Books and Arts

Nobody can deny that “Century of the Child: Growing By Design 1900-2000,” at the Museum of Modern Art, is a great looking show. The ambience in the galleries is cool and bright, with scores of children’s books, toys, furnishings, and baubles, many by the legendary movers and shakers of twentieth-century art and design, boldly arranged in big, white rooms. The darker themes explored here—including the toll that war and poverty have taken on the lives of children—do little to disrupt the general sense that museumgoers are being invited to have a jolly good time.

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Fifty years ago, late on August 4 or in the early hours of August 5—so little can be said of her with certainty—Marilyn Monroe died, and began her life in legend. This was only 50 years ago, in Los Angeles, when she was a very important if vague person who may have known even more important persons. There were doctors in attendance, and then coroners; there were police investigations. The world decided it was shocked and stricken by the sudden departure of the 36-year-old, yet not surprised.

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Ryan Lochte turns 28 today. He has achieved a tremendous amount for such a young age, rising to the very top of the international swimming world and racking up 11 career Olympic medals.  And yet, if this highlight reel of his interviews is to be believed, he thinks that seven times four comes out to 21. Can he really as slow out of the pool as he is fast in it?   Who cares, seems to be the answer for the many, many women who have joined the internet's informal Ryan Lochte fan club this week. In fact, if he is? All for the better!

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The most cunning, odious and successful of Gore Vidal’s provocations was surely a mid-career contribution to a special issue of The Nation in 1986, marking the magazine’s one-hundred-twentieth anniversary. The essay was called “The Empire Lovers Strike Back” and is best read today in conjunction with a previous Nation essay from the same year, “The American Empire Ran Out of Gas,” and a clarifying subsequent commentary in The Sunday Telegraph in 1993 called “Race Against Time,” all of which he went on to reprint in his essay collections, perhaps under different titles.

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The Universalist

Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. ALONZO KING is not a celebrity. He is virtually unknown outside the dance world, and even to insiders he is something of an outsider, a choreographer-monk working away with a small troupe of devoted dancers in San Francisco. It is not that his work has gone unrecognized: he has won dozens of awards and made ballets for companies as diverse as the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and the Royal Swedish Ballet.

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The crackup at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles—with glitz-blitz director Jeffrey Deitch on the ropes and famous artists resigning from the board as fast as you can say John-Baldessari-Barbara-Kruger-Ed-Ruscha—is a fascination. The fascination has nothing to do with what Deitch has actually done.

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The monster was the man behind the curtain in the case of Kitty Wells, the country singer who died on July 16 at age 92. As the fittingly reverential tributes to Wells have reminded us this week, she has a place of immutable high standing in pop-culture history for recasting the role of women in country music.

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The Lost Leader

James Joyce: A New Biography By Gordon Bowker (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 608 pp., $35) THERE ARE CERTAIN artistic geniuses who demand that we should know their lives in detail, since for them the story of their lives is a living component of thewider story of their art. In this new biography of James Joyce—the first major one since Richard Ellmann’s monumental Life, now fifty years old—we encounter again an oft-told tale.

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I. THEY ARE, in their very different ways, monuments of American civilization. The first is a building: a grand, beautiful Beaux-Arts structure of marble and stone occupying two blocks’ worth of Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan. The second is a delicate concoction of metal, plastic, and glass, just four and a half inches long, barely a third of an inch thick, and weighing five ounces. The first is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the main branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL). The second is an iPhone.

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Art Over Biology

Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. Why Lyrics Last: Evolution, Cognition, and Shakespeare’s Sonnets By Brian Boyd (Harvard University Press, 227 pp., $25.95) Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind By Mark Pagel (W.W. Norton, 416 pp., $29.95) The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present By Eric R.

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