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In Case You Missed It

by Christine Emba

Posted: Jul 18, 2014 11:50 AM

Links of interest from the past week:

Books are alive
Ned Resnikoff, The Baffler

Carter Cleveland says art in the future will be for everyone
Carter Cleveland, Wall Street Journal

School for a scoundrel
Bettany Hughes, The New York Times

Wagner’s Anti-Semitism Still Matters
James Loeffler, The New Republic

Virginia Woolf's idea of privacy
Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker

From our pages:

To encroach upon a mockingbird
Jasmine Horsey

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Don’t forget the music (Tchaikovsky didn’t)

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Jul 17, 2014 12:06 PM

Ruslan Skvorstsov and Maria Alexandrova of the Bolshoi Ballet; Source: Ian Gavan/Getty Images Europe 

This month, the Bolshoi is a guest of the Lincoln Center Festival. When I say “the Bolshoi,” I mean the opera and ballet companies, complete with orchestra and chorus. Last night, the appropriate forces performed Swan Lake at the Koch Theater.

Of course, New Yorkers get Swan Lake a lot, courtesy of the American Ballet Theatre. And those Swan Lakes are mainly very good. It’s sometimes easy to overlook your home company, and thrill to the foreign visitor. This applies to other spheres as well.

Think of a university—where an assistant professor may have little chance of promotion, because he’s just “good ol’ Tom.” He may be very attractive to another campus, however. And think of the girl next door, lissome—who may be overlooked in favor of the temptress from an exotic locale.

A Swan Lake from the Bolshoi ought to be good, yes? This is the storied Moscow company, performing the core of the core repertory—by Tchaikovsky, the core ballet composer, and a Russian, of course. Much of art can be an expectations game.

I touched on this subject in my “Salzburg Chronicle” last October. I said that a Verdi Requiem, conducted by Muti, with a top orchestra, a top chorus, and top soloists, ought to be good. And this performance was in the Verdi bicentennial year, to boot. The audience was primed for a great, or even historic, experience. Did they get one? No, they got a flop. But I could understand if they weren’t quite willing to accept this.

In my chronicle, I wrote,

Bear with me a second: In the next few days, I came upon a display of gingerbread men at an open-air market. Austria is known for its gingerbread. The cookies looked fantastic. I picked the best-looking one and bit into it. It was stale. No good. But, for a split second, I could see how I might will it good. It was supposed to be good. The expectations game is very important, too important, in music and other spheres of life.

Well, I will not keep you in suspense: Last night’s Swan Lake from the Bolshoi was, in fact, very good.

Ballet is primarily a dance experience, not a musical experience. But I should leave the dancing in more expert hands and comment on the music—which is not unimportant, after all. It is very important.

The quality of the orchestra makes a big difference in a ballet, I think. Would you rather have good dancers and a poor orchestra than poor dancers and a good orchestra? I’m sure. But some nights, I'm not so sure. Bad playing can easily mar a night of ballet.

Here in New York, our ballet orchestras are often snickered at. This snickering is not entirely fair: The orchestras can do themselves proud (and the conductor is a factor). But on many a night, the snickerers have a point.

The Bolshoi Orchestra is what you might call a real orchestra—not a ballet orchestra, but an orchestra orchestra. Last night, they were conducted by Pavel Sorokin, who was accomplished. And the first thing you noticed about the orchestra, or I noticed, was that they were loud. Confident, unafraid, present. The ballet orchestras I’m familiar with tend to be reticent, muted. They accompany rather than play.

Swan Lake is one of the great Romantic scores, and it is not mere accompaniment. An orchestra should feast on it, along with the dancers. There are many excellent solo opportunities in the orchestra, especially for woodwinds (which is typical of Tchaikovsky). A Swan Lake needs a good Odette/Odile, but what about the oboist?

The Bolshoi Orchestra was not immaculate, far from it. Many entrances were poor—beyond poor, wretched. As the dancers are expected to be precise and unified, so should the players. There was some unfortunate splatting in the brass. Etc.

Some of the graceful, flitting, pliant sections should have been more graceful, flitting, and pliant. There was a bias toward the blunt. The Pas de quatre—those four cygnets—was a little heavy. By the way, do you know Earl Wild’s piano transcription of this piece? It is one of his best—to hear him play it, go here.

Continuing with last night: Grand, noble sections could have been grander and nobler. These sections tended to be too fast, unsavored. But I remind myself: A ballet conductor does not necessarily have a free hand. There are balletic restrictions. On a concert podium, the conductor (if he can) rules.

