Joshua Rothman writes in The New Yorker about a new book by H.J. Jackson, on the romantic poets:
Truly long-term literary endurance depends, Jackson writes, on “regular reinterpretation,” and, for that to happen, your writing has to be rich and multi-dimensional. That doesn’t mean, though, that other factors can’t help it along. Thanks to Wordsworth’s liberal, politically active youth, biographers were able to keep discovering previously-unknown political episodes in his early life; that allowed them to keep publishing controversial biographies, which kept him in the public eye long after his death. That distinction between youth and age was also useful for professors: it allowed them to keep arguing over who was better, the “early” or “late” Wordsworth. Even without all these factors, Jackson concedes, Wordsworth’s poetry would still be read today, especially in universities—but academic study alone could never have given him the high cultural profile that he enjoys now. “To sum up,” she writes, Wordsworth’s fame “is due to a concatenation of circumstances, most of which Wordsworth himself could not have foreseen, most of which he would have objected to if he could have foreseen them, and most of which had little to do with the communication of eternal truths.”
You can order the book here, the subtitle is Romantic Reputations and the Dream of Lasting Fame.
I will be speaking at the Voice and Exit Festival in Austin, Texas, June 20-21. Voice and Exit is like a TED conference on steroids, an edgier, more radical TED. It looks like a lot of fun. Hope to see you there.
Here is a bit from V&A:
We assemble those who ask: What are the systems and ways of life that are holding us back? What can we create to make those old ways obsolete? What innovations enable us to find wellbeing, life meaning and stronger connection to others? How can we live intentionally today so as to create that better future? Voice & Exit is an environment of exploration where we “criticize by creating” a better world.
I think there are three which stand above all the others:
1. The Ardabil carpet, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Here is one on-line image, here is an excerpt. I find this angle useful, but nothing compares to the real thing.
2. The “Tree Carpet” in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
3. Jagdteppich (“Hunting carpet”), Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna. Here is one excerpt. Try this too. Here is a full length view.
Those are the three best, or so it seems to me.
The YouTube version is here, the podcast version is here.
I was very happy with how it turned out, as I deliberately set out not to copy the content of any of Peter’s other dialogues. You can learn how he thinks we will leave the “great stagnation,” whether the AI hype is justified, how he would boil his thought down to the smallest number of dimensions, whether NYC is over- or underrated, why globalization is likely to decline and what that means for different regions, the parts of the Bible which have influenced him most, “the Straussian Jesus,” to what age he thinks he will live, why Japan is special, how his German background matters, his favorite opening chess move, how and why company names matter, and even his favorite TV show, which he calls “schlocky.”
And much, much more, with commentary and questions from me throughout. A transcript is being prepared as well.
That is the topic of my new column for The Upshot. Here is one excerpt:
Higher prices also skew the customer mix toward wealthier and thus older people, who exert less influence over the purchasing decisions of their peers. They are less likely to text about a concert, put it on their Facebook pages or talk up its reputation to dozens of friends at parties. The younger buyers are usually the ones who make places trendy, thus many sellers use lower prices, with lines if need be, to lure in those individuals and cultivate their loyalties.
The next time you are waiting in line, take consolation in the fact that otherwise you might not have heard of the opportunity in the first place. If we see a line at a club, restaurant or movie, we figure something interesting is going on there, and so lines have become a driver of publicity.
Income inequality also may be encouraging sellers to use lines to better segment the market. The rich line-jump by buying Museum of Modern Art memberships, to see special exhibits before they open, while others line up. Restaurateurs give regular customers prime tables, especially if they are good tippers and order expensive wines, while others can’t get a reservation after 5:30 or before 11 p.m. This may seem unfair, but it extracts higher prices from those able to pay the most for New York’s cultural institutions and restaurants. In fact, the inconvenience of the line helps sell the more expensive line-jumping package to those who don’t have the time or the patience to wait.
Do read the whole thing. There is also this part:
Waiting a bit can also make people more patient, by removing their attention from the immediate here and now and stretching out their time horizons. Some of these positive effects of waiting have been studied by Professors Xianchi Dai of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago in their paper “When Waiting to Choose Increases Patience.”
There’s also evidence that people value some things more if they have to wait for them. Provided it does not dominate your daily life, a bit of waiting can help create a special experience or memory. The people who wait in line for new iPhones rarely need the product immediately. Waiting in line binds them to a community and demonstrates their commitment.
The waiting also heightens the value of anticipation and makes the product seem more exciting. A world where there is nothing to wait in line for is arguably a less interesting place.
The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: “Merry Christmas”—not “Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .
The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only “commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.
From the Ayn Rand Lexicon.
Collecting, [Howard] Hodgkin insists, is a form of shopping. But it also takes on its own life. Once the ‘design’ of the collection has formed in the collector’s mind, according to Hodgkin, then things have to be bought out of ‘necessity as well as passion.’ That, he believes, is the most dangerous, but also the most creative, phase of collecting, involving the head as well as the heart and other ‘lower organs.”
That is from the new and notable Rendez-Vous with Art, by Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford. The book is an ongoing dialogue between the two men about classical, Renaissance, and 17th century art, centered around specific pictures they are viewing together, recommended, in this genre it is difficult to execute such a book well but they pull it off.
It doesn’t sound quite right to still call it that, does it? In any case it is on display at the National Museum of African Art. At least two-thirds of the collection is lame and maybe a third or somewhat less is wonderful. Cosby for instance has excellent works by Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, Minnie Evans, Henry Ossawa Tanner, (and here), Romare Bearden, some amazing quilts and textiles (try here too), and quality African ethnographic pieces. The works by lesser-known creators are mostly sentimental junk with lots of gloppy paint and hackneyed historical themes, or perhaps a maudlin portrait of some kind.
My hypothesis is simple: in any collecting area where price is a sufficient statistic for quality, Cosby did well by paying top dollar, or at least by letting himself be “mined” by his buyer agent, who probably had a financial incentive to pay top dollar. In any area where judgment was required, Cosby chose very poorly.
Here is one review of the show and the surrounding controversy. Here is WaPo coverage. What is the average moral quality of assemblers of art? How should we feel about the collection in the Louvre, the Prado, or for that matter art museums anywhere in Russia? Here is an article on how colleges and universities are responding to their involvement with Cosby.
The African Mosaic show at the African Museum is worth a visit as well. The Washington D.C. art exhibit scene is much worse than it was fifteen years ago, but right now the African Museum is the place to go.
A Georgia O’Keeffe painting just sold for over $44 million, setting a new record for a painting by a woman; the previous record was for a Joan Mitchell painting auctioned for $11.9 million. A Francis Bacon once auctioned for $142.4 million, and so:
Despite the huge O’Keeffe sale, the cavern between the men’s and women’s records remains yawning. The gender pay gap is something like 84 cents to the dollar. The art sale “record gap” is now about 31 cents to the dollar. Before Thursday, it was 8 cents.
That is by Oliver Roeder, the full article is here.
Michael Hofmann, Where Have You Been?: Selected Essays. Hofmann is a poet, translator, and essayist and in my view he is one of the finest (and most underrated) thinkers and writers of our day. The book is due out December 2. Here are previous MR mentions of Michael Hofmann.