This week: Weimar art, the MTA, Kipling's American years & more.
If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years, by Christopher Benfey (Penguin Press): Featured in our forthcoming September issue is a piece by Jesse Hecht that, in examining Rudyard Kipling’s uncollected prose fictions, goes as far back in his career as his first job, in 1882, at the tender age of sixteen: an editorial position at a daily newspaper in Lahore, India. Soon thereafter, the twenty-three-year-old Kipling traveled to the United States, where he would sit down for a two-cigar interview (one per hour) with one of his literary idols, Mark Twain—an event that, in Christopher Benfey’s telling, marked the first chapter in Kipling’s short but prolific American career. In 1892, after financial troubles cut his honeymoon short, he settled in Brattleboro, Vermont, and went on to produce some of his foremost achievements in a four-year span, among them such prose works as The Jungle Book (and its sequel) and poems as “Mandalay” and “Gunga Din.” But, as Benfey details, Kipling was not long for life in the States. The tension surrounding the trans-Atlantic tiff over British Guyana, as well as an unfortunate altercation with his drunkard brother-in-law, convinced him to leave in 1896. He visited the United States for the last time in 1899, the same year that he penned “The White Man’s Burden.” Benfey may have written the book on this brief period, but its afterword—the swath of literature inspired by Kipling’s rich legacy in America—remains as yet unfinished. —RE
“Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War,” with Elizabeth R. Varon, at the Bryant Park Reading Room (August 21): There are only two events left in Bryant Park’s Non-Fiction Authors program. The free weekly summer lecture series, put on with the New-York Historical Society, hosts distinguished historians for evening discussions on various topics in American history. This Wednesday, Elizabeth R. Varon will be speaking about her latest work, Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War, a book that puts forth a compelling summary of the type of reasoning and rhetoric that not only helped convince Northerners to enter a war against their Southern compatriots, but also ultimately helped them to win. A Q & A will follow the discussion, and Varon’s book will be available for purchase. —RH
“Eclipse of the Sun: Art of the Weimar Republic,” at the Neue Galerie (through September 2): Eclipse of the Sun, a 1926 political painting by George Grosz that decries the corrupt politicians and greedy weapons manufacturers of the Weimar Republic, positively slips, spins, and slides, but it’s currently serving as anchor to a small and focused exhibition at Fifth Avenue’s Neue Galerie. Perhaps Grosz’s most famous work, the painting (on loan from Long Island’s Heckscher Museum of Art) is a visual tour de force, replete with a donkey, a skeleton, a flush and fleshy President Paul von Hindenburg, and headless capitalists galore—all against the backdrop of a city in flames. The anarcho-communist Grosz would emigrate six years later to America, where he had a long and satisfying career as a teacher at the Art Students League of New York (with Romare Bearden among the more prominent of his many pupils). But this exhibition, which also includes such Neue regulars as Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, examines and celebrates the great confluence of creative energy that marked Germany’s interwar period. Visitors may enjoy half-price admission to the Neue Galerie through September 2, due to the temporary closure of its third-floor galleries. —AS
“Can Riders Trust the MTA Reorganization?,” panel discussion at the TransitCenter (August 22): So dysfunctional is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that the question in the title of the Thursday discussion at Whitehall Street’s TransitCenter—a nonprofit devoted to improving public transportation—might seem rhetorical. Surely one cannot trust anything about the MTA. But those with a more open mind than mine might make their way downtown to hear a group of experts discuss the forthcoming MTA reorganization that was mandated as part of the congestion-pricing bill passed earlier this year by the New York state legislature. Maybe the question is not whether riders can trust the MTA reorganization but whether the MTA can get any worse. —BR
From the archive:
“Conservatives & higher ed,” by Stephen F. Hayward (June 2014). A look at what has caused the dearth of conservatives in higher education, and why we should be concerned.
“Dark Forces,” by James Bowman. On duplicity & bad faith among the media.
“Opera in the Shadows,” by George Loomis.The Ghosts of Versailles enchants at The Glimmerglass Festival.