The wise person sees far beneath the surface. She perceives not only what is superficial and obvious but things that are hidden from most. William Shakespeare is a patron saint for this virtue, not only for his insight into the human condition but for his ability to express it through language in compelling and poetic ways.
Satyajit Ray was a master cinematic story-teller with an uncanny gift for portraying his characters’ inner lives.
- Andrew Robinson, Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye (University of California Press, 1990).
- Bert Cardullo, ed., Satyajit Ray: Interviews (University Press of Mississippi, 2007).
- Keya Gangula, Cinema, Emergence, and the Films of Satyajit Ray (University of California Press, 2010).
- Darius Cooper, The Cinema of Satyajit Ray: Between Tradition and Modernity(Cambridge University Press, 2000).
Other true narratives on perceptiveness:
- Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin (Crown, 2011): how an American diplomat foresaw the horrors of Nazi Germany while those around him remained oblivious to the mounting threat.
- Ellen Willis, Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music (University of Minnesota Press, 2011): insights of a rock music critic.
- George F. Kennan (Frank Costigiola, ed.), The Kennan Diaries (W.W. Norton & Company, 2014): Kennan was a deep thinker, when his ideology did not interfere.
- Harold Holzer, Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion (Simon & Schuster 2014): on “his canny manipulation of the popular press . . .”
From the dark side:
- Jung Chang, Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China (Knopf , 2019): “Cocooned in wealth and privilege, the sisters dreamed noble dreams but were buoyed by naïveté and sometimes led astray by bourgeois idealism. Although the sisters had ample intelligence and irrepressible spirit, they had almost no contact with ordinary Chinese, and, at the most critical juncture of their country’s modern history, found themselves to be baffled foreigners in the place of their birth.”
William Shakespeare was an extraordinarily perceptive observer of the human condition.
Stewart O’Nan’s novels are noted for their “depth of characterization”:
- Stewart O’Nan, Emily, Alone (Viking, 2011).
- Stewart O’Nan, Songs for the Missing (Viking Adult, 2008).
- Stewart O’Nan, Last Night at the Lobster (Viking Adult, 2007).
- Stewart O’Nan, The Good Wife (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005).
- Stewart O’Nan, The Night Country (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003).
- Stewart O’Nan, Wish You Were Here (Grove Press, 2003).
- Stewart O’Nan, Everyday People (Grove Press, 2001).
- Stewart O’Nan, A Prayer for the Dying (Henry Holt and Co., 1999).
- Stewart O’Nan, A World Away (Henry Holt and Co., 1998).
- Stewart O’Nan, The Speed Queen (Doubleday, 1997).
- Stewart O’Nan, Names of the Dead (Doubleday, 1996).
- Stewart O’Nan, Snow Angels (Doubleday, 1994).
Film and Stage
- Catch-22: The ability to spot absurdity is an important part of wisdom.
- Being There, a film about perception in the negative: a slow-witted man gains so much unmerited admiration that he is promoted as a presidential candidate
- The King of Comedy: a self-deluded aspiring comedian misreads the message
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Ernst von Dohnányi (Ernő Dohnányi), Variationen über ein Kinderlied (Variations on a Nursery Song), Op. 25 (1914) (approx. 23-25’): The theme is simple and child-friendly but this set of variations is music for adult tastes, emotions and intellect. The introductory bars give no hint that a nursery tune is the main theme. “Written in 1914 for piano and orchestra, it captures the spirit of Romanticism, and manages to delight and enthral in its sparkling piano writing and lush orchestral textures, and its wit in the treatment of the theme – the French nursery song 'Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman', otherwise known as 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'.” Top recorded performances are by Ernö von Dohnányi in 1931, Smith in 1953, Aller in 1956, Wild in 1967, Lantos in 1980, Kocsis in 1989, Shelley in 1998 ***, Nebolsin in 2010, and Gülbadamova in 2022 **.
Robert Schumann, Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129 (1850) (approx. 24-30’): “. . . Schumann’s assertion that ‘The concerto is also really quite a jolly piece’ seems to contradict the work’s brooding A minor tonality . . .” “The concerto’s success in today’s world stems from its emotional and mood shifting compass . . . which ranges from profound intimacy to sounds of joyous vivacity and tonal, rhythmic and thematic unification.” Top performances are by Rostropovich, Maisky, du Pré, Capuçon, Gabetta, Gromes and Magill.
Cesaria Evora, from Cape Verde, sang with a touching emotional depth, born it seemed of her life experience.
- Live d’amor (Paris 2004)
- Mãe Carinhosa
- Nancy Jazz Pulsation (2006)
- Live at Lisbon Coliseu
- Estival Jazz Lugano (2007)
- Live in Paris (1995)
- au Grand Rex Paris (2004)
- “Miss Perfumado” album
- “Café Atlantico” album
- “Cabo Verde” album
- “Cesaria” album
Asmik Grigorian is a Lithuanian soprano whose singing displays a mix of “steel and satin”, according to the Gramophone magazine article awarding her first album, “Dissonance”, the 2022 award for singing album of the year. Her rendition of Puccini’s aria “O mio babbino caro”, from the opera Gianni Schicchi, captures the longing Puccini must have intended. No doubt, her playlists will continue to expand.
Art Ensemble of Chicago albums:
- “The Spiritual”
- “People in Sorrow”
- “A Jackson in Your House”
- “Message to Our Folks”
- “Live 1978”
- “The Paris Session Sides”
- “Triute to Malachi Favors and Lester Bowie”
- “Full Force”
- “The Third Decade”
- “Divine Love”
- “The Great Pretender”
- “All the Magic”
- “The One and Only”
- “I Only Have Eyes for You”
- “Tribute to Lester”
- “Nine to Get Ready”
- “Boustrophedon” (In Six Furrows)
- “Far Side”
- “Bells for the South Side”
- “New Directions”
- “New Directions in Europe”
- “Made in Chicago”
On his album “Basse Barre”, jazz string jazz bassist Barre Phillips displays a rich array of musical contours and textures, resulting in a fascinating sound sculpture. Other solo albums by Phillips include:
- Aliaksandr Yasinski, “Hylbini” (2022): “Aliaksandr Yasinski's debut international release sees him unlock the expressive possibilities of the accordion. The album title 'Hlybini' means 'depths' in his native Belarusian language and in his words represents the ‘far corners of the human soul or something that touches us powerfully like music.”
- William Wordsworth, “Yes! Thou art Fair Yet Be Not Moved”
- Edgar Lee Masters, “Jonathan Swift Somers”
- Edgar Lee Masters, “Plymouth Rock Joe”
Books of poems:
- Nelly Sachs, Flight and Metamorphosis: Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2022), “reveals a poet full of mystery and depth.”
From the dark side:
- Edgar Lee Masters, “Serepta Mason”