times. What we experienced was an inspiring anticipation of what the limits and opportunities of old age offer anybody who is determined to stay as imaginative as possible for as long as possible.

Dave Grohl shows up, and he’s happy just to serve. Bruce Springsteen shows up and he seems to take a knowing delight in being Bruce Springsteen but not the most famous person on stage. There is only one star in the firmament, one other “makkar”, one other contributor to the world of song and singing, who could possibly rival Paul McCartney in terms of cultural significance. Could they ever share a version of music in front of a crowd? I want too much. That’s my trouble.

Tiverton Honiton. Saying goodbye to the circus.

Six syllables. Two dactyls. Like every phrase so designed, it evokes the tune of “Nelly the Elephant”.

And “Nelly the Elephant” in turn evokes Elton John’s most consistently involving song “Goodbye Yellow Road” with its theme of wanting to turn one’s back on a ludicrous and self-defeating version of showbiz.

I will never live in Britain again, so I ought in some ways to only care about British politics insofar as they affect my own country. Unfortunately, they affect my own country a tremendous amount. (I’ve also lived in Canada so the idea of feeling annoyed by how much you have to be interested in the politics of another adjacent country is doubly familiar to me.)

The “politics” of Boris Johnson certainly represent a ludicrous and self-defeating version of showbiz. He’s someone who can’t see very far into the future. A government defined by Boris Johnson has no vision beyond securing buoyant headlines in the run up to the next electoral challenge. The remainder of its conceptual map is white space decorated with dragons and mermaids.

Oliver Dowden, party chair, has resigned. The most telling phrase in his letter is “somebody must take responsibility”. In other words, the concept of “responsibility” needs to be rehabilitated. Of course, irresponsibility has been key to the strangeness that has been Boris Johnson’s popularity. His obvious irresponsibility has formed part of his “maverick” reputation – the guy who takes on something perceived as “the establishment” and who “doesn’t play by the rules”. Yet even the most popular on-screen maverick eventually reveals a commitment to something bigger than her/himself. Johnson never has.

Two thirds of MPs now think he’s unfit to be prime minister. The House of Commons is a representative chamber at least to this extent. Most Britons regard him as self-serving and amoral, someone who cannot be trusted to do the right thing to serve a greater good. Time was when he was more popular than his party and wheeled out on every occasion. Opposition leaders now mention him on every conceivable occasion. From now until his ignominious deposition, Boris Johnson will be hidden. He will spend a lot of time abroad, talking to people who don’t know him well enough to weary of him.

Boris Johnson is not Nelly the Elephant. He’s not packing any trunks or heading off in the direction of any healthy, chastening reality. Perhaps the UK itself is Nelly, and Tiverton Honiton a kind of synecdoche of the UK… leaving the Bojo Circus in an attempt to be real again.

Borgen, Season Four. Death of an Equidistantarian.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a centrist. There’s nothing morally disreputable about trying to forge compromises and find common ground. But your equidistantarian is something else. Your equidistantarian insists on centring themselves between opposed alternatives no matter how extreme at least one of these alternatives may happen to be. If, for example, a mainstream party within any given polity shifts dramatically to the right then the equidistantarian will pack up their tents and move further to the right just to acknowledge the new polarity. This unworthy version of centrism does not challenge extremism – it validates an extremist trajectory just as it pretends to be decelerating it. If some maniac advocates exterminating the human race, the equidistantarian will regard it as fair and reasonable to exterminate half the human race.

Now at the end of third season of Borgen, Birgitte Nyborg refused to go into a coalition government that included an extremist anti-immigration party. Good for her. But Season Four is different. Season Four depicts a Nyborg so devoted to remaining as Foreign Minister that it’s unclear what version of the common good she thinks she’s serving. The fact that she starts taking advice from the sinister Michael Laugesen is a sinister indicator. Challenged throughout Season Four by her ecowarrior son Magnus, Nyborg eventually discovers that remaining in office is not the be-all and end-all. Losing the respect of her former mentor and all-round nice guy Bent Sejrø proves the final straw.

Season Four is largely about Greenland. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a drama that spends as much time in Nuuk as S4 Borgen. (Actually I’m sure I haven’t.) Oil has been found there. As the story develops, the number of competing interests to be reconciled starts to spiral out of control and Nyborg’s plate spinning becomes more and more frantic.

