Gerytades: An Aristophanes Play . . . sort of, by A. M. Juster (Contubernales): You can tell a lot about a classical author from his underworld. Homer’s and Virgil’s were personal—that is, full of personalities, replete with tearful meetings and weighty predictions. In the Republic of Plato, it’s a site of philosophical exposition, the platform on which Socrates details his theory of metempsychosis. The modern-day but classical-minded poet A. M. Juster, however, takes his bearings from yet another ancient source when he describes the “unburied souls” in the outer reaches of Hades: “Some fell in war, some fell in wells too deep/ and some had spouses who were very cheap.” That source, of course, is Aristophanes, whose masterpiece The Frogs remains perhaps the funniest poetic treatment of the afterlife we have (from this side, at least). We know from a few remaining scraps that Aristophanes also treated the underworld in his play Gerytades, otherwise lost today. Juster has now performed the delightful service of filling in those lacunae, not with pedantic scholarly notes, but as a rollicking comedic poet in his own right. Published by Contubernales with an introduction by Aaron Poochigian, this new Gerytades is part quotation, part interpolation, but mostly pastiche—and all great fun. —RE
“Michele Oka Doner: The Book of Enchantment,” at Marlborough Gallery, New York (opens January 23): Michele Oka Doner has observed the landscape of her native south Florida for over half a century. Her multifaceted work—in sculpture, photography, monoprints, and public installations—captures the region’s changes in elegiac reflection. Opening this week at Marlborough, “Michele Oka Doner: The Book of Enchantment” presents a survey of this wide-ranging art “drawn from an opus of fifty years to express the spirit of this moment,” one she describes as a “deep winter, a time traditionally used to renew by both trees and humans alike.” The New York show runs concurrent to “Michele Oka Doner: The True Story Of Eve,” the artist’s solo exhibition now on view at Sarasota’s Ringling museum, which includes examples of her art that “evoke natural forms . . . on paper, wood, ceramics, bronzes, and glass ranging from the 1960s to the present.” —JP
Behzod Abduraimov performs at Carnegie Hall, New York (January 26): I’m always in favor of giving exposure to the many worthy composers who labored on the outskirts of the Soviet Union. The Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov agrees: this Friday he will present The Walls of Ancient Bukhara (1973), a suite by his countrywoman Dilorom Saidaminova. Its structure of vignettes from that Silk Road polis pays tribute to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, though its imagery echoes another piano piece Abduraimov has chosen—compare Saidaminova’s “Minaret of Death” (“a tower from which condemned prisoners were thrown in sacks”) to Ravel’s “Le Gibet,” whose “ringing of a bell on city walls below the horizon, and the corpse of a hanged man reddened by the setting sun” could well be set in Saidaminova’s ancient Bukhara. Franck, Price, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suite round out this recital programmed around Abduraimov’s new album, Shadows of My Ancestors. —IS
Symposium: Tiepolo Drawings: Reconsiderations and Discoveries, at the Morgan Library (January 25): This is the last week to see “Spirit and Invention: Drawings by Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo” at the Morgan Library, but those who want to double down on their Tiepolo time should hie to the Morgan this Thursday for an afternoon symposium on the man the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica called “the last important figure in Venetian art” and his sons, who, according to the same source, “did not attain to his excellence.” Of particular interest to the bibulous may be the first talk, “VIVAT BACCHUS! A Few Questions regarding Tiepolo’s God of Wine, plus Two Cautionary Tales,” to be delivered by William Barcham, Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at the Fashion Institute of Technology. —BR
From the Archives:
“Leninthink,” by Gary Saul Morson (October 2019). On the pernicious legacy of Vladimir Lenin.
In the News:
“Is Trump Really, Truly Going to Be a Dictator?”
New York Magazine, David Freedlander
“DEI boomerang,” by James Piereson. On the battle to dismantle DEI.