Karen Marson, Wave with Traffic Light Study, 2013
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This week: Islam, apocalypse, and model trains.
Fiction: West of Sunset, by Stewart O'Nan (Viking): This work of historical fiction focuses on the last three years of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life. By 1937, Fitzgerald seemed to have lost everything: his finances, his wife (to mental illness), and his literary success. After briefly trying to make it in Hollywood, he died in 1940 at age 44. Interspersing flashbacks to earlier moments of his life throughout the novel, Stewart O’Nan shows the heartbreak of the final years of one of America’s most beloved writers.–RH
Nonfiction: The Fall of Language in the Age of English, by Minae Mizumura (Columbia University Press): Born in Tokyo, raised and educated in the United States, and a student of French, Minae Mizumura acknowledges the value of a universal language in the pursuit of knowledge yet also embraces the different ways of understanding offered by multiple tongues. She warns against losing this precious diversity, depicting Japan’s linguistic and literary heritage with a fascinating vividness. —CE
Poetry: Fire Songs, by David Harsent (Faber & Faber): Fire Songs was released in August, but it was announced today that the volume has won its author the TS Eliot Prize for poetry after his four previous appearances on the shortlist. This eleventh collection is concerned with endings: martyrdom, war, apocalypse, and lost love, delivered in a haunting, lyrical tone. —CE
Art: Sideshow Nation III: Circle the Wagons! (January 10-March 15): If you could see only one painting show a year, the annual group exhibition at Sideshow Gallery in Williamburg should be top of your list. With over six hundred artists represented floor to ceiling and every space in between, this annual blowout is a one-stop shop for what’s happening, casting an ever wider net over the greatness of the borough (um, hello, Brooklyn Museum!). Concurrently, and on a smaller scale, is Paperazzi at Janet Kurnatowski Gallery in Greenpoint, the omnium gatherum for works on paper. —JP
Music: La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera (January 15-24), and NYFOS @ Juilliard: Great American Songwriting Teams (January 14): Don't expect any surprises from Franco Zeffirelli's staging, but Thursday's performance of La Bohème at the Met has the potential to be one of the most exciting nights of the Met's season thus far. An absurdly star-stacked cast is led by Kristine Opolais as Mimì and the ascendant Marina Rebeka as Musetta. Jean-François Borras, who made a splash in a last-minute debut as Werther last season, sings the romantic lead Rodolfo, and Mariusz Kwiecien drops in for a bit of "luxury casting" as Marcello.
For a lighter alternative, try the New York Festival of Song's "Emerging Artists" series. On Wednesday, Juilliard students will present a program celebrating America's great songwriting teams. Featured will be works of Comden & Green, Bock & Harnick, Rodgers & Hart (& Hammerstein), and others. —ECS
Other: Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden (closes Monday, January 19): A "holiday train show" of model trains shooting through a garden landscape of miniature buildings made of tree bark sounds like an express ride to Tourist Town. With its timed tickets, sold-out crowds, and $26 adult fare (not to mention $15 for parking), the annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is just that but more. With more than 150 meticulous models of local landmarks crafted by artist Paul Busse, this is more accurately an architecture show of lost New York—hopefully one now shorn of its holiday crowds. —JP
From the archive: Islam, civilization & the nation state, by Daniel Johnson: On the interplay between militant Islam and the Western nation.
From our latest issue: Self-censorship, by Douglas Murray: One of the most damaging forms of censorship is self-imposed.