- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 20, 2004

Mystery of love

“Beethoven’s relations with women have been the subject of endless fascination to biographers. …

“Interest in Beethoven’s love life has focused largely on a letter he wrote in the summer of 1812, to an unidentified woman. …

“‘Can you alter the fact,’ he asked her, ‘that you are not entirely mine, and I am not entirely yours?’ Beethoven continued the letter that evening, and the following morning he added a further page in which — in the most famous words he was ever to write — he described her as his ‘Immortal Beloved.’ …

“In the end, much less important than the identity of the object of the composer’s love is the fact that the episode coincided with an acute creative crisis. …

“In the following years Beethoven’s output of new works slowed drastically, and it wasn’t until 1816 that he emerged once again into the full flood of creativity. When he did so, he seemed to have withdrawn into his own world, his isolation exacerbated by his increasing deafness.”

Misha Donat, writing on “Death and the muse,” June 12 in the London Guardian

Terrorist deal

“Ever since the storming of the Tehran embassy in November 1979, we Americans have been paying … human tribute to grotesque Islamofascists. Over the last 25 years, a few hundred of our own were cut down in Lebanon, East Africa, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, and New York … even as the rules of the tribute to be paid — never spoken, but always understood — were rigorously followed.

“In exchange for our not retaliating in any meaningful way against the killers … Hezbollah, al Qaeda, and their various state-sanctioned kindred, operatives agreed to keep the number killed to reasonable levels. …

“Murdering 3,000 Americans, destroying a city block in Manhattan, and setting fire to the Pentagon were all pretty tough stuff. And for a while it won fascists and their state sponsors an even tougher response in Afghanistan and Iraq that sent hundreds to caves and thousands more to paradise. …

“But the calculus of a quarter century — threaten, hit, pause, wait; threaten, hit, pause, wait — is now entrenched in the minds of Middle Eastern murderers. Indeed, the modus operandi that cynically plays on Western hopes, liberalism, and fair play is gospel now to all sorts of bin Laden epigones — as we have seen in Madrid, Fallujah, and Najaf.”

Victor Davis Hanson, writing on “Feeding the Minotaur,” June 14 in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

Still not funny

“If you go back now and watch the original ‘Stepford Wives ‘— the 1975 version … you may find yourself laughing more than you will at the new version. … But in 1975 it wasn’t supposed to be funny. Now it is. … Women’s horror at the idea of being transformed into domestic automata now seems a distant memory. Today … women are made to feel ashamed not for spurning a merely domestic existence but for wanting one, as many still do.

“Even if they feel, or claim to feel, the contempt of a Hillary Clinton for women who stay at home and bake cookies, with the best will in the world they can hardly fear the prospect of being forced into such a life themselves. It’s much more likely that they’ll be forced to have careers in order to pay for the kids’ daycare. In other words, there goes 90 percent of the emotional energy of ‘The Stepford Wives.’”

James Bowman, writing on “The Stepford Wives,” June 11 at www.jamesbowman.net

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