Recent links of note:
“Life, Or a Way of Life?”
Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal
Political scientists and politicians are fond of describing the War on Terror as a geopolitical clash, with Western states and terror groups struggling against each other for supremacy in pockets of the Middle East. By the logic of this narrative, terrorists target American, German, English, and French lives to intimidate Western governments in an attempt to secure certain political aims. However, just as men of politics tend to focus on the political dimension of every struggle at hand, City Journal’s Theodore Dalrymple, an exemplary man of letters, has dedicated his latest column to examining the subtler cultural dimension of the terror threat. His considers the case of the flea market in Lille, France, an annual jumble-sale cum festival dating back to the twelfth century that was cancelled this year in an effort to avoid an outburst of terror. Without presuming to tell Lille’s leaders whether the cancellation was the wrong or right move, Dalrymple calls attention to the high-stakes trade-off we engage in each time we weigh our safety against our public traditions.
“An Unsteady Future for New England’s Suburbs”
Alana Semuels, The Atlantic
While the rhetoric of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders has put a spotlight on the blighted manufacturing towns across America’s Heartland, blue-collar havens aren’t the only stretches of the country that have recently fallen on tough times. The upper-class suburbs of Southern Connecticut and Western Massachusetts have also experienced steep declines in population and property values, breeding a palpable anxiety among the townsfolk that one struggles to reconcile with the idyllic homes and countryside. Alana Semuels of The Atlantic has composed a broad overview of the state of life in such towns, based on interviews with locals from Darien, Blackwood, New Canaan, and elsewhere. Their testimonies paint a bleak picture of the future for the region: Young city-dwellers unable to afford the suburban homes of their upbringing, and large professional firms decamping to the cities to follow the talent. In the midst of today’s talk about the dangerous divide between the upper and lower classes, a more spiteful observer than I might suggest that there’s consolation to be found in this unlikely shared experience between Fairfield and, say, Flint, Michigan.
“Who Are You Gonna Believe, the Music or Your Lyin’ Eyes?”
Nicholas M. Gallagher, The American Interest
When the frequent opera critic Nicholas Gallagher booked his ticket to Bavaria to attend this year’s Bayreuth Festival, he knew better than to set his expectations too high. His years of experience with contemporary productions of Wagner’s operas gave him an early suspicion of the unhinged approach that Katharina Wagner, Richard’s great-granddaughter, would bring to Bayreuth’s staging and direction. Nonetheless, Gallagher generously walks readers through the troubled history and current state of Wagner productions in an essay for The American Interest. Since the Postwar era, directors have re-envisioned the artistic elements of the operas through a postmodern lens while traditionalist conductors have retained the original spirit of Wagner’s scores, creating a clash between the visual and aural components of the works that leaves both sides incomplete. In a sense, Bayreuth’s audiences find themselves trapped in the same repressed mood as the protagonists of Tristan and Isolde—aroused by the passion of Wagner’s music, but unable to satisfy their urge with the “total” experience—visual, aural, and intellectual—that Wagner intended.
From our pages:
“Mozart done right”
On the Salzburg Festival’s Così fan tutte.