Books and Arts

Films: Geniuses: Some Notes
September 10, 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni Ingmar Bergman They might have smiled. Averse as they were to plot mechanics in their work, they might have been amused at the blatant coincidence of their deaths on the same day. Or they might have been amused at those who believe it was planned by a cosmic trickster. In any case, July 30, 2007 is now a signal date in film history. Michelangelo Antonioni was ninety-four, Ingmar Bergman was eighty-nine. Their work now moves into a different light. Almost all the art that is valuable to us is encased in history: it comes to us from the past, recent or remote.

Books: Rebel Rebel
September 10, 2007

is a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of A Nation Under our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South From Slavery to the Great Migration. Toussaint Louverture: A Biography By Madison Smartt Bell (Pantheon Books, 333 pp., $27) Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters By Elizabeth Brown Pryor (Viking, 658 pp., $29.95) I. Two hundred years ago, the Anglo-American slave trade was formally abolished, culminating a struggle that was several decades old.

Books: The Whole Horror
September 10, 2007

  The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 By Saul Friedlander (HarperCollins, 870 pp., $39.95) With the publication of The Years of Extermination, Saul Friedlander adds to his already well-established reputation as one of the world's pre-eminent historians of the Holocaust and of its place in modern European, German, and Jewish history.

Music: Stolen Moments
September 10, 2007

Abbey Sings Abbey Abbey Lincoln Love Is What Stays Mark Murphy Near the end of 1956, two young jazz singers made their first albums: Abbey Lincoln's Affair ... A Story of a Girl in Love, released by Liberty Records, a qualityconscious shoestring operation, and Meet Mark Murphy, issued by Decca, then a major jazz-pop label. Lincoln was twenty-six and black and a woman, Murphy twenty-four and white and a man, and both had talent and looks. For half a century, they followed separate and circuitous but roughly parallel career paths.

Books: Early Harvest
September 10, 2007

teaches classics at the University of Pennsylvania. Her new book, The Death of Socrates, will be published by Harvard University Press this fall. Hesiod: Volume I: Theogony, works and days, testimonia Translated and edited by Glenn W. Most (Harvard University Press, 308 pp., $24) hesiod: Volume II: the shield, catalogue of women, other fragments Translated and edited by Glenn W. Most (Harvard University Press, 434 pp., $24) There is an ancient tradition that Hesiod and Homer once competed for a poetry prize.

Art: Mystery Makers
August 27, 2007

Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years Museum of Modern Art Neo Rauch at the Met: para Metropolitan Museum of Art Artists have always been fascinated by the labyrinthine, the enigmatic, and the confounding, and this celebration of uncertainty has a particularly strong appeal in our postmodern times. We want art to reflect our confusions; we want to fall under the sway of a mystery maker. This summer New York's biggest museums have been hosting an unlikely but compelling pair of mystery makers. Richard Serra and Neo Rauch, although as different as day and night, are both arbiters of the uncanny.

Poem: Simile
August 27, 2007

The way on green alluvial islands where the Zambezi meets the Cuando the lions (cubs scanning smudged horizons as the father drops his snout in gore) shake out a clump of vertebra and sinews in their teeth to extract the sweetest meat so we might call it "merciless": like that we rip reality from all the surfaces that flow around us. And live in the amnesia of our doing it (I know I do) and so no end to war. And hate it in ourselves and colonize our drives and swallow them and so we eat. By Peter Campion

Films: Surviving
August 27, 2007

Primo Levi's Journey Cinema Guild Blame It on Fidel Koch Lorber Dans Paris IFC First Take The very name of Primo Levi stops the heart. Affection then floods in, because, of all Holocaust survivors, he is among the closest--through his books, his darkly humane books. When Irving Howe reviewed one of Levi's books, the last line of that review was "What is the Italian for mensch?" Many of us shared the question. Levi was liberated from Auschwitz in January 1945 and, with some other Italians, headed for home.

Books: Death and the Maiden
August 27, 2007

Christine Stansell is a professor of history at the University of Chicago. She is writing a history of feminism. The Diana Chronicles By Tina Brown (Doubleday, 560 pp., $27.) How often does summer reading disappoint? Usually you are immune to the shill of the bestseller list, but now it's hot and you deserve some fun, too. And so you shell out the thirty bucks for what the bookstores are hawking on their buzzy front tables--but then the thriller peters out into preposterousness, and you become guiltily bored with the book on Iraq, and you bog down in the Big Novel's glut of detail.

American Collapse
August 27, 2007

Within fourteen days of each other, two rush-hour calamities: a bridge collapse and a steam-pipe explosion. In Minneapolis, a forty-year-old bridge along highway I-35W suddenly dropped sixty feet into the Mississippi River, killing at least five people and injuring approximately one hundred more. The federal government had deemed the bridge structurally deficient in 1990, which the Minnesota Department of Transportation acknowledged in separate reports issued in 2005, 2006, and 2007, after inspecting the bridge.

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