Borgen has always been about the art of the deal. It’s what makes for great drama. It has always been less effective when it comes to discussions of ideas and ideals. Her party for the first couple of seasons is “The Moderates”. We are told that she (and others) are “passionately” moderate. We’ll keep the beige flag flying here, apparently. Later she starts a new party called “The New Democrats” – a name that has the immense political advantage of meaning nothing whatsoever.

I’m not sure that Nyborg’s story can be continued much further. We have loved the dramatisation of physical exhaustion associated with the life of an ambitious woman in politics. We have noted that even in supposedly enlightened Denmark, sexist rhetoric judges domestic “failure” and makes a political issue out of the idea of the “bad mother”. But now, at the end of Season Four, questions need to be asked about whether the compromises of politics actually serve a trajectory of liberation and empowerment or whether they just become a kind of muscle memory, a rhythm of personal/political survival.

If your moderation and your centrism isn’t motivated some sense of movement towards the world becoming at least a slightly less awful place then you are liable to succumb to equidistantarianism. Once you’re an equidistantarianism then you’re playing a completely reactive game. The bad guys are calling all the shots.

A Very Polish Practice: Anyone else remember this?

Having rewatched and reviewed A Very Peculiar Practice in its entirety, the tiresome completist in me chased down A Very Polish Practice, the feature length standalone drama that came out a few years after the end of the second season.

It’s a very different sort of drama altogether. All of the comedy, pretty much, is provided by David Troughton who has become the Big Pharma pimp he’s always wanted to be and is still not happy. But even the most farcical elements of Bob Buzzard’s mission to Warsaw are informed by frantic desperation. Meanwhile, Stephen and Grete’s marriage is threatened by a ghost from the past. It’s heartbreaking at times, not least because they have a kid. In fact, Davison’s depiction of jealous desperation is the best thing about this drama. It’s a drama about someone who’s commitment to being “the nice guy” has been strained to breaking point.

This drama was filmed in Warsaw and Krakow and employs a variety of polish actors in smaller roles – but the plum roles are reserved for British character actors with prominent eyebrows. Trevor Peacock and Alfred Molina. The role of the Polish language is unclear. Most of the dialogue involves accented English but sometimes people speak actual Polish. Stephen Daker has presumably learned Polish but of course Bob Buzzard has not. Bob Buzzard is working on the familiar basis that anyone can understand English if you glare at them and gesticulate.

Stephen is working in a busy and underfunded hospital and finds that working long frantic hours frees him from the crushing burden of existential self-interrogation. Hmmmm.

This is a drama about how gangster capitalism has flourished in the wake of the fall of communism, although Alfred Molina’s character asserts that the gangster capitalism was always there. Paradoxically, an officially capitalist country is devoted to crushing the creative gangster economy that the officially communist country benignly tolerated. This is an interesting political point to make, but part of me wishes I was watching a properly Polish drama about it.

I’m never completely happy watching satirical dramas about other countries that don’t have decisive input from those countries. I don’t know what particular credentials Andrew Davies has to make sweeping generalisations about Poland and its people.

The sombre tone of this drama is underscored (and sometimes overscored) by Carl Davis, giving this film a “proper” soundtrack that gives it certain pretensions that A Very Peculiar Practice never had.

So I would stick to re-watching A Very Peculiar Practice. Review below.

A Very Peculiar Practice. Of its time. And of ours.

I recently revisited this, through the magic of YouTube. How as it fared? More importantly – how have we fared?

Elkie Brooks’ plaintive voice floats over the crudely animated title sequence. You realise that there is no real difference between a post-apocalyptic ruined profile of Lowlands University and the actual profile of Lowlands University.

“It’s a long way from anywhere – you’ve ever been before…” This is, very importantly, an out of town campus in the middle of nowhere. As a student of Lowlands you are reliant on buses to get you to habitable parts. It’s a totalised environment – a hegemonic space. When this drama first came out, I was about to go to university. It’s associated with a transformative time in my life – and this is the most important thing about this cynical and bleak satirical drama. University is supposed to be great.

