Ordinary Lives

I started the morning with many, many other librarians listening to Ken Burns and falling in love

The man is charming and self-effacing, and looks incredibly young for a man who has been making documentary films for over 30 years.  He spoke eloquently of history and especially of the importance of the common man.  The man crafts his sentences with obvious care, choosing words for precisely the meaning he wishes to convey and delivering them in a cadence that earns rapt attention from his audience.

“I have in many ways made the same film over and over again,”  he said.  “Each one asks the question, ‘Who are we?'”

Burns has just completed a 6-year project entitled, “The War,” about World War II.  In researching the project early on, he visited the New York Public Library and was taken on a tour by Vartan Gregorian.  At one point, Gregorian stopped, indicated the miles of stacks around them and said, “This is the DNA of our civilization.”  Burns loved the quote – as did we.

PBS will begin broadcasting “The War” on September 23, 2007.  The audience this morning was treated to a one-hour sneak preview of the mini-series, though Burns told the audience that he wasn’t terribly comfortable with excerpts, and so he had instructed the ushers to lock the doors.  “If we go straight through without bathroom breaks, we should be be able to see the whole series by 11:30 tonight.”  I have a feeling some of us would have been willing to stay.

The piece was moving and, as usual with Burns’ work, beautifully done.   The whole series will be worth watching.

“There are no ordinary lives,”  Burns said.   Well and truly spoken.  What a wonderful man.


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