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The New Criterion

The New Criterion is probably more consistently worth reading than any other magazine in English.
- The Times Literary Supplement



Some Thoughts on Veterans’ Day

by James Bowman

Posted: Nov 11, 2014 01:35 PM


The unseemly squabble among Navy SEALs and the authorities they once served over how Osama bin Laden was killed and who killed him provides a good example of what happens when a country loses its honor culture. The native or reflexive honor is still there, reinforced by a specialized military honor culture, but the larger social environment no longer retains any sense of what honor means, apart from one’s personal beliefs and values. Without that understanding, even our men of honor — in this case the SEALs — don’t know how to behave. Nor, I scarcely need add, do the journalists who have come forward to criticize Matt Bissonnette, author of No Easy Day and Rob O’Neill, now revealed (though not without further controversy over the claim) as the SEAL whose bullets to the head killed the terrorist leader.

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Speechless (almost)

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Nov 07, 2014 11:46 AM

Joyce DiDonato, via NYT


In my forthcoming “New York Chronicle” for the magazine, I write about a recital by Elizabeth van den Heever, a young South African soprano. Her program, I say,

was a throwback. It began with Baroque music, continued with German art songs, went to a French set, and closed with music personal to the singer. That’s how it was with Leontyne Price and many other singers. But that sort of program is old-fashioned now. Administrators, critics, and academics want “themes.” They want to teach some sort of musicological lesson. To me, at least, van den Heever’s throwback was delightful. It was practically subversive.

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Review: “Calder and Abstraction” at Peabody Essex Museum

by Franklin Einspruch

Posted: Nov 05, 2014 12:13 PM

Alexander Calder, La Grande vitesse (1:5 intermediate maquette), 1969. Calder Foundation, New York.

There are a handful of modern artists whose signature works are so distinctive that to approach them stylistically is to get yanked into their orbit. Joseph Cornell’s dioramas come to mind as an example—not even Marcel Duchamp could collage thrift-store findings behind glass without evoking the work of his friend. The unfortunate side effect of this distinctiveness is that such artists produce no stylistic heirs, only lesser copyists.

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In Case You Missed It

by Christine Emba

Posted: Oct 31, 2014 12:44 PM

Happy Hallowe’en!

Links of interest from the past week:

Ten Scary Classical Music Pieces for Halloween (listen)
“Great music pierces the soul…and can sometimes terrify it.”

Review: The Poet and the Vampyre: The Curse of Byron
He was mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Also a plagiarist, and a terrible friend.

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Party On

by James Bowman

Posted: Oct 30, 2014 11:42 AM

Remarkable. An organization rather vaingloriously calling itself “Intelligence Squared” tells me that it is holding, or has held, a debate on the motion: “Income Inequality Impairs the American Dream of Upward Mobility.”

Surely, you would think, even intelligence unsquared must be equal to the task of reasoning required to see that it is only income inequality that could make the American Dream of upward mobility possible in the first place — and thus that the motion is nonsense? Too bad I only received an invitation to take part in this nonsensical debate, now available as a DVD or podcast, on the same day it took place. I’ve got to think they really didn’t want my input after all but were only pretending to invite me because they thought I would be flattered by the pretense of my inclusion, even via spam, in such highly intelligent company. I’m not. I tend to agree with Stephen Hawking that “people who boast about their I.Q. are losers.” Sorry Mensa. I have a slight curiosity to see if any of the IQ2 initiate were bright enough to understand that the content of their “debate” was a null set, as they would no doubt put it. But not enough to take the trouble to find out.

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Watching Shakespeare

by Kate Havard

Posted: Oct 27, 2014 12:32 PM

Kenneth Branagh as Henry V, 1989

This past Saturday was the 599th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, the historical occasion for the magnificent St. Crispin’s Day speech in Shakespeare's Henry V. The speech reminds me of the worst Henry V that I ever saw—which is also my favorite.

A few years ago, the Folger Shakespeare Library in D.C. staged Henry V with a very promising rising star in the lead. But in the performance I saw, the man playing the King was not the man whose face was on the posters.

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In Case You Missed It

by Christine Emba

Posted: Oct 24, 2014 02:24 PM

We few, we happy few, we band of readers: This Saturday is St. Crispin’s Day.


This week's links:

Yes More Drama, by Dan Kois
“…A great published script makes you understand what the play is, at its heart. Not just what a certain production was like, though it also ought to do a good job of that. It makes you understand how the play feels as a living work of art—how it sounds and behaves inside your head…”

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The New Criterion

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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December 18, 2014

Friends, young friends, and authors event: Holiday Party 2014

More events >