Recent links of note:
“‘The Real James Bond’ Review: The Birder and the Spy”
Dominic Green, The Wall Street Journal
Ian Fleming’s Bond novels present a delicious case study for budding onomasticians. Take the example of Goldfinger. The name of titular villain, “Auric Goldfinger,” tells us that Fleming had retained at least a marginal interest in the classics from his time at Eton—aurum is Latin for gold. What sensibility invented the villainess “Pussy Galore” may need less spelling out. But perhaps the most interesting etymology is the one behind Fleming’s famous hero himself. The prevailing theory (though other forces may have borne some influence) is that the name was arrived at by pure chance: a biologist named James Bond was the author of Birds of the West Indies, upon the spine of which book Fleming happened to light as he was searching for a taut, masculine name for his protagonist. But as Dominic Green writes in his review of The Real James Bond by Jim Wright, a case can be made for parallel Bonds. Some of the resonances are biographical, like childhood bereavement, an English prep school education, and a knack for marksmanship. Others are professional: not for nothing have spies long been called “bird-watchers” in England. Most compelling, however, are the ornithologist’s knack for appearing in “peculiar places at peculiar times,” his affiliation with many known intelligence agents, and the four decades he spent traipsing around the Caribbean, a known hotbed of political intrigue. All of this speculation about the real James Bond, of course, amounts to little real proof—just as 007 would have liked it.
“The best recordings of my favorite Passion”
Alexandra Coghlan, The Spectator
The quarantined conditions under which we now live may dampen the joys of Easter for some. But close chambers are well-suited for reflection on the meaning of Good Friday. “Suffering isn’t something you can spectate,” observes Alexandra Coghlan for The Spectator. “We can peer through a stable window [as at Christmas], stand back and marvel at the empty tomb [as on Easter], but the bloodied and broken body requires something else.” In the case of the Passion, reenactment trumps rereading. What better way to bring a whole host of voices into one’s home than with music? Coghlan explains in loving detail which versions of Bach’s St Matthew Passion listeners might do well to explore this weekend. It is an invitation to believers and non-believers alike.
“The inward eye—painting, poetry and the world of William Wordsworth.”
Seamus Perry, Apollo
There are few barrages more incendiary, and thus illuminating, than the assaults that artists launch against their peers and predecessors. Leo Tolstoy considered Shakespeare inferior to Harriet Beecher Stowe; Vladimir Nabokov once called Dostoevsky a second-rate scribbler of pulp crime fiction. And yet many would argue that Tolstoy’s powers of imagination are topped only by Shakespeare’s; the second half of that masterpiece Lolita (which was, coincidentally, once stocked among seedy romance novels in London’s Soho) is nothing if not a detective chase. Like Ad Reinhardt, who once called sculpture “something you bump into when you back up to look at a painting,” creative types tend to lash out most vociferously at those who trespass on their turf. One such artist was William Wordsworth, as Seamus Perry makes clear in a recent essay for Apollo: the poet of the “inward eye of Solitude” had strong opinions, as one would expect, on the dos and don’ts of picture-making. The issue at stake is how best to convey the invisible. Wordsworth’s answer may not entirely convince, but it sheds a good deal of light on his own life and art.
“Roger Kimball introduces the April issue.”
A new podcast from the Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion.
“Imagine, no discretion!”
James Bowman on celebrity in the time of coronavirus.