Jed Perl On The Supposed Necessity Of Doubt For Art

In the course of a ‘The Emperor Has No Clothes’ style review of a retrospective of Jeff Koons‘ work–staged at the Whitney Museum last year–Jed Perl writes: Dada—whatever its deficiencies, and the fact is that it produced relatively little enduring art—was part of a tradition of doubt about the possibilities of art that is woven deepContinue reading “Jed Perl On The Supposed Necessity Of Doubt For Art”

On Not Watching Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible

A dozen or so years ago, my now-wife-and-then-girlfriend’s roommate, a young woman who worked as a community organizer, told me that she had recently seen Gaspar Noé‘s recently released Irréversible. She really liked it: it was a disturbing movie, hard to watch because of that notorious eight-minute rape scene and all the other violence, but I,Continue reading “On Not Watching Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible”

The Pietà, The Hammer, And The Stain

In The Renaissance: A Short History, Paul Johnson writes: [Michelangelo’s] first important commission, a Pietà (Mary with the dead Christ) [was] intended for the tomb of a French cardinal in Rome…It is by any standards a mature and majestic work, combining strength (the Virgin) and pathos (the Christ), nobility and tenderness, a consciousness of human fragility andContinue reading “The Pietà, The Hammer, And The Stain”

Snowpiercer: The Train As Capitalist Society And The Universe

Post-apocalyptic art–whether literature or movies–is provided, sometimes all too easily, ample opportunity for flirting with the grand, for making sweeping statements about human nature and the meaning and purpose of life. After all, it’s the (often violent) end of the world. Time to speculate about the new, phoenix-like world that may rise from the ashesContinue reading “Snowpiercer: The Train As Capitalist Society And The Universe”

Theater As Instruction Manual For Domestic Strife

In Benjamin Kunkel‘s new play Buzz, a central character, Tom, holds forth on theater–he says “something interesting”: TOM: The theater has a very ironic relationship to domestic life, don’t you think? Because what’s been the main preoccupation, for more than a hundred years? I’m thinking Ibsen, Strindberg, Shaw, Pinter…About the biggest theme is the horror ofContinue reading “Theater As Instruction Manual For Domestic Strife”

Laurence Olivier on the Indispensability of Personas

In his autobiography, Confessions of an Actor (Penguin, 1982), Laurence Olivier writes of an unforgettable mentor, and reveals a great deal about acting: [Miss Fogerty] gave me one unforgettable, very special word of advice, which has been imprinted forever in my memory. I can’t think of when, if ever, I had heard or known such aContinue reading “Laurence Olivier on the Indispensability of Personas”

The Pleasures of “Emotional Difficulties”

In his review of several exhibitions showcasing the work of Félix Vallotton, Julian Bell writes: Vallotton is not so much an autobiographical artist as an artist who coolly and procedurally recognizes that his own emotional difficulties might supply him with viable imaginative material. Vallotton wouldn’t be the first or last artist to recognize this, ofContinue reading “The Pleasures of “Emotional Difficulties””

Jacob Bronowski on the Missing Shakespeare of the Bushmen

Jacob Bronowski–who so entertained and edified many of us with The Ascent of Man–was very often a wise man but he was also Eurocentric, a weakness that produced astonishingly reductive views about the ‘East’, about ‘uncivilized’ and ‘uncultured’ societies. This inclination is noticeably on display in his dialog The Abacus and the Rose,¹ in the courseContinue reading “Jacob Bronowski on the Missing Shakespeare of the Bushmen”

Reflections on Translations-VII: Capturing Class Distinctions

In yesterday’s post, in an attempt to analogize Tea Partiers with demagogues, I included an excerpt from Aristophanes‘ The Knights. Once I had posted a link to the post on Facebook, I made the following note in the comments space–directing it at a pair of friends of mine who work in Brooklyn College’s Classics department:Continue reading “Reflections on Translations-VII: Capturing Class Distinctions”

Hagiography as Biography: Turning Writers into Saints

Tim Parks wonders why biographies of writers flirt with hagiograpy, why they are so blind to their subjects’ faults: With only the rarest of exceptions…each author is presented as simply the most gifted and well-meaning of writers, while their behavior, however problematic and possibly outrageous…is invariably described in a flattering light…special pleading is everywhere evident,Continue reading “Hagiography as Biography: Turning Writers into Saints”