Shapiro explores the relationship between art and suffering. He says that the difference between what one’s suffer in the daily lives and the suffering enacted in a Greek tragedy has to do with how that suffering is shaped and ordered. He concludes by saying that he wants the kind of art that admits it is giving a song and dance when it transforms suffering into pleasure, pain into insight, life into clarifying images of life; the kind of art that recognizes there is no good substitute for the precious flesh.
by Alan Shapiro. Tikkun. San Francisco:Jan/Feb 2004. Vol. 19, Iss. 1, p. 28-32
In the fall of 1999, my brother was dying of brain cancer, my marriage was falling apart, and I had just moved into the basement apartment of a house whose owner was an eighty-five-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s who every few days would knock on my door and introduce herself. One night in the middle of this outtake from the Book of Job I had a dream in which The Oresteia by Aeschylus, which I was translating at the time, had been adapted for the Jerry Springer Show. What I remember mostly were the characters as they came on stage: Agamemnon first-decked out in armor, spear in hand, horse hair bobbing from his helmet: as he strides to his chair, the caption on the screen reads: “Sacrificed Daughter to Stop Wind!” He’s followed by Cassandra, who staggers out, babbling incoherently. The caption flashes: “Thinks she’s clairvoyant!” Then Oedipus, not Clytemnestra, strides confidently to his seat, so confident in fact that he hasn’t noticed that he’s strayed in off the set of another tragedy while Jerry whispers to the home audience, “Slept with Mother, Murdered Father, Doesn’t realize it yet!”