The orchestra was never better than in the “foreign dances”: the Hungarian dance, the Spanish dance, and so on. These were really distinctive—set apart from the score at large. And there was genuine menace in the black swan’s music.

From first act to last, this Swan Lake had its underlying musicality and vitality. The orchestra surely has an effect on the dancers, for good or ill. Music, dancing, scenario, choreography—they blend into one experience.

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the better Swan Lake gets—the more brilliant Tchaikovsky gets. Age cannot wither this work, not custom stale her. Did you notice, above, that I called Swan Lake “one of the great Romantic scores”? That was a stupid hedge. A weaselly qualification. Swan Lake is one of the great scores, period.

Two years ago, I wrote a little piece called “Up with Tutus: Ballet music—one man’s evolution.” It concluded,

Some ballet music, I still contend, is beyond hope. During its recent season here, the American Ballet Theatre put on Le Corsaire, whose score is cobbled together from five composers . . . Act I is like a parody of ballet music, invented by ballet-haters. But Swan Lake? Honestly, I could see and hear it once a week. Probably twice.

Well, how about The Nutcracker, that silly seasonal standard? Let me quote another piece—about Rodion Shchedrin, the Russian composer:

Once, he was asked what he was prepared to listen to, right that second. He replied that he was always prepared to listen to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker—“because each and every section of the score is a masterpiece.” That is a very rare declaration for a modern composer to make. Even those who believe it—who know it’s true—would shrink from saying it.

As long as I am quoting, I’m going to quote Thomas P. Griesa—not an arts-world figure but a judge. A federal judge here in New York, and a longtime friend of The New Criterion. For many years, he has been going to the opera and the ballet. His wife, Chris, is an ex-ballerina (though still graceful). I have heard him say, “A mediocre night at the opera is better than a mediocre night at the ballet. But a great night at the ballet—that beats everything.”

In my view, we had such a night last night.

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To Encroach Upon a Mockingbird

by Jasmine Horsey

Posted: Jul 16, 2014 03:37 PM

Harper Lee; Photo Credit: Katy Winn/Corbis, via

The release of The Mockingbird Next Door, a long-awaited biography of celebrated novelist Harper Lee, was clouded on July 14th when Lee issued the following statement: “Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.” Lee’s words came despite author Marja Mills’s assertion that the biography was written with the full support of Lee and her sister, Alice. 

Though Lee is notoriously media-shy and never published again after her 1960 masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird, Penguin Press has repeatedly defended the authenticity of the biography. “After decades of silence the sisters were ready to share their stories with a trusted listener,” the dust jacket reads. “Mills was given an astounding gift when Alice and Nelle invited her into their lives.”

The emphasis is on consent. With a comforting narrative voice, Mills paints herself as the opposite of an investigative journalist. She is self-effacing, venerating the Lees for their erudition, and recalls the year she spent living next door to the sisters with humility and respect. Yet in a public rebuff, Lee said that when she discovered Mills’s intention to write a biography, she “[left] town whenever [Mills] headed this way.”

Public opinion will surely jump to Lee’s defense: the eighty-eight-year-old author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that is often cited as the pinnacle of the American literary canon, Lee has gained admiration for her reluctance to step into the media fray. This most recent statement is also not the first time she has denied involvement with the biography. Back in 2011, when Penguin first announced they had acquired the rights to publish Mills’s book, Lee denied any involvement. In response, Mills produced a letter signed by Lee’s sister Alice assuring the book had been written with their compliance. It is difficult to find any sort of transparency in the case—whether Lee gave consent and then decided to retract it, whether Lee’s sister Alice gave consent in her place, whether Alice at 100 years old was not in a position to give this consent, or whether Marja Mills is truly crafting an elaborate lie.

Usually it isn’t particularly eyebrow-raising for a biography to be written without the subject’s explicit consent. Society has become accustomed to knowing the minutiae of celebrities’ lives both through traditional biographies and now, thanks to the Internet, short-form pieces and viral rumours that can be easily accessed online. Yet the way Penguin and Marja Mills have marketed this book, which is to claim it is an intimate portrait of a woman who willingly invited the author into her life, is problematic. Now, without Lee’s consent, accounts of morning coffee chats at McDonalds and trips to feed the ducks read a bit as though Mills preying on the vulnerability of two aged women. Given that the premise of the book is based on domesticity, the possibility that the friend next door was in fact an underhanded member of the press is unsettling.

