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The New Criterion

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



A monstrosity in a box

by Niels Lee

Posted: Nov 12, 2015 12:00 AM

A vapur, via

The nineteenth-century Ottoman writer Ahmed Rasim once sarcastically noted that those living in the Istanbul region of Kadiköy didn't bother to get up for sahur (the early morning meal during Ramadan), because it wouldn’t survive the daily ferry trip they had to take for work. If true, this is not surprising, since when the first Istanbul steamboats were introduced to the empire in the 1850s they were rarely on time, were boarded through notoriously unsanitary harbors, and often lurched from side to side causing passengers seasickness. Yet, the throngs of people who pushed on hungry till sunset still wouldn’t have complained much; before then, small sluggish rowboats with two to eight oars were used to cross or ride along the rough Bosphorus.

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More press for "Fault Lines"

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Nov 11, 2015 10:40 AM


Criterion Books, our publishing arm here at The New Criterion, is delighted to share a review of our latest bookFault Lines, by David Pryce-Jones, from today's Wall Street Journal.

Writing in the Journal, David Aaronovitch desribes Pryce-Jones's life as "so cinematic that you see and hear, rather than read it". Aaronovitch praises the "mournful and funny" book's rich storytelling, calling it "captivating."

You can read more about Fault Lines here.  


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In case you missed it

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Nov 09, 2015 09:05 AM

Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, admires Jackson Pollock’s Mural on Indian Red Ground (1950) in Tehran. Photo: Bernd Von Jutrczenka/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Recent links of note:

Meet the intellectuals leading France to the right
Patrick Marnham, The Spectator 
France is the last place one would expect a group of right-wing, traditionalist thinkers to gain traction. This is, after all, a country with (despite what Jeb Bush might say) a sacred thirty-five hour workweek. But as political correctness (la bien-pensance) ascends in France, turning schools into “gulags of knowledge,” a new class of thinker, “les nouveaux réactionaires,” has come to the fore. As Patrick Marnham of The Spectator tells it, these public intellectuals are France’s best hope to counter “France’s diminishing status and influence.” That the voting public thinks so, too, is promising.

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The New York Philharmonic: thinking succession

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Nov 05, 2015 02:34 PM

Sakari Oramo, via

Earlier this week, I had a post about Jaap van Zweden, the music director of the Dallas Symphony who had guest-conducted the New York Philharmonic. I said that he was on my short list to succeed Alan Gilbert as the music director of the Phil.—“not that anybody asked for my short list—or long list.” I also said that I would “devote my next post to New York Phil. succession.”

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The least corrigible of all

by Dominic Green

Posted: Nov 05, 2015 10:27 AM

Julian Barnes, via

The explanation of one art form by another, Flaubert said, is a monstrosity. Julian Barnes twice quotes Flaubert's impossible dictum in this collection, if only to dissent. "We remain," he writes, "incorrigibly verbal creatures who love to explain things, to form opinions, to argue." And writers are the least corrigible of all. As Barnes says, when Proust visited a gallery, he would "comment on who the people in the pictures reminded him of in real life." And did not Flaubert, while objecting to the illustration of his novels, write "a great many private words in letters and journals" about art?

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Literal gabble

by Peter Tonguette

Posted: Nov 04, 2015 10:15 AM

Lillian Ross, via

At one point in her otherwise disposable book At Home in the World, Joyce Maynard sketches a brief but piercing portrait of Lillian Ross, the long-tenured and widely admired staff writer at The New Yorker.

In the early 1970s, Maynard accompanied her then-beau J. D. Salinger on a lunch date with Ross and William Shawn (the editor of The New Yorker). The setting was the rarefied Algonquin Hotel, but the encounter was far from polite.

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The birdcage of the Muses

by Walker Mimms

Posted: Nov 03, 2015 11:53 AM

From Thomas Stanley's 1665,The history of philosophy, via

It’s a beautiful line:

Many are feeding in populous Egypt, scribblers on papyrus, ceaselessly wrangling in the birdcage of the Muses.

But it’s a mean one. It comes from Timon of Phlius, the Greek poet and philosopher who watched as the greatest poets of his age set off across the Mediterranean to write under the patronage of Ptolemy II. Theocritus, Apollonius, and Callimachus are probably the scribblers in question. And the new Library of Alexandria, then the greatest storehouse of human knowledge, was almost certainly the birdcage. It wasn’t just competitive scribbling Timon despised in these poets. It was, in his view, pedantry. When they could have been forging new directions in Greek verse, they instead burrowed in the stacks and set to work on a massive scholarly edition of the old poets with Alexandria’s first librarian, an important Homer scholar. Books had infected them, sneered Timon from afar.

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Jaap at bat

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Nov 02, 2015 09:07 AM

Jaap van Zweden, via

The New York Philharmonic had a guest conductor on Saturday night: Jaap van Zweden, the music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. And the Hong Kong Philharmonic. In addition to being a conductor, this Dutchman is no mean violinist, having been appointed concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra when he was a teenager.

(The orchestra had not yet acquired its “Royal.”)

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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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