Reviews and News:
Inequality and democracy. The existence of the first does not mark the end of the second.
The paintings of Peter Doig and the poetry of Derek Walcott make for an “entrancing collection”: “Each pair is a meditation on privacy and possession, transience and belonging, youth, mortality, inheritance—and how all of these disclose themselves in landscape.”
Why did Russia recruit Hemingway?
The theft that inspired Les Misérables.
George Eliot’s conservative hero: “Without reducing the eternal masterwork to a mere metaphor, we can say that no book better captures the vicissitudes of our particular moment in time than Daniel Deronda. And without risking overstatement, one can ask for no better guide to the novel and its pleasures than Ruth Wisse.”
The nuclear fallout that was four times worse than Chernobyl in terms of the number of cases of acute radiation sickness: An August 1956 weapons test at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan “engulfed the Kazakh industrial city of Ust-Kamenogorsk and put more than 600 people in hospital with radiation sickness.”
Essay of the Day:
In The Spectator, Boyd Tonkin makes the case for reading John Milton today:
“Just 350 years ago, in April 1667, John Milton sold all rights to Paradise Lost to the printer Samuel Simmons — for £5, with another £5 due once Simmons had the first run of 1,300 copies off his hands. That sounds like a bargain for the 12-book epic poem of Satan’s war with Heaven, Eve’s ‘fatal trespass’ and the expulsion from Eden that soon became a monumental pillar of the literary canon. Samuel Johnson — who as a Tory deplored Milton’s revolutionary politics — placed it first (for design) and second (for execution) ‘among the productions of the human mind’.
“Some readers, though, have always found it dear at any price. Deeply torn between his awe at the ‘wonderful performance’ of Paradise Lost and his horror at the ideas of this ‘acrimonious and surly republican’, Johnson in his Life of Milton leads the prosecution as well as the defence. ‘Its perusal is a duty rather than a pleasure,’ he sniffs. ‘We read Milton for instruction, retire harassed and overburdened, and look elsewhere for recreation.’
“As the sort-of anniversary nears, even Milton’s champions put on apologetic airs. Professor John Carey, who made his name as a scholar with a brilliant edition of Milton’s shorter poems, has now abridged Paradise Lost into a reader-friendly 230-page volume, The Essential Paradise Lost. Carey neatly condenses the argument rather than just cherry-picking an assortment of golden goals from the untiring dazzle and swagger of its verse. Even this lifelong Miltonian, however, kicks off with a cringe, sighing that ‘almost no one reads it’ now.
“Enough. Milton, as much as Shakespeare, remains our contemporary… Milton always voiced for the tyranny — whether exercised by kings, clerics, generals or indeed parliaments — that tramples on individual liberties. Mere majorities meant nothing to the old malcontent.”
Poem: Len Krisak, “Tiberius”
Get Prufrock in your inbox every weekday morning. Subscribe here.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard