My evenings have become a ritual. Play with the boy at 5:00PM, watch PBS’ The NewsHour at 6:00 PM and start cooking dinner and putting the boy to bed starting at 7:00. By 9:00, I finally have time to unwind, watch a movie (rarely these days) or hop online and catch up with the world. But today, I was surprised to hear Werner Herzog’s voice coming from my TV. I looked up to see a scene from Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo playing underneath some typically brilliant comments about how the jungle in the film was more a “fever dream of a jungle than a jungle itself”, and I realized that Herzog was on the news. It was so out of context and so strange, I felt taken outside of myself for a brief instant, as if, for just a split second, I was not living in my own time.
The moment made me reflect on why it was that I was so freaked out; seeing Klaus Kinkski with his gramophone in tow, trolling down the river on an American newscast on a Wednesday evening? It hit me later; the treatment of artists and intellectuals in this country is scandalous to the point where hearing one of our greatest living filmmakers’ voice on the television news was something akin to culture shock. Someone was paying attention to something creative I actually cared deeply about! I couldn’t believe it. And even on PBS, which is my absolute favorite network, and even on The NewsHour, where I am used to the arts coverage primarily being about the relationship between finance and art, it still felt strange. I view that strangeness as tragic.
It turns out Jeffrey Brown, who does the Art Beat reporting for the show, interviewed Herzog about his new book Conquest Of The Useless (which I am buying immediately). And while the entire interview did not appear on TV (maybe Charlie Rose will give it a shot?), it is available online on the News Hour’s Art Beat blog. You can read the transcript, but I highly suggest you listen to the audio if only for the unforgettable sound of Herzog’s voice. It’s a wonderful interview, so be sure to give a listen.
In the meantime, something to jog the memory and contextualize the discussion.