Recent links of note:

“Surplusage!”
Elizabeth Prettejohn, London Review of Books

Marked by both the narrow discrimination of the aesthete and the capacious cultural appetite of the romantic, Walter Pater’s polyvalent attitudes pleased the likes of Oscar Wilde and countless late-twentieth-century thinkers as much as they offended modernists such as Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. Complicating all this, as Elizabeth Prettejohn writes for the London Review of Books, is the fact that few commentators can match him for range of learning, and fewer for range of interest. Hence the collected works published in 1910 have lacked a critical apparatus, at least until the new Oxford editions Prettejohn is here reviewing. By word count, his output may pale in comparison to the collected writings of, say, John Ruskin. But it was Pater, not Ruskin, who was notorious for running every sentence through seven rounds of rewrites before publication. The habit is telling. Pater is known best today for his dictum, “All art aspires constantly towards the condition of music,” but of these words the least noted is “constantly,” which in fact holds the whole phrase, and Pater’s method, together: encompassing the wisdom of all ages, from the most obscure pre-Socratic to the most recent pre-Raphaelite, and distilling it down into a concentrated tincture. “For in truth,” he writes, “all art does but consist in the removal of surplusage.”

The Bomb Review: Down the Nuclear Rabbit Hole”
Paul Kennedy, The Wall Street Journal

In Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War–era classic Dr. Strangelove (1964), General “Buck” Turgidson just about sums up, in one line, the paralyzing uncertainty in which the nuclear threat held so many military officials transfixed. “I mean, he’ll see everything,” he says of the plans to admit the Soviet ambassador to the war room as the Doomsday Machine threatens to blast his paltry concerns into another dimension. “He’ll see the big board!” Kubrick’s take is confirmed by Fred Kaplan’s new book, The Bomb, which, as Paul Kennedy notes for The Wall Street Journal, anatomizes many such moments in the history of nuclear warfare. As major players like the United States and the Soviet Union stockpiled more and more firepower, the nuclear threat accumulated its own momentum, and fewer and fewer individuals seemed up to the task of slowing or even questioning it. We thus have an absurd episode in 1989, in which an investigation by the Department of Defense revealed that the highly classified Single Integrated Operational Plan consisted of the following idea: assigning to each and every one of the twelve thousand warheads a fixed and immutable target, many of them empty Arctic airbases or obsolete railway bridges. Such surreal moments are not exceptions but the rule; the hard conclusion we must draw from Kaplan’s work, Kennedy explains, is that “the genie” has “escaped from the bottle,” and we can only hope that our present leaders will prove up to the task of assuaging it.

By the Editors:

“Civilization Is History at Yale”
Roger Kimball, The Wall Street Journal

Podcasts:

Music for a While #18: Maestro/Mahatma Jansons
Jay Nordlinger, music critic of The New Criterion, talks music—but, more important, plays music.

Michael Anton on the war of ideas
Exclusive audio from The New Criterion’s “Sovereignty or Submission” conference.