Sign up to receive “Critic’s Notebook” in your inbox every week—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 New York and beyond, compiled by the editors of The New Criterion.
This week: Fallow paradise & ill-considered vice
Paradise Lost: A life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, by David S. Brown (Harvard University Press): F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel This Side of Paradise features an allusion to the ill-fated athlete and airman Hobey Baker, whom Fitzgerald saw as an exemplar of America’s fading virtues. Although images of Gatsby-esque revelry would soon define Fitzgerald in the popular imagination, the biographer David S. Brown argues that the author spent his short life pining for those old, Spartan virtues, which war and the “Jazz Age” had scattered to the wind. Paradise Lost: A Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald looks beyond Gatsby and the famous stories of Fitzgerald’s excesses, and instead explores his correspondence with the Progressive intellectuals of his day to show that—if his prose left any doubt—Fitzgerald held a dim view of the decadent world in which he found himself trapped. —MU
“Art of Architecture” at Eleventh Street Arts (March 2–April 7): This may be New York’s Armory Week, but there’s plenty to see outside the circus of the Hudson River piers. Starting this Thursday in Long Island City, Eleventh Street Arts, the front gallery of the Grand Central Academy, founded by Jacob Collins, will bring together over a dozen contemporary architects and artists who still recognize the “importance of drawing to the language of architecture.” The exhibition, “Art of Architecture,” will feature work by Peter Pennoyer Architects, Anthony Baus, and Alexander Creswell, among several other top practitioners. As part of a lecture series, on the evening of March 9, Seth Weine will speak on typography and lettering, while Sam Roche will appear on March 30 to discuss “Hand Drawing for a House Design.” —JP
Lera Auerbach’s Violin Concerto No. 4 and Mahler Symphony No. 4 performed by the New York Philharmonic (March 1–3): Violin concerti, historically, have tended to be one-off items. In the pantheon of the Romantic violin concerti, the five that stand tallest—Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, and Sibelius—are each their respective composers’ only entries in the genre. So when I saw that a contemporary composer, Lera Auerbach, was up to number four, I did a double-take. Auerbach’s music is richly evocative, imaginative, stylish, bringing out the natural qualities of the instruments she uses. This week, the New York Philharmonic and Leonidas Kavakos will give the world premiere of her fourth concerto, “NYx: Fractured Dreams,” with Alan Gilbert conducting. The program rounds out with Mahler’s breathtaking Symphony No. 4, with Christina Landshamer singing the soprano part. —ECS
Deconstruction at the Grand Hall at St. Mary’s Church (March 3–25): For many of the “New York Intellectuals” who set the pace for social theory in the 1950s and ’60s, moral relativism was, at least partially, a mere fabrication to make sense of their own frustrated and freewheeling love lives. Deconstruction, the latest work from our friend Jonathan Leaf, sends up this clash of highbrow rhetoric and insecure private life, dramatizing the rumored affair between the writers Paul de Man and Mary McCarthy. The play, which opens on Friday at St. Mary’s Church on the Lower East Side, stands out in its attempt to deconstruct the thin moral axioms that so much contemporary theater still seems to take for granted. —MU
From the archive: “History repeating itself: liberalism and foreign policy,” by Robert Kagan: On the ongoing unraveling of the international order.
From the current issue: “Latin lover,” by Andrew Stuttaford: A review of Catullus’ Bedspread: The Life of Rome’s Most Erotic Poet by Daisy Dunn.