Prufrock: Chaos at the Louvre, Jane Austen’s Death by Poisoning, and the Return of the Woolly Mammoth

Reviews and News:

Did Jane Austen die of arsenic poisoning?

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Modernity and laughter: “Sociologists and historians tell us that modernity is marked by secularization, the rise of science, and the formation of the nation-state. It’s equally true to say that the West laughed its way into modernity. Christians laughing without qualms of conscience—that is as useful an index of the rise of the modern world as any other.”

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Ferrante novels to be adapted for television.

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And since we’re on the subject of Elena Ferrante, her husband, Domenico Starnone, is also a writer, and his most recent novel seems to be a response to Ferrante’s 2002 Days of Abandonment.

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Was H. L. Mencken a conservative? D. G. Hart makes the case over at The American Conservative.

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Chaos at the Louvre: “A blockbuster Vermeer show draws thousands of visitors, but a faulty reservation system, long queues of frustrated ticket holders, and threats to strike by security staff mar the opening weeks.”

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Camille Paglia on Donald Trump: “Paglia was not surprised by the election results. ‘I felt the Trump victory coming for a long time,’ she told me. Writing last spring, she’d called Trump ‘raw, crude and uninformed’ but also ‘smart, intuitive and a quick study’; she praised his ‘bumptious exuberance and slashing humor’ (and took some pleasure in watching him fluster the GOP). Speaking two weeks into his administration, she sounded altogether less troubled by the president than any other self-declared feminist I’d encountered since Inauguration Day: ‘He is supported by half the country, hello! And also, this ethically indefensible excuse that all Trump voters are racist, sexist, misogynistic, and all that — American democracy cannot proceed like this, with this reviling half the country’…Paglia’s displeasure over the election was largely reserved for the liberal Establishment, and for Hillary Clinton, whom she’s criticized lavishly for the last 20 years…She now calls Clinton ‘a walking neurosis.’ During the primaries, Paglia preferred Bernie Sanders — ‘an authentic leftist,’ who brought her back to the 1960s. ‘That is what real leftists were like,’ she told me. ‘They’re not post-structuralists with their snide, cool, elitist jargon.'”

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The return of the woolly mammoth.

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Essay of the Day:

In next week’s issue of the Standard—which is available now online—Joseph Epstein takes a stab at defining the “cultured life” and explaining why it is worth living:

“Most people today prefer to spend their lives gathering more and more information. This plethora, this plague of information, now available to all—to what, precisely, does it lead? The best I can see, it leads to two things: the illusion that one understands the world, and the formation of opinions, countless opinions, opinions on everything. Opinions are well enough, sometimes even required; but I have never quite been able to shake the capping remark made by V. S. Naipaul on a character in his novel Guerrillas: ‘She had a great many opinions, but taken together they did not add up to a point of view.’ Culture, true culture, helps form complex points of view.

“Some years ago, the English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott was asked what he thought of England’s entering the European Union. ‘I don’t see,’ he answered, ‘why I should be required to have an opinion about that.’ An extraordinary thing for a contemporary political philosopher to say, or so I thought at the time. But later, reading Oakeshott’s Notebooks, I came across two interesting passages that made clear the grounds on which he said it: First, ‘To be educated is to know how much one wishes to know & to have the courage not to be tempted beyond this limit.’ And second, that culture ‘teaches that there is much one does not want to know.’ I wonder if, in the current age, our so-called Information Age, recognizing ‘what one doesn’t want to know’ isn’t among the greatest gifts that the acquisition of culture can bestow.

“To return to Matthew Arnold’s supposition that culture holds out the promise of a change in human nature, one has to concede that the results, up to the moment, are not especially encouraging. But then, some people, quite without the aid of culture, have naturally good hearts; others have been brought to a high standard of goodness through religion. As for culture conferring virtue on those who possess it, it is impossible to forget that the Nazis played Beethoven at Auschwitz. Still, by removing oneself from the noise and vulgarities of the present, and lending oneself the perspective of the past, an engagement with high culture makes life richer—and thereby immensely more interesting. And that, with apologies to Matthew Arnold, seems to me reward enough.”

Read the rest.

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Photo: Gössl

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Poem: Chelsea Wagenaar, “Solstice”

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard

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