Damned If I Look Back

Two things struck me while visiting Chicago last week.

Firstly, of course, the architecture, with neo-Gothic, Art Deco, neoclassical and Modernist styles combining harmonically to form an exhilarating urban ensemble. Visiting Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and touring Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings in Oak Park was a privilege I’ve long anticipated. Geniuses both but differently, with Mies dedicating his life to the search for the ideal style, and Wright developing new styles daily.

Secondly, the noise and visual pollution, inside buildings particularly, multiple television screens showing several channels at once, the din of inane country music blaring out everywhere. By the time I retired to my hotel of an evening I aspired to be Morose from Ben Jonson’s Epicoene or The Silent Woman, with heavily carpeted floors and servants in thick socks to muffle the slightest noise. Morose sacks a servant for his noisy boots, which appeared perfectly reasonable after the multiple stressors available in Chicago’s hotels and restaurants.

To read on my trip I took Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, through which I am making delightfully slow progress, and Seamus Heaney’s Station Island, early Heaney still indebted to Gerard Manley Hopkins, vigorous consonantal noise to provide balance to Chicago’s urban bellowing.

Heaney opens Station Island with The Underground, his recounting of Orpheus and Eurydice.

2 thoughts on “Damned If I Look Back

  1. I was in Chicago last year and apart from the architecture, somethig else stuck with me: on lots of public buildings (banks, shops…) there was a sign informing people they shouldn’t go in while carrying a firearm. It’s so odd when you come from Europe.

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