George Eliot

The Music Libel Against the JewsBy Ruth HaCohen (Yale University Press, 507 pp., $55)   IN NOVEMBER 1934, Privy Councilor Wilhelm Furtwängler, vice president of the Third Reich’s Music Chamber and conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, imprudently took to the pages of the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung to defend the composer Paul Hindemith against the charge of “Jewishness” with which Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister for propaganda and enlightenment of the people, had justified a prohibition on the performance of his work.

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“IT WAS CALAMITOUS for me. I feel a deep, deep grief.” Sir V.S. Naipaul is talking about his dead cat. We are sitting in the spacious two-story London flat in Kensington where the author and his welcoming second wife, Nadira, stay when they are not at their Wiltshire country residence. “Now that Augustus has died, I want to spend more time in London,” he continues, slowly picking at the meal Nadira has provided. “It is too painful to be [in Wiltshire]. I think of Augustus. He was the sum of my experiences.

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  “IT WAS CALAMITOUS for me. I feel a deep, deep grief.” Sir V.S. Naipaul is talking about his dead cat. We are sitting in the spacious two-story London flat in Kensington where the author and his welcoming second wife, Nadira, stay when they are not at their Wiltshire country residence. “Now that Augustus has died, I want to spend more time in London,” he continues, slowly picking at the meal Nadira has provided. “It is too painful to be [in Wiltshire]. I think of Augustus. He was the sum of my experiences.

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The Hermaphrodite

The Marriage Plot By Jeffrey Eugenides (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 406 pp., $28) Women write about love and marriage; men write about everything else. Like all truisms, this one is best served with a heaping spoonful of caveats, but they don’t alter its essential flavor. Just “look at all the books,” as Jeffrey Eugenides’s new novel exhorts the reader in its very first line.

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Illuminations By Arthur Rimbaud Translated by John Ashbery (W.W. Norton, 167 pp., $24.95) I. Arthur Rimbaud wrote the texts known as Illuminations between around 1873 and 1875. In those years he lived in London, and in Paris, and at home with his mother and sisters in northern France, and in Stuttgart. In London, George Eliot was writing Daniel Deronda; in Paris, Henry James was writing Roderick Hudson. The majestic Nineteenth Century was everywhere.

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Cave of Forgotten Dreams Sundance Selects Octubre New Yorker Films A Screaming Man Film Movement He took a mouthful of colored liquid. He put his palm on the great rock. Then he sprayed his hand with the liquid in his mouth and left the hand’s outline on the rock. And there I saw it, seventeen thousand years later. It was in the prehistoric Lascaux cave in south-central France, back in the last century, when visitors were allowed. All around me were overwhelming paintings of animals, paintings almost frightening in both their quality and their age.

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Kindled

The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future By Robert Darnton (Public Affairs, 218 pp., $23.95)   On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books & Bookstores By Jean-Luc Nancy Translated by David Wills (Fordham University Press, 59 pp., $16)   I. The airplane rises from the runway. Bent, folded, and spindled into the last seat in coach class--the one that doesn’t really recline--I pull my Kindle out of the seat pocket in front of me, slide the little switch, and lose myself in Matthew Crawford’s story of his passage from policy wonk to motorcycle mechanic.

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Unhappy Endings

THOMAS HARDY  By Claire Tomalin (Penguin Press, 486 pp., $35) Thomas Hardy's life could have made a novel: a poor provincial boy rises to unthinkable eminence by dint of talent and sheer hardwork, overcoming every obstacle placed in his way. But people havestopped writing novels like that, and one of the reasons is Thomas Hardy. Hardy changed his life by changing the way novels werewritten, discarding their familiar patterns and their reflexive optimism.

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The Moral Baby

Wodehouse: A Life By Robert McCrum (W.W. Norton, 530 pp., $27.95) I.Deliberately unserious writers are very rare in literature; even most children's books are dark with agenda. Sheer play is much rarer than great seriousness, for nonsense demands from most of us an unlearning of adult lessons, a return to childhood--which anyway, being a return, lacks childhood's innocent originality. P.G. Wodehouse, who was always described by those who knew him best as an arrested schoolboy, must be the gentlest, most playful comedian in the English novel.

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The Light of the Eyes By Azariah de’Rossi Translated and annotated by Joanna Weinberg (Yale University Press, 802 pp., $125)  For at least a few years toward the end of his life, Azariah de' Rossi believed that February 26, 747 B.C.E.

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