Reviews and News:
Amazon buys television rights to Lord of the Rings.
Fintan O’Toole to write Seamus Heaney’s official biography.
A 3,500-year-old stone carving is changing art history: “More than one year after discovering the 3,500-year-old tomb of a Bronze age warrior in Greece, an incredible piece of carved stone could rewrite art history. Known as the Griffin Warrior tomb, the Greek government hailed it as ‘most important to have been discovered in 65 years.’ Located in Pylos, Greece the tomb dates to about 1500 B.C., right around the time that the Mycenaeans overtook the culturally dominant Minoans, who were based on the island of Crete. The tomb was filled with riches, but perhaps its most spectacular find took longer to emerge.”
The misunderstood modern Conrad: “‘I am modern,’ he declared, in 1902. But his intentions became more intelligible in light of newer words and later work. The treatment of knowledge as contingent and provisional commands a range of comparisons, from ‘Rashomon’ to Richard Rorty; reference points for Conrad’s fragmentary method include Picasso and T. S. Eliot—who took the epigraph of ‘The Hollow Men’ from ‘Heart of Darkness.’ (That book would have played the same role in ‘The Waste Land’ if Ezra Pound hadn’t objected.) Even Henry James’s late period, that other harbinger of the modernist novel, had not yet begun when Conrad invented Marlow, and James’s earlier experiments in perspective (‘The Spoils of Poynton,’ ‘What Maisie Knew’) don’t go nearly as far as ‘Lord Jim.’”
Alban Berg’s 1925 atonal opera and the Western Front.
Essay of the Day:
Conservatives are fond of saying that “politics is downstream of culture,” but is that really the case? Maggie Gallagher and Frank Cannon in First Things:
“Walk into any room full of Christian conservative donors, and someone will say, ‘Politics is downstream of culture.’ Every head in the room will nod. Nothing is more entrenched as conventional wisdom among Christian conservatives. Like most truisms, this one is only partly true. As people change their beliefs about what is true and good, politics changes as well. But putting culture above politics as a distinct sphere is profoundly mistaken, for politics is part of culture.
“Politics allows the American people to give public form to what they believe to be true, good, and important; it is also the main way Americans decide which views are “within the pale” and which are beyond it. Elites of the left dominate most other domains: the mainstream media, the academy, the arts, Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and increasingly the Chamber of Commerce and corporate suites. When an idea or issue drops out of politics, therefore, progressives can easily stigmatize it as outside the mainstream, extremist, and intolerable, effectively ending conversation. But election results feed back into culture. Political realities can override the dictates of the left, as Trump’s election reminds us.
“Politics is full of cultural content. When our ideas find success at the polls, traditional believers find out that they are not alone, isolated, or on the fringe. This strengthens our voice in the public square. When voters swept Ronald Reagan into the White House, the New York Times could no longer define conservatives as outside the mainstream.
“Electoral victories have other cultural consequences. Harvard Law School recently established an Antonin Scalia chair. Has Harvard suddenly been persuaded that Scalia’s ideas are sound? Probably not. Harvard publicly acknowledges the intellectual legitimacy of Scalia’s textualist and originalist approach to constitutional interpretation only because, thanks to politics, the Federalist Society has a great deal of influence on Republican nominations to the federal bench, including the Supreme Court.”
Poem: Becca Menon, “To Work in the World”
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This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard