In the current presidential election campaign, many, if not most, Americans are expecting that Mitt Romney’s quest for the White House will be buffeted by questions about his religion. How to handle Romney’s Mormonism has proved especially vexing, both for the candidate and for the electorate. It’s worth considering exactly why that’s the case. The essential question, from the perspective of many voters, concerns the very nature of Mormonism, an upstart religion born in western New York in 1830 and persecuted for much of the nineteenth century. After Joseph Smith Jr.
By codified reputation and tradition, if not always by practice, a few famous venues of musical presentation in New York have long represented achievement in their areas: in classical music, Carnegie Hall, of course; in jazz, the Village Vanguard; and in punk, C.B.G.B. (There are comparable institutions in hip hop and other musics.) C.B.G.B. closed four years ago and is now a clothing boutique, and its counterpart in the field of cabaret, the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, folded this Thursday.
In that moment just before New Hampshire, when it was briefly possible to imagine Jon Huntsman fighting deep into the primaries, New York magazine’s John Heilemann made an astute observation. He pointed out that Huntsman’s real audience on election night wouldn’t be the country or the voters in other early states or even the political media. It would consist of exactly one person: Jon Huntsman Sr., the billionaire chemical magnate who, if the mood struck him, could take out his checkbook and completely upend the race. “An investment of, say, $10 million — a rounding error on the Huntsman Sr.
The Village Voice gives out theater awards called the Obies (for Off-Broadway), and during the 1980s the Voice’s theater department voted to bestow one of those prizes on the distinguished absurdist Václav Havel, who dwelled in the faraway absurdistan known as the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. In their New York productions, Havel’s plays ran at the Public Theater, and everyone who kept up with the downtown scene knew them well. The plays were splendidly mordant.
I was reminded of this devastating analysis of the sloppy case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn when I read that his wife, Anne Sinclair, is taking over the French version of The Huffington Post. This factoid was reported in Mediabistro, an online publication founded almost a decade ago by Laurel Touby and whose financing was put together by the sagacious investor Bill Ackman and by less sagacious me.
I. A year has passed since liberal America and the liberal opinion class, in particular, went ecstatic over the Arab debut into the modern world. I know that my standing in that class is suspect. So, being a bit flummoxed myself by the not altogether dissimilar developments in the vast expanse from the Maghreb to Mesopotamia, I conquered my doubts and made a slight stab for hope. But I quickly realized that I was wrong and left the celebration.
[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] From Gavin Polone's anti-Oscars piece in New York magazine: Can you really say that Borat didn’t deserve a [Best Picture] nomination but Letters From Iwo Jima did? Er, yes. Yes you can. Which reminds me: the Academy Awards is in danger of reaching a unique place in our culture--a place currently inhabited by the festivities surrounding Christmas. Very briefly, the Oscar telecast is annoying and silly. So is Christmas music, and so is phony holiday cheer. But much more annoying are the people who complain incessantly about these things.
Going through “The Renaissance Portrait: From Donatello to Bellini,” a survey of fifteenth-century Italian paintings, sculptures, and drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, visitors are likely to feel they are in the hands of an inspired storyteller. They are. The storyteller is Keith Christiansen, who heads the European painting department at the Metropolitan, and who organized the exhibition together with Stefan Weppelmann of the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin.
Is the Christian Right still a power in American politics? The lavish coverage which its partisans and their favorite issues have received during the current Republican campaign certainly leave that impression. Yet all this attention is akin to the dazzling glow of a setting sun. In fact, the Christian Right is a fading force in American life, one which has little chance of achieving its cherished goals. Yes, pious conservatives earned the underfunded Rick Santorum a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses, and, last week, a large gathering of evangelical leaders nodded fervently in his direction.
The basic trouble with Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (Columbia) is Edith Wharton’s novel. Looking back fifty years in 1920, Wharton conceived a tale of love versus honor set in New York high society of that past era, and she embodied it in a full-dress novel. But her material would have served only as a short story, at most a novella, for Tolstoy or Chekhov. What helps to sustain Wharton’s more extended treatment is the attractive prose in which she wraps her narrative.