I usually don’t feel like I’m a dirty liberal at all while reading The New Criterion, a conservative version of those magazines that seem to see themselves as the preserver of what might be called “high” culture, curating it almost as if for a future age that will care about it a little more. Recently … Continue reading Reading Behind Enemy Lines: Peering in at “The New Criterion”
On why he turned from more specialized to more popular writing on science and culture: Because of that [the use of scientific knowledge in the making of atomic bombs] I wanted to be sure that what I had to say would not be confined to a small circle of specialists but would touch people where … Continue reading The Poet Speaks #7: Bronowski, Bloom, Munro, Gilbert, Trevor
I’ve always liked it that the actor Richard Burton could admit in his diaries: “I am fascinated by the idea of something but its execution bores me.” And this from the guy who played Hamlet (and whoever else) a million times. But there’s something to it for those of us who’ll never play Hamlet, or … Continue reading What We’re Doing When We Think We’re Doing Nothing
What use does criticism serve, if any? I’m thinking here of the reviews of books, movies, or music, whether the smallest notices in newspapers on up to book-length studies. Do some of us genuinely enjoy a good suggestion? Have we found a handful of voices that we trust, that feel like a friend, and so … Continue reading To Criticize the Critic
Heresy of heresies perhaps, but is Shakespeare just “okay”? I love the idea of Shakespeare, and how enthusiastic actors get about him (Al Pacino and Kevin Spacey have both made wonderful documentaries about their affection for Richard III). I love reading about Shakespeare and imagining the life we know so little about, like those sixteen … Continue reading Is Shakespeare Just “Okay”?
Our love for certain books or movies or pieces of music are so intense that we like to imagine our preference for them rises to the level of objectivity. The wonderfully grouchy critic Harold Bloom, for instance, praises the poetry of Hart Crane to no end; but, just as effusively, he relates the memory of … Continue reading The Palace of Winds (rereading “The English Patient”)
On this anniversary of Thomas Wolfe’s death, I’m reminded that every few years I turn around and he’s there again. Whether in influencing Ferlinghetti or Kerouac, or anecdotes about his editor Maxwell Perkins trying to beat his holy mess novels into some more coherent shape, or just his own troubled life, Thomas Wolfe always shows … Continue reading Thomas Wolfe