Saturday, March 04, 2017


All novels are about certain minorities: the individual is a minority. The universal in the novel — and isn't that what we're all clamoring for these days? — is reached only through the depiction of the specific man in a specific circumstance.
— Ralph Ellison, born around this date in 1914
The Aquarium is gone.  Everywhere,
giant finned cars nose forward like fish;
a savage servility
slides by on grease...

What Putin (the Specter of Tzar and Politburo) Is Up To

And why he may have overplayed his hand

Just Like blogging, 'Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better...
— André Gide, who died around this date in 1951

For words are things, And a small drop of ink, Falling like dew upon a thought, Produces that which makes thousands, Perhaps millions, think ...
The leaves of Cold River memory seemed to make 
      A mournful rustling in the dark corners of  Elton John's 
wedding church at the Darling Point

I was born under the shadow of the Dome of the Boston State House,” wrote the poet Robert Lowell, “and under Pisces, the Fish, on the first of March, 1917.” With his aristocratic background – all the inherited furniture and ancestral portraits surrounding him as a child, as he recalled in the memoir 91 Revere Street – perhaps it’s no surprise, reading Lowell 100 years after his birth, that he was often preoccupied with the passing of time. “Thirty-one / Nothing done,” he writes in 1948. A decade later: “These are the tranquillized Fifties, / and I am forty.” In the elegiac Grandparents, he stands over his late grandfather’s billiards table and contemplates his own “life-lease”.
A towering figure in the world of letters — a two-time Pulitzer winner and the successor to Ezra Pound — Lowell carved a niche with reams of innovative poetry he churned out in bold, often experimental styles. His subjects were wide-ranging and epic: the Greek myths, the American Revolution. Fire is a recurring motif, along with themes like good and evil or friendship and death.

Most remarkable, though, is the fact that for decades, on and off, Lowell suffered from extreme bipolar disorder; he composed many of his best verses while stark raving mad. This is the subject of Kay Redfield Jamison’s ambitious new book, “Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire.” Subtitled “A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character,” the book is not a traditional biography, Jamison says, but a “psychological account” of Lowell’s life and mind as well as “a narrative of the illness that so affected him.”
ROBERT LOWELL, SETTING THE RIVER ON FIRE A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character

… 'My (Not So) Perfect Life' by Sophie Kinsella: Fizzy, with a touch of wisdom

About Last Night by Terry Teachout | The president who hated Marcel Duchamp 
My question is this: ought we to care whether politicians take any kind of interest in the fine arts? It is, after all, a well-known fact that no twentieth-century political leader was more deeply interested in art than Adolf Hitler. As I wrote in a 2003 essay for Commentary called “The Murder Artist,” Hitler’s involvement in the arts “was—as far as it went—perfectly serious. Though his own abilities as a painter and architect were limited, they were real, just as his love of music was within its own narrow limits both intense and well-informed.” If that passion made him less monstrous, I’m not aware of it.