Recent links of note:
“The George Plimpton Story”
Nathaniel Rich, New York Review of Books
There is a striking subgenre of biography in which the subject is painted a tragic gentleman marooned in an era unfit for his zeal and integrity—John Bew’s recent take on Castlereagh fits the mold, and there are many more examples. Reading Nathaniel Rich’s essay on George Plimpton in the New York Review of Books, one gets the sense that Plimpton would have been destined for a tragic career of that sort if not for his own inventive self-styling. Rich briefly describes the desperation of Plimpton’s early years at The Paris Review, struggling to find an audience for the ambitious highbrow quarterly, before he honed a new style writing for the upstart Sports Illustrated in 1955. From that point on, the Harvard- and Cambridge-educated young writer would make a name for himself by narrating the gritty, unpredictable, and decidedly anti-elitist world of sports. Immersing himself in the action of ball games and boxing matches, Plimpton would forgo any explicit reference to the class gap between himself and his competitors, and yet his pedigree always shined through in his incandescent prose such that, as Rich describes, “the joy of [Plimpton’s books] comes less from sharing the company of Muhammad Ali or Alex Karras than . . . from sharing the company of George Plimpton.” Rich’s essay is among the early examples of what will likely be a long line of cheery biographies of the high-styled sportswriter.
“Where the European Union Was Born”
Joseph Loconte, The Weekly Standard
It’s remarkable to think that the European Union, not yet sixty years old and more murkily defined today than it was at its founding, has nonetheless been accepted by most as the only sound vessel for Europe’s future. To unravel that perception, The Weekly Standard’s Joseph Loconte points out that the Treaty of Rome did not emerge inevitably out of the wreckage of World War II, but was rather the consequence of an idea conceived by a particular man at a particular moment. His article traces the “European idea” to the Communist dissident Altiero Spinelli, who composed a manifesto for European integration from behind the bars of an Italian prison in 1941. On the surface, Spinelli’s vision traded the autocracy that he had once preferred for a new type of union based on American checks and balances. And yet, Loconte describes how Marx’s materialist view of statecraft ultimately did play out in the European Union’s founding, as postwar leaders became convinced that the right legal structures could supersede the influences of nationality and culture.
“A musical model”
On the conducting mastery of Sir Neville Marriner.