All four of the core cast have a Doctor Who connection. In his 1980s heyday, nobody played a version of nervous decency better than Peter Davison. As Dr Stephen Daker, he is irresistible to women but thankfully never quite self-acknowledges as much. We see this dysfunctional university through his eyes. David Troughton creates “Bob Buzzard” – an insistent Robert who really is a “Bob”. Buzzard is basically “the 1980s on the edge of nervous breakdown”. He hates seeing patients and would rather pimp for Big Pharma ‘cos you get better suits that way. Barbara Flynn plays someone truly sinister – perhaps the most problematic element of the series. She spouts the sort of radical feminist soundbites (“disease is just one of the ways men hurt women”) that remind me of the kind of thing that got anthologised in Private Eye during the Richard Ingrams editorship. At the same time, she is a shameless seductress who uses sexuality to get whatever she wants, feeling that faith need not be kept with men or heretics. Mary Wollstonecraft would hate her. Benign whisky sozzled Jock McCannon is played by Graham Crowden – always adept at playing doctors and mad scientists. McCannon gets the best dialogue in the whole show – perhaps because most of it is written by William Shakespeare.

In each series Daker is given a different love interest. Because of his extreme and quite lovely awkwardness, the love interest takes a slow and delicate path. We are also given two Vice Chancellors to serve as his nemesis. The first, played by John Bird, is a very familiar type – spouting reassuring platitudes in public while sewing up big deals behind closed doors that threaten the integrity of the very idea of the university. The second American import played by Michael J. Shannon is increasingly insane. I suppose I prefer Bird as a nemesis because I’m always a little annoyed by dramas that outsource depictions of extremism when there are so many indigenous examples available.

And of course, from beginning to end there are the feral nuns who scavenge through the garbage. By the very end of the drama, a prophetic McCannon realises that these nuns are like the ravens at the Tower of London and their departure marks the kingdom’s fall.

There are some delicious episodes. Timothy West’s performance as Professor Furie is utterly magnificent. He’s a hypnotically terrifying character and it’s a shame he was only contracted for the one show. There’s also a very telling and elegant episode in which a very self-serving and corporate understanding of “interdisciplinarity” is patterned after an STD epidemic.

You will meet a young Mark Addy in this series. An even younger Kathy Burke. Look out for Hugh Grant playing an evangelist sporting a Scottish accent that was probably never designed to survive repeated scrutiny on YouTube. Simon Russell-Beale, an actor who bestrides London theatre like a colossus, has one tiny role, also as an embarrassed patient. (As usual, most of the students look at least thirty – why are campus dramas so inept when it comes to sympathetic and nuanced depictions of students, eh?)

I had forgotten that much of the second series involves pretty much the entire university ganging up on the eighteenth-century literature specialist. James Grout (Morse’s boss), plays an old fashioned liberal humanist standing up to the neoliberal rationalisations of Chancellor Jack Daniels. He likes to be naked at home, which would be fine, except that he forgets he’s naked when people come to his door. It is very centrist and BBCish to make someone like Grout’s Professor Bunn the focus of institutional virtue. He’s someone who refuses to teach Aphra Behn or Mary Wollstonecraft – regarding them as alien to some Leavisite “Great Tradition”. In fact, he is right to give up teaching, since he isn’t really equipped to teach in the last quarter (or maybe even latter half) of the twentieth century at all.

Other troubling elements in the series? Well, there’s the rawness of Bob Buzzard’s homophobic panic… along with Bob’s overuse of the word “totty”. Indeed, Bob Buzzard not being slapped hard and slapped often is an issue. I’m not convinced by Lindy White’s Irish accent.

This series came to be because Andrew Davies had accepted an advance from the BBC for a script for another drama he felt unable to complete. Faced with an impossible repayment demand, he wrote A Very Peculiar Practice to clear his debt. In fact, he writes himself into the series as the character Ron Rust, a writer in residence, who is continually frustrated by the fact that reality keeps being more surreal than the scenarios he wants to concoct. Oddly enough Ron Rust, played by the always engaging and delightful Joe Melia, is something of a structural weakness in the show. There’s something rather forced about depicting an environment that is very obviously insane and then having someone continually remark on how insane everything is.

A nice footnote – there’s an episode about students being used as guinea pigs in an experiment involving weaponised acoustics that makes use of a 1980s Industrial techno band called SLAB. This was a real band beloved of John Peel. There’s no way SLAB could have been showcased on mainstream television without the strange excuse of this storyline.

At the end of the day, there is sorrow when Lowlands is no more. Because the show always keeps faith with the idea that university is meant to be exciting, transformative, and joyous. McCannon is writing a book about the “sick university”, but sickness presupposes an idea of health. McCannon himself is delightfully angry – too angry to ever descend to cynicism.

