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Critic's Notebook for April 14, 2014

by Brian P. Kelly

Posted: Apr 14, 2014 05:42 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 critics, writers, and editors at The New Criterion.

This week: Joseph Epstein on the state of criticism, the art of children's books, and abstraction in Chelsea.

Fiction: All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld (Pantheon): Jake Whyte lives alone, raising sheep on a small island off the coast of Britain. At night, her flock is being picked off one-by-one. As Jake looks for the person—or creature—responsible for the killings, she revisits distant memories and a troubled past that led her from her native Australia to a life of isolation on the other side of the world. Named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, Wyld’s second novel is a strong follow-up to her debut,  After the Fire, a Still Small Voice. Look for a review in the forthcoming issue of The New Criterion.

Nonfiction: Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War by Amanda Vaill (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): During the Spanish Civil War, people hoping to make gains in the fields of art, writing, and politics flocked to Madrid, many staying at Hotel Florida. Vaiil’s book focuses on three couples—Ernest Hemingway, whose career had stalled, and Martha Gellhorn, an ambitious young journalist; Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, bright-eyed photographers; Arturo Barea, the chief of Madrid’s foreign press office, and Ilsa Kulcsar, his Austrian deputy. These stories converge in a larger narrative about truth in reporting, and provide a snapshot of Europe on the brink of World War II. Look for a review in the forthcoming issue of The New Criterion.

Poetry: David Jones in the Great War by Thomas Dilworth (Enitharmon): This biography illuminates the life and work of David Jones. Jones was looking forward to a promising career as an artist and poet when World War I broke out. He joined the British army and survived the Somme, Ypres, and Passchendaele, serving in the same regiment as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. — DY

Art: “Mitt Paintings” at Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York and “vis-à-vis” at The Painting Center, New York (both through April 19): This is the final week to see two abstract painting exhibitions on the same block in Chelsea that  revel in the textures of oil and acrylic. Jules Olitski’s  "Mitt Paintings" at Paul Kasmin are the finger paintings of the gods. On a more intimate scale, there's Emily Berger and Claire Seidl in “vis-à-vis” at The Painting Center. — JP

Music: I Puritani at the Metropolitan Opera (Thursday): In one of the season's most anticipated debuts, Olga Peretyatko will sing the role of Elvira in Bellini's I Puritani opposite Lawrence Brownlee as Arturo and Mariusz Kwiecen as her spurned fiancé Riccardo. Michele Mariotti, Ms. Peretyatko's husband, will conduct. — ES

Family: “The Little Prince: A New York Story” at The Morgan Library & Museum (through April 27): Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince endures as a ubiquitous children’s book. This exhibition takes a look at the American origins of the book, which was written and first published in New York. Combining twenty-five of Saint-Exupéry’s manuscript pages and all forty-three of the earliest versions of the book’s illustrations, this show is an intimate look at an iconic book.
“Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and Friends: The Art of Bernard Waber” at The Carle, Amherst, MA (through June 8): Bernard Waber, the author and illustrator of more than thirty picture books including Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, Ira Sleeps Over, Courage, and The House on East 88th Street, died in May of 2013. This show commemorates his life and work with eighty-five original illustrations and a selection of his work as a designer at Time Inc. and Condé Nast. — JP

Other: Lydia Davis and Jean Echenoz at 92Y (Thursday): Lydia Davis and Jean Echenoz talk about writing and their new books. David won the Man Booker International Prize in 2013 and her new collection of short stories is Can’t and Won’t. Jean Echenoz won the Prix Goncourt for I’m Gone; his new novel is 1914.

From the archive: Reviewing and being reviewed by Joseph Epstein, December 1982: On the role of the critic and the state of literary criticism.

From our latest issue: Sound & sensibility by David Yezzi: On the musicality of Robert Frost.

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