Recent links of note:
Bruce Bawer, Commentary
In our Notes & Comments last month, we opined on the hubbub about Woody Allen’s recent memoir, Apropos of Nothing. The decades-old allegation of sexual assault against its author had, in a flash, aroused enough unmitigated fury to prompt the book’s swift cancellation by its publisher, Hachette, once a good number of their staff walked out in protest. On the surface, it seemed just another knee-jerk reaction of societal spite, another ritual “de-platforming” for a seemingly unrelated offense. But after reading Bruce Bawer’s review for Commentary, you might realize that these censorious scolds had good reason to be worried about the memoir’s publication. The book is short on artistic insight, as Bawer reports. But in documenting the depredations of a jilted Mia Farrow and the fickle fancies of an all-too-credulous public, it poses a real threat to the hasty consensus that many commentators were too eager to reach.
“Force of Nature”
Seamus Perry, Literary Review
It has been said that life is a tragedy up close and a comedy in the long run. Little surprise that Seamus Perry, writing about the ambitions of William Wordsworth’s autobiographical Prelude, declares that “the spirit of the thing is comic, though needless to say it is comedy of the most high-minded kind.” After all, his epic project ascribes to nature a central, religious significance, and what could be broader in scope than nature herself? It is primarily as a “prophet of nature” that Jonathan Bate esteems Wordsworth in his new biography, Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World. Bate also argues that Wordsworth went south once he became concerned with his own stature and status as a poet, undergoing “the longest, dullest decline in literary history.” There may be something to this—his career did start with a bang, and the sublimity of his early writings on nature are perhaps unparalleled, which may seem a tragedy. But Wordsworth was more than a nature poet, as Perry rightly reminds us. If we refuse to see the bigger picture, the life of one man is apt to appear a small and tragic thing indeed.
In the forthcoming May issue of The New Criterion, readers will have the chance to ponder the impact of illness on Renaissance art thanks to an insightful essay from our Executive Editor, James Panero, on the history of disease in Venetian painting. For now, a piece by Maximilíano Durón in ARTnews presents a narrower focus on one of those works: Titian’s Pietà. It was painted in 1576, the year of a particularly nasty plague outbreak in Veneto during which both the master and his son, Orazio, perished. Scholars believe that Titian’s contemporary Palma il Giovane added finishing touches to the painting, though it’s not entirely clear how closely he hewed to the deceased master’s original plan. But the appearance of incompleteness may have actually been consistent with Titian’s artistic intention; some ascribe the unusually free brushwork in certain passages of the painting, like the body of Christ, to an “audacious formalism” on the part of the master, rather than to the limits of Titian’s own lifespan. Whatever the case, the painting still resonates today.
“Music for a While #23: Spring”
Jay Nordlinger, music critic of The New Criterion, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
James Bowman on the willful naiveté of “good-faith efforts.”