Perhaps we should ignore the controversy, and focus instead on what critics have praised as a well-crafted, sensitive, and non-invasive biography of the author. The biography’s homely presentation has certainly been tainted by Lee’s statement, resulting in what the Boston Globe called “a sad denouement to an otherwise charmed relationship.” But it will surely sell and, with or without the consent of Lee, whet the appetites of readers who have waited decades to hear about the woman behind the masterpiece. 

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The ‘Obvious and Commonsense Conclusion’ about the IRS Scandal

by Roger Kimball | from PJ Media

Posted: Jul 14, 2014 05:26 PM

Even as Establishment Washington, Republican as well as Democrat, does it’s ostrich imitation and pretends that there is Nothing To See Here, Move Along, two organizations, and two courageous judge’s, are beginning to peel back layer after layer from the fetid onion of corruption that is the scandal of the IRS’s “lost” emails.  As the […]

go to PJ Media

Critic's Notebook for July 14, 2014

by Brian P. Kelly

Posted: Jul 14, 2014 04:50 PM

Sign up to receive “Critic's Notebook” in your inbox every Monday—it only takes a few seconds and it's completely free! “Critic's Notebook” is a weekly preview of the best to read, see, and hear in culture, compiled by the editors of The New Criterion.

This week: The Bolshoi Ballet at Lincoln Center, the Clark Institute reopens, and William T. Vollmann's final book. 

Fiction: The Symmetry Teacher by Andrei Bitov, translated by Polly Gannon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): Andrei Bitov reflects on a novel by an obscure English author named A. Tired-Boffin that he translated into Russian long ago. Now, however, he can find neither the original book nor his translation. What follows is Bitov’s attempt to recreate the book entirely from memory—complete with his own asides, embellishments, and diversions—in this Nabokovian novel-within-a-novel.  BPK

Last Stories and Other Stories by William T. Vollmann (Viking): Vollmann, the author of such works as Europe Central and The Rainbow Stories, is a divisive writer: He’s been called a hack journalist and admitted to publishing certain work purely for the money, but has also won the National Book Award and been praised by outlets ranging from the TLS to Vice. This collection of thirty-two stories will be Vollmann’s final book (or so he claims in a note to the reader), and is an overview of his career in miniature, peppered with political drama, international locales, and dark undertones. BPK

Nonfiction: My Two Italies by Joseph Luzzi (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): In this memoir, Joseph Luzzi, a child of Italian immigrants and a scholar of Italian culture, looks at the often contradictory qualities that have come to define Italy. He explores the complicated relationship between Italian Americans and the old world, the country’s division between northern and southern regions, and the paradox of Italy’s role as a cultural and artistic titan despite political corruption and historical fragmentation. By examining his immigrant upbringing, his family’s history, and Italy’s global influence, Luzzi sketches a portrait of his complex relationship with a unique country. BPK

Poetry: On Accepting the Disaster: Adam Kirsch reviews Joshua Mehigan in The New Republic: "A poem is like a rocket: Either it achieves liftoff or it falls to the ground. And since contemporary poets have largely discarded the tools that have traditionally helped poems aloft—meter and rhyme—it’s not surprising that they rarely take flight. Joshua Mehigan’s Accepting the Disaster is the rare new book of poetry that is entirely alive, entirely aloft.” Read Mehigan's work in TNC here. DY

Art: The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute reopens: The Clark Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts is now bigger and better thanks to the latest steps it has taken towards completing its 2001 master plan. The most recent projects in the redesign, headed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando(who was later joined by the architects Annabell Selldorf and Reed Hilderbrand), added two new buildings, refurbished the two existing structures, and overhauled the Clark’s landscape with a reflecting pool. Roberta Smith has a glowing review in the Times, and Lee Rosenbaum breaks down the entire project in the Journal. Look for full coverage in the forthcoming issue of The New Criterion.  JP

Music: BSO’s Berkshire Night, Introducing Andris Nelsons (Saturday): Andris Nelsons will make his first Tanglewood appearance as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director. Saturday’s rich program is anchored by Brahms’s Symphony No. 3, the most popular of the composer’s four. Also featured are Rolf Martinsson’s 1998 Trumpet Concerto No. 1 (Bridge), with Hàkan Hardenberger, and Tchaikovsky’s playful Capriccio Italien. One thousand free tickets will be distributed to year-round Berkshire residents before the concert. ECS

Other: The Bolshoi Ballet at Lincoln Center: The Bolshoi Ballet’s limited run at the David H. Koch Theater begins this week as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. The renowned Moscow company will perform Yuri Grigorovich’s Swan Lake (July 15–20), Alexei Fadeyechev’s staging of Don Quixote (July 22–23), and Grigorovich’s 1968 version of Spartacus (25–27).  BPK

