Adore Adorno No More

By Flannery Wilson


Art critic THEODOR ADORNO sits at his desk. His wife BETSY, a nice old woman, pops in to check on him.

BETSY: Better today, Theo?

ADORNO (in German accent, annoyed): Am I better today. Of course not. It is barbaric to write poetry after Aufschwitz. The world is an uglier place now.

BETSY: Maybe you should stop saying that, dear. The war is over. (changing the subject) Is that desk chair still hurting your back?

ADORNO: Is it hurting my back. Yes Betsy. It is gnawing a hole into my spine and my buttocks are on fire. This desk chair is barbaric. After this desk chair, there can be no Auschwitz.

BETSY: That’s nice, Theo. Honey, would you like your Frosted Flakes this morning?

ADORNO: Would I like my Frosted Flakes. Yes, Betsy. Yes.

A few minutes later. Adorno eats his cereal. Suddenly, he screams.

ADORNO (upset): Betsy! Come here woman! The flake chipped my tooth! That flake…it’s…barbaric!

BETSY: Now, Theo. We’ve spoken about this. Remember how we had that conversation with the nurse-lady from the Screws-Loose Asylum?

Adorno shakes his head vigorously.

BETSY: We all agreed that you need to suppress your uncontrollable urges.

ADORNO: I never agreed to —

BETSY: “Words can be hurtful…” come on, say it with me Theo, “so we must not use human tragedy…”

ADORNO: Oh, shut up Betsy!

BETSY: “…to justify our art criticism.”

Adorno mutters in German.

ADORNO: Ok, Betsy. I promise not to compare ‘the Holocaust’ to every little thing that bothers me.

BETSY: Danke, Theo. I really think this is best for everyone.

ADORNO: But you must understand that I am not insane nor do I have Tourette syndrome. So please fire that pathetic excuse for a nurse.

Betsy is quiet for a moment.

BETSY (changing the subject): So what are you writing about now, meine liebe?

ADORNO: Oh…nothing important, Betsy. Why don’t you just go into the other room for a bit? Work on some of your godforsaken women’s puzzles or whatever.

BETSY: Nothing important, Theo? Well then why have you taken the pages in you typewriter and placed them in a pile labeled “must finish immediately”?

ADORNO (flustered): Those pages? Which pages Betsy? I’m not quite sure what —

Betsy reaches over her husband and grabs the paper out of his typewriter.

BETSY (reading): “Nothing has ever been more clear. Jazz music is the devil. It exists outside the bounds of morality…”

ADORNO: I say, woman. Give me back my papers!

BETSY: “…just like the SS soldiers when they created their culture of violence. Yes, that’s right. It is barbaric to make music after Aufschwitz. Especially jazz music.” (disappointed) Oh, Theo.

ADORNO: “Oh, Theo. Oh, Theo”. That’s all you ever say anymore, Betsy.(pause) Listen, dear. Why don’t you go bake some of your delicious lemon zest cookies? Then afterwards you can go stick your head in the oven and bake that too.

BETSY: Theo! You mustn’t speak to me like that. What an awful, offensive thing to say.

ADORNO: Can I be more clear, darling? Are you confused about the meaning of my words? I have an idea. Why don’t you leave my study, wash your hands in the toilet, feed the birds, launder my trousers…then go check the oven to make sure that your head isn’t overdone?

BETSY: Enough is enough, Theodor. I’ve had it with your bullying and tasteless insults that you pass on to the public and call “art criticism”. You’re nothing but an old fuddy duddy.

ADORNO: GET OUT Betsy. I’ll give you five seconds. One…two…three…

Betsy runs out of the room crying.

ADORNO: Now what was I writing…ah yes. After those disgustingly sweet lemon zest cookies, there can be no more Betsy.

Black out.