For some people, the New Year traditions involve the Rose Parade. For others, it's football. For me, it's the start of the annual cleaning out of household paperwork. The third drawer of my four drawer file cabinet holds 10 years worth of records. I believe I only need to save 7 years worth of stuff, so I'd get rid of more if things started to overflow. All of 1995 (except for a couple of letters) has been consigned to the shredder. Well, all except for the statements from my retirement account, which go into a permanent folder, and a couple of letters. One was a nice note from a friend. The other was to the editor of the Wall Street Journal pointing out that an editorial writer who suggested that Hillary Clinton read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to understand Southern men on idyllic getaways might do well to read the book himself. Because if he had, he'd have known that Huck was running away from a drunken and abusive father - hardly an idyll.
The next step is going through the file drawer in my desk and filling the folders I've now freed up with 2005 paperwork. I should probably have started on that today, but I got absorbed in reading Colored Lights, a memoir by John Kander and Fred Ebb. I can't say I agree with their assessment of their own work (yes, Woman of the Year is slight, but it's vastly more entertaining than The Rink), but it was interesting. One of the more interesting comments they made had to do with the title song from Cabaret. Nowadays, it's primarily performed as a cheerful carpe diem song, but the actual context from the show is a sad one, since the character is siezing her day by having an abortion.
It strikes me that there are quite a lot of Broadway songs that became hits by being completely taken out of context. Probably the most extreme example is Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns." The whole point is that the clowns come in at the circus to distract people when an aerialist has fallen. I suppose I should just be grateful that "Unworthy of Your Love" from Assassins never made it to the top 40. It may sound like a mere neurotic love song, but that's John Hinckley singing to Jodi Foster and Squeaky Fromme singing to Charlie Manson in the show!
Copyright 2006 Miriam H. Nadel