Recent links of note:
“The greatest Christian novel”
Gary Saul Morson, First Things
In The New Criterion of January 2021, the great scholar of Slavic studies Gary Saul Morson penned a powerful essay on the political and moral lessons of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s writings. As any reader of Dostoevsky will know, the Russian writer’s greatest concern was faith, and it was his defense of a brotherly, agapic Christian love—what Kierkegaard called “neighbor-love”—even in the face of a cruel and senseless world that is his supreme statement. Nowhere is that defense more profoundly expressed and eloquently argued than in his masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov. Morson explains why in a feature article for the May issue of First Things.
“The eccentric English socialite who embraced Surrealism”
Christopher Turner, Apollo
Salvador Dalí was a man of grand, bizarre dreams. I’m reminded of his agreement to appear in a film in the 1970s on the condition that a giraffe be set on fire behind him on set. Perhaps it was not always wise to indulge the man. But indulge him Edward James—the poet, millionaire, patron, and eccentric—did. James (1907–84), whom you likely won’t recognize from René Magritte’s backward portrait Not to Be Reproduced (1937), was a member of that decadent yet endlessly entertaining social set the 1920s British press dubbed the “Bright Young Things.” James rubbed shoulders with just about everyone who was anyone at the time, and his biography, told by Christopher Turner for Apollo, is full of absurd displays of wealth and whimsy but also genuine generosity toward any artist he felt deserved a chance. Read on for tales of hand chairs, lobster telephones, a polar bear dyed mauve, and death-by-elephant-tusk.
“Haunted by the soft, sweet power of the violin”
Graham Elliot, The Spectator
Many have dreamed of finding a lost Stradivarius in the back room of a junk store or in a dusty attic. For The Spectator, Graham Elliot reviews a new book by Helena Attlee about the author’s quest to discover the origins of a humble violin belonging to a Klezmer musician. What ensues is a journey through the history of Italy’s legendary luthiers, the ravages of World War II, and one violin’s trip from the shores of Russia’s Don River all the way to a small town in Wales.
“Music for a While #44: Stomping, singing, exulting.”
Jay Nordlinger, The New Criterion’s music critic, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
“Plod & the poetry of prose,” by Spencer Hupp. On the critical tradition of William Hazlitt.