“Summer Night: Enlightenment and Beauty” at the Frick (Friday): The Frick Collection is hosting two free program-filled nights this summer. The first, this Friday, highlights the importance of classical imagery in the arts and will include a solo performance by New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Amar Ramasar, as well as commentary on the exhibition "Enlightenment and Beauty: Sculptures by Houdon and Clodion" by a museum educator. CE

From the archive: Wordless secrets: the cinema of Ingmar Bergman by Jeremy Murray-Brown, April 1994: Auteur Ingmar Bergman discusses his life and work in a collection of interviews.

From our latest issue: Civil power by William Logan: Reviews of contemporary poetry, including Caribou by Charles Wright, Directing Herbert White by James Franco, The Road to Emmaus by Spencer Reece, Roget’s Illusion by Linda Bierds, and Broken Hierarchies: Poems, 1952–2012 by Geoffrey Hill, edited by Kenneth Haynes.

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Cherchez la tribu

by James Bowman

Posted: Jul 11, 2014 04:34 PM

Reporting on a new poll about the fact that most Americans, even in these days of unpopular political parties, still identify themselves with one party or the other, Jaime Fuller of the Washington Post explains the matter thus: “So why do voters stick with political parties even when they aggravate them? The same reason we stick with our families — because it’s not like there’s a real alternative. . . So basically: Can’t live with ‘em, can't live without ‘em.” It’s a persuasive argument, but I think it needs a slight amendment. Political parties are not so much like families as they are like tribes — something that hardly exists anywhere else in Western society. In fact, it is only in politics as currently practiced that we can acquire any insight, these days, into what it’s like to live in a tribal society, as most of the world still does. 

Of course that may not be important to you if you are already engaged in the tribal conflict of present-day politics, as so many of us are, but we ought at least to be aware of how, as tribal warriors, we differ from people engaged in the sort of rational debate that was once thought to be vital to democracy. See, for instance, Jessica Valenti’s columns in The Guardian. A day or two ago she was attacking some friends of mine, in particular Charlotte Hays and Christina Hoff-Sommers, as “anti-feminist women.” She had nothing at all to say about the arguments these women had made, respectively, in favor of the Hobby Lobby decision or the proposition that, in Ms Valenti’s paraphrase, “feminism was hurting men” — only that both women had, by giving voice to such arguments, become renegades from the feminist tribe and, ipso facto, could have nothing of any interest or relevance to say against her anathematization of them.

More recently, Ms Valenti has gone after Hillary Clinton for repeating that old and long-since discredited Clinton mantra about abortion’s being “safe, legal and rare.” But her point is not that legalized abortion has never been and is not now rare at all. Rather, she takes the former First Lady to task because the word “rare” implies that she might just be thinking that there could be something less than totally awesome about a woman’s aborting her children and so might be giving aid and comfort to feminism’s enemies, as the tribal mind sees them, who have long tried to persuade women that there is something wrong with abortion. To the extent that they might be allowed to think it even possible for anyone to believe such a thing without being an oppressor of women, the unanimity of outrage about the Hobby Lobby decision would be diluted — and, worse, the tribe’s Democratic allies in Congress might suffer in the upcoming congressional elections.

Interestingly, tribal conflict is historically pretty much a masculine preserve. You could even argue that the improvement in the status of women in Western countries has proceeded pari passu with, even if it were not a primary cause of, the decline of tribalism. Women, having been historically seen as not always bound by the same honorable obligations as men, have also sometimes taken this partial exemption from masculine tribalism as a potential avenue to pacification in such tribal conflicts as Northern Ireland, where Mairead Corrigan, now Mairead Corrigan Maguire, and Betty Williams won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977. Now, just as feminists seek to emulate men’s proclivity for sexual promiscuity, as Ms Valenti insists they do in yet another column, they are also supposed enthusiastically to adopt their tribal love of fighting. At least they will if they know what’s good for them. And this enslavement to ideology is what they used to call “liberation.”


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In Case You Missed It

by Christine Emba

Posted: Jul 11, 2014 12:29 PM

Links of interest from the past week:

The tea party's new front in the American culture wars: literature
Adam Kirsch, Tablet

In defense of Fanny Price
Tara Isabella Burton, The Paris Review

Rebuild Penn Station!
R. R. Reno, First Things

This is not a VermeerTM
Rex Sorgatz, Medium

Money cubicle's the beast
Brad Phillips, The Enemy

From our pages:

Gatsby meets Macomber
Jeffrey Meyers

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Another look at Detroit

by Michael Pepi

Posted: Jul 09, 2014 05:02 PM

“First Board of Trustees of Detroit Museum of Art” (1907), Percy Ives. Via Detroit Institute of Arts.

The city of Detroit is beset by several unforgiving narratives. We need not recount them here because few, if any, are present in the Todd Levin’s exhibition “Another Look at Detroit,” on view at Marianne Boesky and Marlborough Chelsea this summer. Instead Levin approached his hometown with the lens of the longue durée: rejecting the events that have only recently clouded the city’s stature as a proud beacon of cultural production.

At Marlborough Gallery, Robert Duncanson’s Landscape (1870), Percy Ives' group portrait the First Board of Trustees of Detroit Museum of Art (1907), and the urban realism of Zoltan Sepeshy’s Industrial Detroit (plant II) (1929) set the tone for the cultural milieu of Detroit far in advance of the boom and bust cycle. The exhibition parades a range of American themes, such as the roots of Manifest Destiny, the later waves of cosmopolitan luminaries, and some of our most enigmatic postmodernists, especially Detroit natives James Lee Byars and Mike Kelley.  

Even though Levin takes a revisionist tack, it is still impossible to ignore the industrial theme. Detroit’s history and that of the automobile are closely intertwined, as is much of the iconography reproduced in the city’s art. Diego Rivera painted a portrait of Edsel B. Ford in 1932, a muted depiction of the man who had commissioned Rivera’s Detroit Industry murals at the Detroit Institute of Art, completed shortly thereafter. It is hung adjacent to Ray Johnson’s abstract rendition of Edsel’s son, Henry Ford II, who soon succeeded his father at the helm of Ford Motor Company.


“Edsel B. Ford” (1932), Diego Rivera. Oil on canvas, mounted on Masonite. Courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

There is a celebration of Detroit’s vernacular, whether it is in the Ford upholstery samples, posters for classes at Cranbrook Academy of Art in nearby Bloomfield Hills, a Shinola bicycle, or several examples of decorative arts and design from masters like Harry Bertoia and Eero Saarinen. Even the modern and contemporary works make steady use of industrial forms and materials including the machinist cacophony of Julie Mehretu’s abstract Untitled (Brigade) (2005), the steel reinforcing rods in Michael C. Luch’s Untitled (Rabbit) (1977), and John Enger’s Doug’s Smoke (1975), which typifies the unrefined style of the Cass Corridor artists. Detroit’s status a pioneering city in the history of techno music also is on display with several vinyls from Jaun Atkin’s Metroplex records—the creator of the now mainstream genre.  

Mike Kelley and James Lee Byars in particular seem like suitably lucid symbols for the complexity of Detroit’s place in the history of art. Kelley’s painting and sculpture were rooted in his midwestern Catholic upbringing, yet constantly synthesized elements of physchological depth with bold formal experimentation. Kelley was as boundless as James Lee Byars was metaphysical—his preferred medium being “thought”. Both were native sons of the Motor City who went on to broadly impact the trajectory of contemporary art. 

“Center and Peripheries #2” (1990), Mike Kelley. Acrylic on panels and wood armatures; Private collection

The exhibition reads as a broad roster of important artist’s whose lives were impacted by the city, specifically drawing upon several art schools throughout Michigan—Wayne State, College for Creative Studies, Cranbrook Academy— that boast impressive alumni. As Levin explains in the exhibition’s statement, there is a sense of hope in the work. Even if it wasn’t always part of the artist’s intent, Levin’s curation collapses some the media’s negative narrative of the city while stressing the possibility of rebirth.  


“Another Look at Detroit,” a group exhibition curated by Todd Levin, opened June 26th and runs through August 8, 2014 at the Marlborough Chelsea and Marianne Boesky galleries in New York City. 


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Critic's Notebook for July 7, 2014

by Brian P. Kelly

Posted: Jul 07, 2014 04:19 PM

Sign up to receive “Critic's Notebook” in your inbox every Monday—it only takes a few seconds and it's completely free! “Critic's Notebook” is a weekly preview of the best to read, see, and hear in culture, compiled by the editors of The New Criterion.

This week: Harper Lee breaks her silence, Garry Winogrand's intimate photos, and a rarely seen opera takes center-stage at the Lincoln Center Festival.

