This week: maps of Britain, William Bailey, Mahler at Carnegie Hall, Winston Churchill & more.
The art of Biography
Is different from Geography
Geography is about maps
But Biography is about chaps.
Well, up to a point. As Jeremy Black’s new book A History of Britain in 100 Maps shows, geography can teach us much biography. Black’s book analyzes a hundred maps from the British Library’s collections to give us the biography of Britain. Stunningly reproduced maps combine with salient commentary to give us a synthetic but cartographically focused view of Great Britain. —BR
“William Bailey” at Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York (on view through December 3): “Silence” is what the late critic Terry Teachout attributed to the work of William Bailey (1930–2020). Now on view at Betty Cuningham Gallery, a memorial exhibition brings together a selection of Bailey’s paintings and works on paper and prints, ranging from two large figure paintings to twelve small studies on paper. The intimate assembly, of figuration all painted from imagination, testifies to the quietude of Bailey’s life work—a respite from the cacophony of contemporary art and a space to fill with our own stories. —JP
Los Angeles Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall (October 25): Mahler finished his first symphony, sometimes known as the “Titan,” at the age of twenty-seven, when he was still playing second fiddle—well, baton—as the junior conductor of the Leipzig Opera. But the young composer already had his eye on greatness, and his genius came forth fully fledged in the Symphony No. 1 (1888), an overture to many of the musical themes and programs that he went on to employ in his eight subsequent symphonies. Here we have swinging country dances, German lieder, Jewish klezmer, overheard melodies, dilation on death and immortality, and, of course, a grand apotheosis in the finale. A perfect introduction to the world of Mahler, the symphony will be performed this Tuesday at Carnegie Hall, courtesy of Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. —IS
“Tales of Churchill, the Gourmand,” featuring Andrew Roberts, at the New-York Historical Society (November 1): Winston Churchill, who was not known to skip meals, had a famously sharp tongue at the table. There’s the old story about Lady Astor, who said she’d poison his glass if he were her husband: “Madam,” he responded, “if I were, I’d drink it with pleasure.” And who hasn’t heard the one about Bessie Braddock, who chastised Churchill for being “disgustingly drunk” and was quickly reassured, “Tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.” But dinner with Churchill involved more than witty repartee, as the historian and biographer Andrew Roberts will explain in a lecture for the New-York Historical Society. In addition to choice morsels and sparkling conversation, the old lion’s table was a locus for high-level diplomacy, political organization, military planning, and more. —RE
The Book Gallery: James Panero on Russell Kirk’s Ghostly Tales (free with registration): Tonight at 7 p.m. ET, Executive Editor James Panero will join University Bookman Editor Luke Sheahan and the Hollywood screenwriter Adam Simon on Zoom for a discussion of Russell Kirk’s haunting fiction. The author and political theorist famously wrote that “there are certain permanent things in society . . . [that] guarantee against arbitrary interference by the state”; the group will explore the captivating connections between Kirk’s thrillers and his conservative sensibility. In 2019, Panero wrote the introduction to the reissue of Old House of Fear (Criterion Books) on the political undercurrents of Kirk’s ghost stories (you can listen to Panero discuss the reissue in a podcast, here.) For a complete window into the life of Russell Kirk, look no further than “Permanent Things: A Symposium” in The New Criterion’s January 2019 issue and the feature and podcast by Panero, “The ghosts of Russell Kirk.”
From the Archives:
“Intellects & addicts,” by Brooke Allen (May 1996). On Babel Tower by A. S. Byatt and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
“Self-preservation regime” by Anthony Daniels. On the present state of academia.