Many of the wholesale “rationalisation” and gutting of the humanities and social sciences predicted by this show are only really getting going right now – in the 2020s. The bad guys from A Very Peculiar Practice are winning. It seems that we don’t love our children as much as our parents loved us, and that the next generation of young people do not deserve to imagine that university could ever have been figured as a place where identities are refashioned and the imagination takes flight.

Yes, I loved this show. Almost enough to forgive Andrew Davies for his adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Almost.

Nuff Respect. Paul McCartney at 80.

Yup. It’s actually happened. Time is real. This man is actually eighty years of age today.

And he deserves your respect. Let the snarky Maccaphobes be silenced and let the rest of us have our day.

Trying to diagnose the snarky Maccaphobe is becoming increasingly difficult. Some people resent his immense wealth. Well, it’s fine to resent everyone who is immensely wealthy I suppose but there are plenty of arms dealers and hedge fund managers who are wealthier than Macca? And what’s the source of his many millions? He is wealthy because the music he has created and co-created has brought joy to hundreds of millions of people. That’s his excuse, and it’s a good one.

There are also a number of imaginative impoverished people who are stuck in a very zero sum paradigm involving John and Paul. For such people, anything said in praise of Macca is an implied criticism of John. Such blighted individuals must regard love as some sort of pie comprised of competing finite slices rather than a muscle that grows with exercise. (Tee hee hee. “Love Muscle”).

Then there people who resent Macca’s sanity. It says a lot about how we feel about artists that there’s a residual dogma that the “true” artist needs to be permanently crouched in the foetal position screaming at God rather than living happily on a farm surrounded by loving family.

And it’s not that Macca hasn’t suffered. It’s not that he hasn’t suffered tragedy and bereavement. Nor is it true that he’s never put a foot wrong. He’s made plenty of mistakes – both personal and professional. The unforgiveable thing is that he does not appear to have been irretrievably warped and damaged by these experiences. The fact is, Macca has made it to a healthy version of old age having preserved the love and respect of his family and friends. How dare he, eh?

Let’s show some gratitude today. Be honest. Your life has been richer, warmer, more exciting and more evocative because of his life. If you think his Beatles contributions are all soft and sappy, then listen to Macca singing “Long Tall Sally”, “She’s a Woman”, and “Helter Skelter”. If you are dismissive of his post-Beatles output then try again. Listen without prejudice. Listen to Ram, to Band on the Run, to Venus and Mars, to London Town, to McCartney II, to Tug of War, to Flaming Pie, to Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard, to Egypt Station and McCartney III. You will hear a voice changing, aging, gaining the pathos of hard fought life experience.

Praise be, we continue to share this planet with Macca. Macca stands as the greatest melodist currently drawing breath, and generations to come will consider him one of the greatest melodists ever to draw breath. His ability to arrange sounds in memorable ways has accompanied you your entire life. The rhythms of your precious and workaday world have been informed by his rhythms.

He has put a spring in your step. Step thankfully today.

Penguin Monarchs: King John.

Reposting on the anniversary of Magna Carta

conradbrunstrom

Voetica Poetry Spoken

King John was not a good man,

He had his ‘little ways’…

And sometimes no-one spoke to him

For days, and days and days…

I suppose any serious historian (and Nicholas Vincent is certainly that) feels obligated to demonstrate that their subject differs from widely circulated cartoonish stereotypes. Vincent subtitles his book “An Evil King?”, an interrogative epithet which invites the possibility of some sympathetic revision.

Well, sympathetic revision is dangled in front of the reader and then pretty much withdrawn in this book. The most horrible rumours about John were current in his lifetime and nobody seem to have appeared as much of a witness to the defense. While his many of his contemporaries, and indeed his immediate family, have various atrocities to account for, they at least had some sort of military reputation which in those brutal times counted for almost everything. John on the other hand had…

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Frantically re-reading Ulysses ahead of Bloomsday…

I sometimes wish that Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus had experienced their remarkable overlapping day in Dublin maybe a week later than they did. How about June 25th? (I know we are tied to specific events involving James and Nora…)

In a perfect world ( and I want a perfect world, dammit), I would re-read Ulysses every year, starting on June 1 with Molly perorating for me on June 16. I would no more want to be reading Ulysses in December than I’d want to be reading A Christmas Carol in July. Ulysses is about a long day, a very long day, and it only feels right to me to be reading it fairly close to the summer solstice.

