Recent stories of note:
“Leonard Cohen at Queen’s Park”
Kenneth Sherman, Tablet
Leonard Cohen—one of the twentieth century’s great songwriters—said he wrote music “just to tide myself over.” The musician’s first love was poetry. Before his stardom, before “Hallelujah,” before knighthood, there were Cohen’s little books of carefully metered poems. He continued to refine his poetry throughout his career as a globetrotting musician, experimenting with different forms and styles, but always returning to the same subject: himself. The poetry is at times resentful, often narcissistic, solipsistic. But it is almost always interesting. Kenneth Sherman surveys the many ebbs and flows in this stream of Cohen’s life, soberly evaluating what was gained and lost as Cohen moved between genre and medium.
“Tourists Behaving Badly”
Amanda Foreman, The Wall Street Journal
Last summer, when I was in Rome, the Pantheon received a new ornament: “ALIENS EXIST!” was graffitied in bright blue paint on the western wall of the vestibule. Workers arrived the next day to scrub the marble clean; one of the workers mentioned that he was positive the culprit was an American. The next night, the message reappeared in the same spot. This Sisyphean struggle of municipal employees against graffitists with too much time on their hands is, apparently, a tale as old as tourism. As Amanda Foreman details in The Wall Street Journal, for almost as long as there’s been Western civilization, there’s been tourism. And for as long as there’s been tourism, there’s been vandalism of tourist destinations. In fact, modern tourism’s defects, obnoxious though they may be, pale in comparison to the habits of some of our ancestral vacationers. History seems to prove that the farcical deficiencies Anthony Daniels recently diagnosed in Porto are part of a more perennial human malady, or at least that Seneca was right when he said that our faults follow us wherever we travel. In any case, a friend of mine was in Rome just a month or two ago—the graffiti had reappeared.
“The Road to Stella Maris”
Valerie Stivers, First Things
How do you measure a writer’s importance to the American literary tradition? There exists no single standard by which to do so. But maybe we could start by counting how many think pieces and retrospectives the author’s death triggers. By this standard, it follows that the legacy of Cormac McCarthy is one of colossal significance. More than three months have elapsed since McCarthy’s death, but compelling and varied examinations of his oeuvre continue to surface, this most example coming from Valerie Stivers in First Things. Stivers examines the role of faith in McCarthy’s flame-ridden, apocalyptic landscapes, tracing its manifestation throughout the course of the late author’s career. At a time when the best-selling fiction genre in America is romance, McCarthy’s themes and subjects might appear obsolete—but not so, argues Stivers. It is precisely his inspection of faith among a hellscape of hyperviolence and despair that makes him vital to the present.