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No Strings

James Spader is profiled in today’s Times. He plays the robot villain in Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron—but for me he’ll always be Graham Dalton, the all-too-human center of Steven Soderbergh’s sex, lies, and videotape. (Checking the release date of Soderbergh’s film, I see that I was twenty-two when it came out. For intersections involving meaning and memory, twenty-two may be the sweet spot.) I could probably spend the rest of my word count swooning over the young Spader. Instead, I’ll offer this paragraph from the Times profile:

Mr. Spader, who does not keep up with comic books or much popular culture, nonetheless enjoyed a scene that Mr. Whedon wrote for him in which Ultron quotes from Emily Dickinson. (In the finished film, Ultron instead quotes “I’ve Got No Strings” from Disney’s Pinocchio.)

As parenthetical remarks go, isn’t that one particularly devastating? It also tracks too closely with my life. About a year and a half ago I picked up a copy of Emily Dickinson: The Gorgeous Nothings, but I’ve spent almost no time with it. Instead, I’ve watched Tangled and The Little Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella (the old one, the new one) and countless other Disney moneymakers with my rapt four-year-old. (I won’t even speak of Frozen. Frozen now goes without saying.)

Meg Shevenock trained her attention on The Gorgeous Nothings last month on this blog. She wrote marvelously about these two lines: “In this short Life that only lasts an hour / How much – how little – is within our power.”

So: what are we doing with our time? And how, as Soderbergh once sort of asked, did we wind up with all these keys?

Disney’s whole locked-at-night kingdom, for an hour with Emily!

Gorgeous Nothings shot

Back, briefly, to the Times profile. Asked how he prepares for a role, the fifty-five-year-old Spader said, “I’m trying to serve my own curiosity and imagination first.” That’s a Dickinson-like formulation. (See “A Curious Cloud Surprised the Sky.” See almost any page of The Gorgeous Nothings, which I’ve been thumbing through while writing this post.) And now I’m remembering that Dickinson was “Called Back” at fifty-five. Fifty-five! The double nickel. The speed Sammy Hagar couldn’t drive. The number of points Michael Jordan dropped on the Knicks in his 1995 return to the Garden.

No strings?

C’mon, everything’s connected.