But the first couple of weeks of June are always so frantically busy. So many meetings – so many loose ends. Usually there’s at least one conference to attend or prepare for. And then there’s my own wedding anniversary on the 13th which I’m not allowed to spend re-reading Ulysses.

As it happens I’ve got a little radio slot fearsomely early tomorrow morning (Times Radio), which puts me under even more pressure to get my reading done. I want to have Molly’s peroration singing freshly in my head before I start to jaw about it. It is, after all, a book that ends with affirmation – with the word “yes”. Ulysses is a life affirming book for people like me who are clinically allergic to anything sold and marketed as “life-affirming”.

Because if Ulysses is NOT the greatest (mostly) anglophone novel ever written it is surely the funniest novel that might be.

I dream of a ludicrous futurity involving a state of “retirement” (itself a demanding job of work – albeit unalienated work) and financial security, a state of retirement wherein re-reading Ulysses annually is more easily accommodated. Ulysses is one of reasons why I want to stay healthy in old age. I want to squeeze in as many re-readings as my mortal frame can stand.

Of course, the first reading of Ulysses can be a drag. (Sometimes I recommend that people skip straight to their third or fourth reading of it). But after five readings or more, Ulysses really becomes an enduring joy.

On this revisit to Ulysses, what have I particularly noted? Perhaps the extent to which the poem attributed to the mangy cur Garryowen resembles a translation from Aodhagán Ó Rathaille’s vituperative verses on Valentine Browne? The tragic implications of the potato in Bloom’s pocket were experienced more acutely on this rereading. More generally, I’m struck by the larger structural swoopings involving philohellenic and philosemitic peregrinations. To what extent is Europe itself defined by these overlapping yet distinct swoopings?

Ulysses is an old friend who never disappoints and always surprises. Perhaps you are overstocked with friends of this nature, in which case you are truly blessed. For my part, as I get older, I will press such friends to my bosom with accelerating urgency.

I wasn’t there… what do I know? Both Staircases reviewed.

So I wasn’t there in that big house in Durham SC back in December 2001. I don’t know what happened. Michael Peterson’s defence has consistently asserted that Kathleen Peterson’s death was an accident. Everything about The Staircase is about whether a mixture of forensic evidence and an understanding of Michael Peterson’s character supports reasonable doubt that any murder took place.

We’ve been watching the recent drama created by Antonio Campos and starring Colin Firth while also watching Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s documentary series on the same topic.

Colin Firth and Michael Peterson play “Michael Peterson” very differently. Michael Peterson is of far slighter build than Colin Firth. Colin Firth is far more sinister. At the end of the Lestrade documentary we are generally left believing in Peterson’s innocence. At the end of the Campos dramatisation… we just don’t know. I don’t know. My doubt remains reasonable. Peterson would be acquitted if I were a juror, and it’s telling that the Judge presiding over the abortive retrial admits that juror doubt might have been reasonable in the event of this second trial taking place with discredited prosecution testimony removed.

Peterson eventually entered an “Alford Plea” which involved saying “I didn’t do it and I don’t admit to doing it – but I’m officially pleading guilty to a version of having done this in order to put this thing to bed.” The plea was entered and Peterson walked free on the basis of “time served”.

The “real” Peterson is very clearly acting. He has a case to make and he needs to perform well. But here’s the thing – many of the things that Peterson says in the Lestrade documentary are actually true whether or not Peterson is guilty or innocent. He reflects on the residential apartheid of Durham. He considers the plight of all those many people who cannot afford the costly expertise needed to challenge state prosecutors. And he talks about how “innocent until proven guilty” is an ideal concept that constantly has runs up against the actual dramaturgy of the trial experience. Peterson marvels at how district attorney’s will use and abuse all the powers of their office to warp and misrepresent evidence. They will do what it takes to “win”.

One concern with Peterson involves the extent to which he might or might not have been “living a lie” and the extent to which his living a lie should have any bearing on whether or not he murdered his wife. If he is to be believed, his was a complex, conjoined, but happy marriage that was able to accommodate bisexuality. The Lestrade Peterson appears to retain the love of his family (for the most part). The Campos/Firth Peterson on the other hand stands arraigned at the end as a capable and committed liar who might (by implication) be guilty of anything.

In some ways the drama might be regarded as intolerant of the idea that people can improvise surprisingly successful lives for themselves which evade categories and identities with which most people are familiar. This is not a drama that invites us to believe that this complicated family had any resilience.

But, as I say… I wasn’t there. I don’t know.