This week: Wedgwood, Heather Mac Donald, Giorgio de Chirico, Abraham Lincoln & more.
Wedgwood: Craft & Design, by Catrin Jones (Thames & Hudson): In John Buchan’s early masterpiece The Power-House, the protagonist Edward Leithen declares that “Old Wedgwood is a thing which few people collect seriously, but the few who do are apt to be monomaniacs.” Wedgwood monomaniacs and dabblers alike will delight in Wedgwood: Craft & Design, out next week from Thames & Hudson in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum. This little book is a worthy treasury of the pottery pioneered by Josiah Wedgwood, that “prince of the pits & pots,” whose cool colors and serene designs still captivate today. —BR
When Race Trumps Merit: How the Pursuit of Equity Sacrifices Excellence, Destroys Beauty, and Threatens Lives, by Heather Mac Donald (DW Books): The work of Heather Mac Donald will be familiar to many New Criterion readers, having appeared in our pages on the subject of Ivy League admissions, hidebound classical-music critics, and much else. Facing down the progressive pieties of our age, Mac Donald has left few golden calves intact. Yet it can be difficult, following case-by-case amid all the wreckage, for the reader to get a sense for just how audacious, all-encompassing, and persistent the forces she anatomizes are. Treating racial bias in science, medicine, music, art, the justice system, and more, When Race Trumps Merit brings the bigger picture into focus. —RE
“Giorgio de Chirico: Horses: The Death of a Rider” at Vito Schnabel Gallery, New York (through May 20): These are the final weeks to wrangle “Horses: The Death of a Rider” at New York’s Vito Schnabel Gallery. The exhibition of sixteen paintings by Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978) reveals a different side of the Italian master and his haunting surrealist cityscapes of the 1910s. With work here from the 1920s through the 1970s, the assembly shows an artist increasingly interested in the symbolism of mythology and antiquity. Like other moderns who took a classical turn after World War I, de Chirico focused on war horses and their riders in dreamlike imagery that appear out of time and place. For de Chirico, the way forward was a return path through art history. —JP
“Lincoln and Democracy: The Paradox of Race,” featuring Allen C. Guelzo, at the New-York Historical Society (May 9): In today’s age of cancellation, one of the more outlandish targets has been Abraham Lincoln. The idea that Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator” who spoke at Gettysburg with his true intent that all “under this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom,” is an irremissible racist, though preposterous to many, is believed by some. Frederick Douglass once said about the president, “in his company, I was never reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color.” At the New-York Historical Society’s Robert H. Smith Auditorium on Tuesday, May 9, Allen C. Guelzo, the New Criterion contributor and Lincoln scholar with two books on the sixteenth president, will address whether Lincoln was a racist and what our understanding of the president today means for our capability as a nation to solve problems based on race. In-person and online tickets are available. —JW
In the news:
“Wielding Weighty Words to Salvage the World,” by David Hein for The University Bookman. A review of The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia, by Roger Kimball.
By the editors:
“Broadway brings back Bob Fosse’s Dancin’”
Robert S. Erickson, The Spectator World
“Isaac Sligh & James Panero in conversation.” On the Republic of Georgia, Crusaders, travel writing, audiophiles & more.
“A Garden of paper,” by John M. Wisdom. On the sixty-third annual New York International Antiquarian Book Fair.