Recent links of note:
Caryl Emerson, The Times Literary Supplement
Gary Saul Morson, reviewing in our pages the last entry in Joseph Frank’s six-volume biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky, wrote that it was “far and away the best comprehensive account of a Russian writer.” He later opined in a memorial for Frank that, “by universal consent, Frank’s biography has no rival in any language.” Frank’s monumental work (published between 1976 and 2002) is even-tempered and avoids the ideological and theoretical pitfalls all too common among interpreters of the polarizing Russian writer. Frank (who contributed to The New Criterion in the 1980s) eschewed quotidian and personal details in favor of important events that had a direct bearing on Dostoevsky’s writing—“the main reason we care about the author in the first place,” as Morson put it. In The Times Literary Supplement, Caryl Emerson reviews a new volume of Frank’s lectures on Dostoevsky, sure to be a fine supplement to his biography. Be sure to have a look through Frank’s and Morson’s archives in The New Criterion after reading.
“‘King of the World’ Review: Solar Power”
Tim Blanning, The Wall Street Journal
It was during Louis XIV’s seventy-two year reign (from 1643 until his death in 1715—the longest recorded of any monarch in Europe) that the ascendancy of French culture and language in Western society was cemented. Writing for The Wall Street Journal, Tim Blanning details the ways in which Louis carefully constructed French identity into the recognizable form we know it today, building what one might call a desirable brand centered around the decadent lifestyle of the nobles at the Palace of Versailles, which was inaugurated as the royal residence under Louis’ reign in 1682.
“In defence of knowledge”
Alexander Larman, The Critic
In 1602, twenty-six years before Louis XIV’s birth, Sir Thomas Bodley, troubled by recent spates of book burning and iconoclasm in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, founded the Bodleian Library in Oxford. In a review for The Critic, Alexander Larman explores Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden, the current and twenty-fifth Head Librarian of the Bodleian. Burning the Books places the history of an institution that Sir Francis Bacon called “an ark to save learning from the deluge” in the context of a broader history of book burning and the destruction of knowledge.
“The children of the opera,” by Thomas White. On the Metropolitan Opera’s Children’s Chorus.