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The New Criterion

America’s leading review of the arts and intellectual life
- Harry Mount, the London Telegraph



In case you missed it

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Oct 09, 2015 01:36 PM

David Low, Caricature of Joseph Conrad, 1928, from Lions and Lambs, via


Recent links of note:

Joseph Conrad: anticipating terrorism
Clive James, Prospect
Why read Conrad anymore? Aren’t the topics he wrote about: colonial adventures, seafaring, and the like, hopelessly outdated? Of course not, to say nothing of his remarkable prose. Moreover, as Clive James tells it in this feeling piece, Conrad anticipated the great questions of our times. As the world devolves into just the sort of chaos Conrad described so chillingly, it’s worth rereading the man who “knew that unarmed goodwill is useless against armed malice.”

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A simple, sugary slice of wisdom

by Jane Balkoski

Posted: Oct 07, 2015 11:26 AM


I once read that we should always beware of an "ism." This is a cute, simple way to warn against ideology. While I haven't taken the advice to heart (because I'm a disaffected young woman in a “post-modern,” “post-capitalist world”), I have re-directed my doubts towards self-professed "philes." Francophiles, with their soft, black berets and their golden baguettes. Bibliophiles, who collect books without cracking their spines. Logophiles, Anglophiles, oenophiles, necrophiles—I have boundless supplies of suspicion.

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The Pope heeds the media’s warning

by James Bowman

Posted: Oct 06, 2015 02:39 PM

Kim Davis, via


The mighty media scandal machine has another triumph to celebrate as the Vatican, according to The Washington Post and The New York Times, has effectively acknowledged guilt in the meeting last week between the pope and Kim Davis by disavowing any support for Ms. Davis’s quixotic refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky. It was the papal nuncio in Washington who arranged the meeting, the Vatican spokesman now says. It was just one of many with lots of different people “due to the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability.” In other words, as the Times put it: “On Friday, the Vatican appeared to be distancing itself from Ms. Davis’s camp.”

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In case you missed it

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Oct 02, 2015 10:57 AM

Boris Johnson, via


Recent links of note:

Why Bloomberg Won't Run for President
John Fund, National Review
Though Donald Trump may not be our ideal version of a “political outsider,” his ascendance proves that America’s appetite for a third-party candidate who exists outside of the traditional Republican/Democrat paradigm is strong. For many practical conservatives, the seemingly ideal candidate in that mold is the former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a man of actual (rather than purported) wealth, committed to seeking out real solutions to the festering sore that is American politics. So will he run? Probably not, explains John Fund. The road to victory for a third party candidate is just too long. Alas.

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Bard News

by James Bowman

Posted: Sep 30, 2015 02:18 PM

Professor John McWhorter, via


He’s at it again. The Wall Street Journal at the weekend ran another piece by Professor John McWhorter of Columbia heralding the increasingly common theatrical practice of translating the plays of Shakespeare into simpler, more contemporary language in order to facilitate comprehension. Or at least what audiences wishing to be spared the trouble of understanding what Shakespeare actually wrote believe is comprehension. It is Dr. McWhorter’s purpose to flatter that belief and to reassure those who want Shakespeare without difficulty, Shakespeare pre-digested for easy swallowing, that they are quite right to do so.

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"The March in Memory: From Selma to Montgomery"

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Sep 30, 2015 11:29 AM



Criterion Books, an imprint of The New Criterion, is excited to introduce to you Peter Pettus’s fascinating The March In Memory: From Selma to Montgomery. The photographs collected in this volume were taken during the 1965 Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Never before published, this is the work of an artist photographer who wanted to tell the story directly and simply, not as a photojournalist, but as a participant in this national and political demonstration. The camera looks deep into the faces of those who were there—black, white, old, young, Northern, and Southern—at the time when America approached one of its greatest times of crisis.

The pictures unfold here as a narrative. As the March moves along, we see participants and bystanders depicted in dramatic shades of black and white. Passing through the towns, people gather to wave, not quite believing what they are seeing. The expressions on these faces reflect a vast range of emotions: hope, fear, doubt, and joy. We see, as the March approaches Montgomery, the hundreds who have spontaneously joined up. The final photographs of the huge crowd streaming into the Capitol express the power of those words: “I Have a Dream.”

Peter's book is now available on Amazon.

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Preludes without fugues

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Sep 29, 2015 02:12 PM


Yundi is the pianist who used to be known as Yundi Li. Lately, he has made a bid to become the best-known one-named pianist since Solomon (the great British pianist, born Solomon Cutner, who lived from 1902 to 1988). Or maybe I should say Liberace?

Yundi was born in China in 1982. Eighteen years later, he won the Chopin competition in Warsaw, becoming the youngest person ever to do so. Since then, he has been known particularly for his playing of Chopin.

He has now recorded the Preludes, which is to say, the twenty-four preludes classified as Op. 28. Chopin completed two others. Yundi appends those as bonuses.

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Philip Levine Remembered

by Isabella DeSendi

Posted: Sep 28, 2015 03:28 PM

Philip Levine, via


If anyone ever wanted to acquaint himself with the gritty, mechanical kingdom of 1950s depressive Detroit, he should simply pick up any collection of Philip Levine’s (1928–2015) work and feel the exhaust from flames or beaded sweat dripping from some laborer’s brow almost instantaneously. Or one could have attended the memorial service held by Levine's peers this past week at the Cooper Union where Levine’s sacred, suburban space was recreated and memorialized through a reading of his work. The memory of our 2011 Poet Laureate, who passed in February 2015, was cradled fondly in The Great Hall by poets, peers, and strangers alike, all somehow influenced by Levine's expansive writing career. The lineup of friends who presented included Juan Felipe Herrera, Toi Derricotte, Dorianne Laux, Sharon Olds, Tom Sleigh, and others, and the night ended with a sentimental showing of Levine reading his piece "Burial Rites," his wife, Fran, watching delicately from the front row. The lines, "Think of it/ my name, no longer a portion of me . . . the roots of the eucalyptus/ I planted in '73/ a tiny me taking nothing/ giving nothing, free at last" managed to stir something in all of us as Levine's voice hovered from the speakers and hung in the high ceilings. Perhaps it was a shared, sad gratitude for the late poet, or maybe it was the visceral, introspective response his work often conjures, a consideration of what we too will leave behind. 

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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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