Recent links of note:
“An Enterprise of Solid Gold”
Robert Darnton, Lapham’s Quarterly
Voltaire’s polemical and controversial books were best-sellers in the waning days of France’s ancien régime. Predictably, pirated editions abounded. But as Robert Darnton writes, the unfazed and ever-canny Voltaire played both sides, communicating with bootleggers behind his publisher’s back to push more copies and release ostensibly “unauthorized,” button-pressing material to the public.
“Imagining a future for John Keats—the novelist”
Philip Hensher, The Spectator
“Critics are later judged,” William Logan wrote in 2012 for The New Criterion, “not by the book they failed to pan, but by the book they failed to praise.” Many a critic failed to praise John Keats’s work—and indeed panned it—upon its initial publication in the early nineteenth century. We might scoff and go back to reading our copy of Odes, but there could be something to gain from putting ourselves in these detractors’ shoes: a perspective on the impact of Keats’s poetry on fresh eyes, before two centuries of scholarship and mythmaking intervened. So wonders Philip Hensher in a review of a new book on Keats that searches for the murky figure behind the legend.
“Museums need to refocus on their collections”
Hugh St Clair, The Critic
For The Critic, Hugh St Clair reviews a new book on curation and takes a pulse check on museums, including Britain’s regional institutions, in the pandemic era. Running a small museum can be a thankless task. It’s a more extreme example, but I think of the many tiny museums I visited and passed by in the former Soviet Union, even in small cities. More than once I fortuitously came across a little outpost of culture, ensconced in the former home of an obscure poet or artist on the upper floor of a towering, crumbling apartment building. Inside sat an old man or woman, reading a book or knitting away, waiting for the first visitor of the day.
“Music for a While #41: Well-tempered and Catalan.”
Jay Nordlinger, The New Criterion’s music critic, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
“New variations on the theme of Ab Ex,” by Dana Gordon. On “John Mendelsohn: Color Wheel + Tenebrae Paintings” & “Stephen Pusey: Strange Attractors,” at David Richard Gallery, New York.