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This week: James Salter, Whit Stillman, and a Stormy Pianist
Fiction: McNally Jackson Live: The Art of Fiction: A Tribute to James Salter (May 23): James Salter, who died last summer, was known for the dazzling quality of his prose and also for something less fortunate: his relative lack of notoriety. One need only count how many of Salter’s obituaries used the phrase “writers’ writer” to understand how central his obscurity was to our conception of him. Those who do not know Salter now have the chance to make posthumous amends. The UVA press has brought out James Salter: The Art of Fiction, drawn from a series of interviews given while Salter was in residence at the university. A week from tonight Salter’s widow, Kay, and John D. Casey, who wrote the introduction for the new book, will discuss at McNally Jackson the man John Simon described as “[preeminent] as a stylist, with . . . great attention paid to, and effect achieved with, every single sentence, so as to maximize that expressivity also known as beauty.” —BR
Nonfiction: Theodore Roosevelt in the Field, by Michael R. Canfield (University of Chicago Press): In 1878, Theodore Roosevelt, then a student at Harvard, declared “I should like to be a scientist.” Though he never achieved the goal—processing from Harvard to law school at Columbia—Roosevelt maintained his fondness for and interest in the natural world. In his latest book, Michael R. Canfield explores the ways in which Roosevelt stayed close to nature throughout his life. The image of Roosevelt qua conservationist has been pilloried—in our modern times the ghosts of great men may never rest easy, the whims of progress being so eager to tear down those previously held in high esteem—but Canfield’s book, through extensive archival research, shows the idea to be more than a mere projection. Not convinced? Then it’s still worth reading the book for its facsimiles of Roosevelt’s written correspondence and diaries—January 22, 1910: “Rhino Meat Good.” —BR
Film: Love & Friendship, directed by Whit Stillman: While The New Criterion does not generally cover cinema—our pages are better dedicated to less popular arts—we have long employed the Stillman Exception: i.e. we will gladly set aside space for anything having to do with the filmmaker Whit Stillman. The writer and director of the films Metropolitan (1990), Barcelona (1994), The Last Days of Disco (1998), Damsels in Distress (2011), and the serial The Cosmopolitans (2014), Stillman is our generation’s greatest auteur of the comedy of manners. So it should come as little surprise that Whit has now applied his wit to adapting the greatest novelist of manners, Jane Austen. Drawing on Austen’s little-known 1795 epistolary manuscript “Lady Susan,” which exists as the only surviving draft of any of her novels at the Morgan Library, Stillman’s new film Love & Friendship brings Austen’s strapped widow to the silver screen. Portrayed by Stillman veteran Kate Beckinsale in what is being hailed as a role of a lifetime, Lady Susan is the most likable of foxes to roam a Georgian garden, conspiring with her American friend (played by Chloë Sevigny, always at risk of getting sent back to Hartford, Connecticut) to bring her story to a happy resolution. A longtime Janeite, Stillman has called Austen his most agreeable collaborator and has also just published his own epistolary fan fiction with Little, Brown, Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen's Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, as told by Lady Susan’s nephew, Martin Rufus Martin-Colonna de Cesari-Rocca. The film is now in limited release at New York’s Paris Theater and Angelika Film Center and will soon open nationwide. —JP
Music: The MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall (May 19): Among my favorite highlights of Carnegie Hall’s season is the MET Orchestra residency each spring. For more than 200 performances each year we get to hear one of the world’s greatest orchestras play operatic masterpieces with unparalleled virtuosity in the pit at the Metropolitan Opera. Each year, after they wrap their season at Lincoln Center, we then get to hear them perform the great symphonic music that never makes it to the opera house. On Thursday they will open a three-concert stand with Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila, Tchaikovsky's immense Symphony No. 6 (“Pathétique”), and Rachmaninoff’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 2, joined by the stormy pianist Evgeny Kissin. —ECS
From the archive: Jane Austen for the Nineties, by Brooke Allen: Brooke Allen on the enduring appeal of Jane Austen.
From our latest issue: Animal house, by Henrik Bering: A review of Menagerie: The History of Exotic Animals in England, by Caroline Grigson.
Broadcast: Mark Steyn’s Stand Against Climate Alarmism: In-Depth with the Climate Crybully Conniption-Inducer