The Canceling of the American Mind, by Greg Lukianoff & Rikki Schlott (Simon & Schuster): If the American political discourse of the last seventy-two hours has reaffirmed anything, it is that entire segments of the population are devoted above all else to mindlessness. The toxic spew of murderous equivocations belched out by individuals across social media, legacy media, and academia bear witness to the rampant and dangerous ramifications of America’s current culture of unthinking. Fortunately, Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott have taken this culture—or rather, anti-culture—to task in The Canceling of the American Mind, Lukianoff’s follow-up to the indispensable The Coddling of the American Mind (2018). Though “cancel culture” (an admittedly tired term that the authors employ only for lack of a better one) is their primary focus, the authors argue that the predisposition toward cancellation is merely a symptom of larger psychological and intellectual woes affecting both the Left and the Right. These deficits are documented with mountains of hard evidence and contextualized within broader American history. This vital book could not be timelier. —LL
A History of the World in Ten Dinners: 2,000 Years, 100 Recipes, by Victoria Flexner & Jay Reifel (Rizzoli): A character in Molière’s 1672 comedy Les Femmes savantes remarks, “I live on good soup, and not on fine language. Vaugelas does not teach how to make broth; and Malherbe and Balzac, so clever in learned words, might, in cooking, have proved themselves but fools.” But good soup and fine words are not mutually exclusive, as the cookery writing of Elizabeth David—whose Book of Mediterranean Food brightened up the dreary kitchens of post-war Britain and continues to enchant—amply demonstrates. Victoria Flexner and Jay Reifel set themselves an ambitious task in both words and soup in their History of the World in Ten Dinners, which attempts to give the reader a world history through various dishes that make up ten historical dinners. From ancient Rome with its Lucanian sausage (the forerunner of the modern Greek loukaniko—aromatic with orange peel—and the more-familiar Portuguese linguica) to an eighteenth-century French dish of braised partridge. These are among the easier recipes in the book; I think I’ll be avoiding Tudor England’s cockentrice—a chicken sewn into a pig, then roasted—delicious as it sounds. This book is delectable history that can be reenacted at home. —BR
“Pierre Soulages: From Midnight to Twilight,” at Lévy Gorvy Dayan, New York (through November 4): Pierre Soulages (1919–2022) was a master of the dark arts. From the 1940s until his death at age 102, the French abstractionist painted it black—or what he called outrenoir. Using oils and later acrylics, Soulages laid down lines of dark pigment that reflected a light of their own. An exhibition now on view at Lévy Gorvy Dayan, New York, brings a retrospective survey of this work to the walls of the former Wildenstein gallery on East Sixty-fourth Street, with Soulages’s paintings and drawings haunting the halls of the architect Horace Trumbauer’s ethereal 1932 townhouse. —JP
San Diego Symphony at Carnegie Hall, with Rafael Payare (conductor) and Alisa Weilerstein (cello) (October 13): Last year, the ebullient conductor Rafael Payare tackled Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 12 (1961) with the New York Philharmonic. That piece of unambiguous Soviet hagiography once perplexed Western audiences, who likely had in mind more nuanced works like Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 (1937), which Payare brings to New York this week. Critics have long debated the extent to which the Fifth comments on Stalin and the Great Terror, then at its peak. Set aside exegesis for a moment, however, and one fact is clear: its premiere on November 21, 1937, in Leningrad was met with a half-hour standing ovation. Clearly Shostakovich’s creation resonated deeply with the mood of the time. In the symphony, hard-won moments of beauty and lyricism, like brief sunshine on a winter’s day in Leningrad, break through a martial, gloomy atmosphere, giving way to a Mahlerian Allegretto, a deeply felt Largo, and a triumphant finale that still sets critical pens aflurry. Hear it this Friday together with the New York premiere of Carlos Simon’s Wake Up and Alisa Weilerstein in Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B Minor. —IS
Merrily We Roll Along, by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth, directed by Maria Friedman at the Hudson Theatre (open run): “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” You can draw a straight line from The Great Gatsby (1925) to Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Merrily We Roll Along (1981), running through the 1931 Kaufman & Hart play of the same name. The ambitious musical is a near-perfect illustration of those famous closing words: while the buoyant title theme beats on, the action proceeds in reverse, tracing the spectacular collapse of Franklin Shepard’s Hollywood career all the way back to his starry-eyed college days. After last year’s sellout off-Broadway run at the New York Theatre Workshop, Maria Friedman’s sharp new production has just opened at the Hudson Theatre, marking Merrily’s triumphant return to Broadway after forty-two years. Daniel Radcliffe (Charley Kringas) and Lindsay Mendez (Mary Flynn) deliver strong performances in the supporting roles; as Shepard, Jonathan Groff is spectacular. —RE
“No compromise with Hamas,” by David Pryce-Jones. On the Six-Day War and the conflict today.
“What’s going on in the Republican party?” featuring Roger Kimball & Freddy Gray. Roger Kimball joins the Americano podcast to discuss the current chaos on Capitol Hill.
From the Archives:
“The Vengeance of the Vandals,” by James Panero (December 2015). ISIS followers, who use vandalism not just a strategy but a central component of their terrorist brand, have shown that they are the Vandals of our era.