This week: Faulkner, Peter Kayafas, remote Rembrand & more.
The Life of William Faulkner: The Past Is Never Dead, 1897–1934, by Carl Rollyson (University of Virginia Press): In a 1956 interview for the Paris Review, William Faulkner declared that “The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said.” He expanded on this later in the interview: “Art is not concerned with environment either; it doesn’t care where it is.” These precepts of high literary modernism speak to the scope and ambition of Faulkner’s artistic project, but they can be difficult to square with the biographical and contextual nature of so many of his stories—especially those set in Yoknapatawpha County, a thinly veiled literary stand-in for the area surrounding Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. Exploring this apparent contradiction and many other matters is Carl Rollyson, a veteran literary biographer and frequent contributor to The New Criterion, in his new life of William Faulkner (the first installment of a two-volume biography) published by the University of Virginia Press. Rollyson’s erudite narrative chronicles Faulkner’s first thirty-seven years—from his childhood in Oxford to the publishing of masterpieces like The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Light in August—but it also gives careful attention to Faulkner’s odd personal foibles (feigning a leg injury he supposedly sustained as a pilot in World War I, for instance—in reality he never took flight) and argues for a greater significance than has been previously acknowledged of his profitable career as a screenwriter in Hollywood. —AS
The Way West: Photographs by Peter Kayafas (Purple Martin Press): William Henry Fox Talbot called early photographs “sun pictures.” Photography, after all, is literally the “drawing of light.” In The Way West, a new book featuring the latest photographs of Peter Kayafas, the high sunlight of the Plains States carves out sculptural figures in stark black and white. Here the western sun bleaches and darkens in equal measure, illuminating the spirited lives, young and old, that Kayafas bottles up in his lens. Rick Bass provides the afterword in this transporting work of seventy-two duotone images. —JP
Live-cast piano recitals with Marc-André Hamelin (April 14) and Pedja Muzijevic (April 17), via 92nd Street Y: It goes without saying that, no matter how technically advanced your home audio setup may be, nothing can replicate the experience of witnessing pianistic prowess in person. Yet there are other reasons we attend recitals, at least in more ordinary times. Chief among them is to be confronted with unfamiliar works of art or, if one has already made their acquaintance, to hear old friends brought to life in new ways. A pair of live-cast piano performances this week, sponsored by the 92nd Street Y, ought to serve that latter purpose admirably. First is an enterprising program delivered on Tuesday, April 14, by Marc-Andre Hamelin, featuring works by Enescu, Fauré, Scriabin, and more. For Friday, April 17, Pedja Muzijevic has prepared a feast with courses even more eclectic: think Antheil, Satie, Cage, and others. Access is granted with a pay-what-you-like donation, minimum one dollar. —RE
“Cocktails with a Curator,” from the Frick Collection: The Frick Collection has always been an amalgamation of a gallery and a residence, lending it the persistent air of a cocktail party. Recognizing this, while also recognizing that art lovers are currently deprived of physical access to their beloved objects, the museum has inaugurated “Cocktails with a Curator,” a weekly YouTube series in which a curator takes an in-depth look at a specific painting in the collection, all while sharing a cocktail recipe for viewers at home. This Friday, April 17, Xavier F. Salomon, the Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator at the Frick, will explore Rembrandt’s Polish Rider (ca. 1655) with a Szarlotka, a concoction consisting of Żubrówka (bison grass vodka), apple juice, and some cinnamon. Chin chin. —BR
“Music for a While #23: Springtime.” Jay Nordlinger, music critic of The New Criterion, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
From the archive:
“The tyranny of theory,” by Gary Saul Morson (February 2015). On Toulmin, Tolstoy & the Dawkinsization of the humanities.
“Curb service,” by Timothy Jacobson. Dining at a distance since 1952.