Prufrock: Bob Dylan Writes, Drunk Composers, and the Cult of Veganism

Reviews and News:

Helen Andrews on Spanish Civil War writers: “Let it stand uncontested that the term ‘cultural appropriation’ is political correctness of the cheapest and most manipulative kind. Still, it is ridiculous that neither of the great Spanish Civil War anthologies published in English features a single Spanish writer—not Murray Sperber’s And I Remember Spain, not Valentine Cunningham’s superior Spanish Front. Arthur Koestler, George Orwell, Andre Malraux, yes. Ernest Hemingway, inevitably. But no Spaniards. Whose war was it, anyway? An anthology that seeks to amend this bizarre omission, as Pete Ayrton’s does, is therefore a tantalizing prospect. How did the war look from the inside? Did the Spanish resent being made the vanguard of the fight against fascism, or relish it? Were the volunteers of the International Brigades a boon or a bother? Did they make fun of Hemingway behind his back (‘Ay, el Barbudo will not shut up about death’)? The geopolitical issues that brought so many foreigners to Spain in 1936 do not seem to have impinged on the native consciousness very much. The answer that emerges from ¡No Pasarán! is essentially null: The geopolitical issues that brought so many foreigners to Spain in 1936 do not seem to have impinged on the native consciousness very much. Nor indeed did the foreigners themselves, which is unsurprising when you consider how few of the volunteers spoke their language.”

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Bob Dylan alludes to debunked, postmodern Shakespearean research in his letter to the Nobel Prize committee, which shows that while he still may not be a poet, he would have made a great literature professor in the 1990s at Minnesota State.

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The cult of veganism.

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Composers and drink: Liszt drank “a bottle of cognac a day (and sometimes two bottles of wine)…Brahms reserved his worst behaviour for respectable gatherings. At one party, he ‘got drunk and branded all women with a word so shocking that it broke up the occasion’…The list of heavy-drinking composers is worthy of Monty Python’s ‘Philosophers’ Song’. It includes Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius. There are no reports of Bach getting drunk — but during a fortnight’s trip to Halle in 1713 his beer bill came to 18 grossen, which suggests that he got through eight gallons of the stuff (plus lashings of brandy).” Did it affect their music? Probably not.

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The unlikely friendship of Rilke and Rodin: “That they had a relationship at all may be surprising, given the vast differences in their artistic visions: Rodin earthly and sensual, Rilke sublimely transcendent. Yet in Rilke, Rodin found a disciple to teach the deep artistic truths of architecture and sculpture, and who could sublimate his earthly creations into exultant prose.”

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David Wooten reviews Joel Mokyr’s A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy: “For the past quarter century Joel Mokyr has been trying to explain how Western Europe became the first society to make rapid, continuous technological (and with it economic) progress. He writes as an economic historian, but his is a new economic history in which cultural factors are every bit as important as prices and profits. This book presents the latest version of his account of the triumph of the West, or (to give it its politically correct name) the great divergence.”

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Essay of the Day:

In Mosaic, Walter Laqueur writes briefly about evenings in Poland riding a motorcycle with a friend before WWII and the life of his friend following the war:

“Last month I received two letters from a person previously unknown to me that brought back memories of a distant past. Concerning the fate of a motorcycle, the letters evoked a heartwarming love story with the Holocaust as background but, for once, not with a tragic ending.

“The story begins in Breslau in the year 1938. Earlier that year, as one in a tiny group of ‘non-Aryans’ who had somehow been overlooked by the authorities, I graduated at the age of seventeen from a German—and, by that time, wholly Nazified—gymnasium. It was the last season of peace in Europe. Even at my tender age, it was clear to me that war was coming and that I must leave the country of my birth as quickly as possible.

“Unfortunately, emigration to foreign countries had become virtually impossible unless one possessed a great deal of money and knew a way out of Germany. Lacking those assets, I found myself working in a Silesian textile factory in the city of Reichenbach (known today as Dzierżoniów, Poland). The factory belonged to a Jew. My work, which of course led nowhere, lasted for about three months until the local authorities discovered my ethnic-religious-racial origins and insisted that I leave the premises within the hour.

“These months had in any case hardly been the happiest of my life. There were many indications that great trouble was ahead and that Jews would be in the greatest possible danger—and here I was, trapped. But there had also been a few redeeming factors. For one thing, I was able to see at least a dozen French movies, then still being shown even in small German cities. For another and much more rewarding thing, I was able to join my friend Wolfgang Neisser, who worked in a nearby textile factory, on nightly motorcycle trips through our immediate environs.”

Read the rest. (HT: Richard Starr)

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Image of the Day: Lugano

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Poem: Robert W. Crawford, “The K-T Boundary”

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