Recent links of note:
“Roaming, Malicious, Hooligan Ghosts”
Moudhy Al-Rashid, London Review of Books
The fields of southern Mesopotamia were especially fertile at the end of the fourth millennium B.C., prompting the region’s inhabitants, the Sumerians, to come up with the earliest known writing system to track the fruits of their labor. While they initially traced pictograms onto wet clay, they discovered that pressing tiny, wedge-shaped marks with a reed stylus was a more efficient way of keeping records. (The English name for this script, cuneiform, comes from the Latin word cuneus, meaning “wedge.”) While most of the surviving texts are prosaic—laundry receipts, recipes, lullabies—a few of them reference the supernatural. Irving Finkel, the cuneiform specialist in charge of around 130,000 tablets at the British Museum, brings Sumerian omens, spells, and myths and other esoteric texts to light in his new book, Ghosts: Most Ancient of Legacies. Moudhy Al-Rashid, a fellow Assyrologist, discusses Sumerian burial practices and conceptions of the afterlife in his review of Finkel’s book in this week’s London Review of Books.
“Orwell in new weathers”
Malcolm Forbes, Engelsberg Ideas
“All my good memories are of summer,” wrote George Orwell, undoubtedly a common sentiment among New Yorkers in January as temperatures drop below freezing. In a new article for Engelsberg Ideas, Malcolm Forbes examines the role of weather in Orwell’s fiction and nonfiction, suggesting that his literary preoccupation with the elements stemmed from his lifelong battles with respiratory illness. As a young child at boarding school, for instance, he suffered from “defective bronchial tubes and a lesion in one lung,” according to his essay “Such, Such Were the Joys,” which he worked on in 1947. On Christmas Eve of that year, he was diagnosed with extensive tuberculosis, which plagued him as he raced to complete Nineteen Eighty-Four on the chilly Scottish island of Jura. In a series of wide-ranging examples from Orwell’s essays, memoirs, and novels, Forbes shows us why the writer’s visceral descriptions of weather are anything but superfluous.
“Theodore Roosevelt Statue Is Removed From New York’s Natural-History Museum”
Jennifer Calfas, The Wall Street Journal
The 1940 bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt by James Earle Fraser, discussed by James Panero in the September 2020 issue of this magazine, was removed from the entrance of the Natural History Museum by crane this week. The monument, which depicts Roosevelt on horseback in imitation of a sculpture by Verrocchio, came under fire for its depiction of two men of African and Native American descent walking on either side of the president. Jennifer Calfas in The Wall Street Journal reports that it will be moved to the new Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora, North Dakota, which is set to open in 2026. The high cost of transporting the ten-foot statue ($2 million) makes you wonder whether the money spent removing monuments could instead be put towards commissioning new pieces from living sculptors or restoring those that have deteriorated.
“Music for a While #57: Hold out your light.”Jay Nordlinger, The New Criterion’s music critic, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
“Style & subject,” by Andrew L. Shea.On “Jane Freilicher and Thomas Nozkowski: True Fictions” at the Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation, New York.