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The New Criterion

It operates as a refuge for a civilizing element in short supply in contemporary America: honest criticism
- The Wall Street Journal



Fairness for the fair sex

by James Bowman

Posted: Aug 27, 2015 04:27 PM

Times Square, October 1919

In a typically lumbering and awkward attempt at irony, Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post writes that “A new terror imperils New York, threatening to destroy all that it—nay, America—holds dear.” You could tell by the old-fashioned language in “nay” and the “holds dear” that she was being ironic. That’s good, because things that are non-ironically but putatively destructive of all we hold dear are rather a drug on the journalistic market these days, and one wouldn’t want to be blundering into yet another one of them by reading any further. But the relatively trivial matter which she wishes to trivialize further by her ridicule is the appearance in Times Square of bare breasted but usually body-painted women calling themselves desnudas who pose with tourists for tips. Some people don’t like this and are urging, not without result, the impeccably liberal powers that be in New York to do something about it.

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Much too up and at life

by Jane Balkoski

Posted: Aug 26, 2015 02:20 PM

John Singer Sargent, Group with Parasols (Siesta), c. 1904–5, Oil on Canvas, © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Metropolitan Museum's exhibit “Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends" does not begin with a painting of an heiress or a picture of the artist, that deep crease between his grey eyebrows. It begins with a tall vertical window, a little larger than a full-body portrait. This window opens onto the show, forcing viewers to confront two unfortunate truths: a successful portrait painter cannot simply paint "from life." He must build a new world for his sitter, a world with nice lighting, good posture, and a striking composition. He also must let the sitter eclipse him; he must cultivate a fascination for his subject, but not himself.

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New England in Austria

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Aug 25, 2015 02:25 PM

Andris Nelsons/Photo: Marco Borggreve

Here at the Salzburg Festival, the Vienna Philharmonic is king—the resident orchestra. But sometimes interlopers get in, and sometimes those interlopers are American. In 2008, the Cleveland Orchestra came (albeit under an Austrian music director, Franz Welser-Möst). This year, the Boston Symphony has come.

Its conductor is Andris Nelsons, the young Latvian, who has been with the BSO since last fall, and with whom the orchestra is expecting a long relationship. He is a protégé of Mariss Jansons, his great countryman, who has been the music director in Pittsburgh, Amsterdam, and other places.

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A bit of Elon

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Aug 24, 2015 02:53 PM

Elon Musk/Photo: Art Streiber/August Image via

Add another rejoinder to the old leftist canard that the "Great Man" theory of history is dead. In his review of Ashlee Vance's new biography of Elon Musk, our own Roger Kimball says:

One moral we can derive from Elon Musk’s career thus far is this: individuals matter. That may seem like a trite observation, but in age of incremental corporatism, where more and more of life is subject to the plodding guidance of rule- and regulation-bound committees, Musk has demonstrated the power of individual initiative. This is something that Musk’s friend Larry Page memorialized when, in 2014, he said that, should he die, he would rather give his billions to Elon Musk—someone with “really big ideas”—than to some philanthropy. Still only in his mid-forties, Musk has helped revolutionize online banking, brought us closer to transforming the way that electricity is produced and distributed, and has upended the automotive industry. To top it off, he has injected new life and ambition into the aerospace industry. A decade ago, it would have been easy to dismiss Musk as a dreamy utopian crusader out of touch with the business world’s hard realities. Now that he is at the helm of several multibillion-dollar enterprises and commands a personal fortune in excess of $13 billion, that criticism seems misplaced. 

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A masterly morning of Mahler

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Aug 24, 2015 10:25 AM

Daniel Barenboim and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / © Salzburger Festspiele / Marco Borrelli

Some musicians are hit-or-miss, and some are steady on (for better or worse). There have been many hit-or-miss musicians, and I’ll name four of them—two conductors and two singers: Lorin Maazel and Valery Gergiev; Jessye Norman and Plácido Domingo.

Frankly, Horowitz was hit-or-miss too. People like to remember him as godlike, and he was—but not all the time. He could play like a dog. Today, only the godlikeness is remembered, which is right.

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In case you missed it

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Aug 21, 2015 11:06 AM

James Bradburne, new Director of Milan’s Pinacoteca di Brera © James O'Mara

Recent links of note:

‘The Contemporary Novel’: an essay by T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot, The Times Literary Supplement
Recently unearthed by the TLS, this essay, which had previously appeared only in an obscure French translation, offers Eliot’s characteristically pointed thoughts on the state of the then-contemporary novel. In the modern style Eliot discerns the malicious influence of “psychology” on the novel, leading to an increased perversion of traditional forms. He reserves his most vicious invective for D. H. Lawrence, calling him a “demoniac…with a gospel” whose characters, in their more intimate moments, “seem to reascend the metamorphoses of evolution, passing backward beyond ape and fish to some hideous coition of protoplasm.”

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Greek guts in Salzburg

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Aug 20, 2015 11:03 AM

Cecilia Bartoli (Iphigénie) and Christopher Maltman (Oreste) / © Salzburger Festspiele / Monika Rittershaus

Among the offerings at the Salzburg Festival this year is Iphigénie en Tauride, Gluck’s opera from 1779. It is based on Euripides. There are three main roles in this show: Iphigénie, her brother Oreste, and his pal Pylade. To fill those roles, Salzburg hired three stars—starting with one big, big star.

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Real Mozart

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Aug 19, 2015 02:35 PM

The Marriage of Figaro / © Salzburger Festspiele / Ruth Walz

A successful Marriage of Figaro is a very satisfying evening—and that’s what we had at the Salzburg Festival last night. This Figaro was not always sparkling, but it was always intelligent. And it sparkled often enough.

Figaro, even more than most Mozart operas, has a great many components. You can start with a cast of about ten. Not a single component failed last night.

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A party without heroes

by James Bowman

Posted: Aug 19, 2015 09:50 AM

President and Mrs. Truman at a Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner

According to The New York Times, “State by State, [the] Democratic Party Is Erasing Ties to Jefferson and Jackson.” I’d have thought that “ties” were things to be “cut” rather than “erased,” but it turns out that “erased” in the once-favored etymological sense of “rooted up” is what the headline writer meant.

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About ArmaVirumque


( AHR-mah wih-ROOM-kweh)


In the Aeneid, the Roman poet Virgil sang of "arms and a man" (Arma virumque cano). Month in and month out, The New Criterion expounds with great clarity and wit on the art, culture, and political controversies of our times. With postings of reviews, essays, links, recs, and news, Armavirumque seeks to continue this mission in accordance with the timetable of the digital age.


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September 29, 2015

Friends and Young Friends Event: Book Launch Party with Peter Pettus

October 02, 2015

Friends and Young Friends Event: "The Corruption of our Political Institutions," a symposium

More events >