Fiction: Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey (FSG Originals): Elyria books a one-way ticket to New Zealand, abruptly leaving behind her family and stable, yet unfulfilling, job in Manhattan. Arriving without any real plan, she hitchhikes across the country, works odd jobs, and stays with strangers she meets along the way. Her actions start to catch up with her as the impetuousness of her trip and traumas from her past send her deeper and deeper into a mental breakdown. Sam Sacks of The Wall Street Journal calls Lacey’s debut “the most promising first novel that I’ve encountered this year.”   BPK

Nonfiction: The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills (Penguins Press): In 2004, Marja Mills of the Chicago Tribune moved in next door to Harper Lee. Living with her sister in Monroeville, Alabama, Lee had withdrawn from the public eye after the success of To Kill a Mockingbird and remained as enigmatic as Pynchon or Salinger. Over the course of the next eighteen month, Mills and the Lees grew close together, sharing everything from literary conversations to catfish dinners. Now Mills tells the story of their friendship, painting a detailed picture of the sisters and their southern home.  BPK

Poetry: Rocket and Lightship by Adam Kirsch (W. W. Norton): New Criterion readers will be pleased to learn that a new collection of essays, Rocket and Lightship, by the poet and critic Adam Kirsch will be released this fall. You can read a preview of it here. Poems by Mr. Kirsch that appeared in The New Criterion can be read here. His New Criterion Poetry Prize–winning collection is available here. DY

Edward Hirsch on his Poet’s Glossary: The poet Edward Hirsch sat down with the Poetry Foundation to discuss the 750-page Poet’s Glossary that he spent fifteen years compiling: “I think contemporary poetry seems to have inherited a 1950s and ’60s divide between the poets of traditional form and the poets of organic form. I think these divides rehearse tired narratives about poetry, as if we still had to choose between, say, Elizabeth Bishop and Charles Olson, or between Robert Hayden and Robert Creeley. By seeing these divides so categorically, I think we’ve impoverished the resources of American poets. My idea is that poetry is so much larger than these timeworn quarrels, which put too many poets into boxes. I’m hoping that my book can contribute to a fuller conversation and way of thinking about poetry. There is so much more to poetry than the sociological alignment of different groups.” BPK

Art: “The Meaning of Life” and “Robert Otto Epstein”: Summertime is the best time to explore art beyond the five boroughs. The Geoffrey Young Gallery in Great Barrington, Massachusetts is a small space with a deservedly big reputation. “The Meaning of Life, a cartoon-based exhibition curated by Sue and Phil Knoll," on view through August 2, is this summer's group show with work by seventeen artists, including Katherine Bradford, James Sienna, and Ken Johnson. Meanwhile in Beacon, New York, opening this Saturday and running through August 3, Matteawan Gallery will exhibit the dazzling 8-bit op-art of "Robert Otto Epstein: ROW BY ROE," with drawings that are part Bauhaus and part Nintendo. JP

“Garry Winogrand” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through September 21, 2014): Garry Winogrand’s intimate photos capture the full range of human emotions with a menagerie of characters ranging from hippies to businessmen, strangers on the street to movie stars. The first retrospective of Winogrand’s work in twenty-five years, the show brings together more than 175 of the artists images, including a series of photos taken at the Met in 1969 while the museum was celebrating its centennial. BPK

Music: The Tsar’s Bride at Lincoln Center (Saturday–Sunday): Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Tsar’s Bride gets a rare U.S. showing this weekend as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. The renowned Bolshoi Opera will present a concert performance of the work for two nights, with Gennadi Rozhdestvensky conducting. ECS

Other: Life Itself at The Film Society of Lincoln Center: This documentary from Steve James memorializes the extraordinary life and work of Roger Ebert, tracing his rise from a run-of-the-mill newsman to the world’s most influential film critic. BPK

From the archive: In the Empty Quarter by Ben Downing, November 2006: The outlandish life of Wilfred Thesiger.

From our latest issue: A bookman of the people by Henrik Bering: A review of The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life by John Carey.

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Backstage Breakdown

by James Panero

Posted: Jul 07, 2014 01:21 PM

Will the Metropolitan Opera be cut short next season by backstage strife? In City Journal I take a look at this management-labor dispute and come out against everyone:

In the last few years, major arts organizations such as the New York City Opera have gone bankrupt; others, like the San Diego Opera, have verged on the brink of insolvency, and labor walkouts have silenced performances from Minnesota to Carnegie Hall. In most of these cases, management and labor have both been part of the problem. The losers are opera lovers and a future generation of supporters, increasingly treated with contempt.

Catch the full story here.

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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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