"My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way."
I am battling—not very successfully—a case of the flu. But I still managed to get out my American Enterprise books column. I took a look—many looks—at a book encompassing the whole of Western art:
There have been many gorgeous books published this holiday season--Alain Le Toquin's The Most Beautiful Gardens in the World, John Loring's Tiffany Timepieces, and I, Michelangelo, to give just three examples. But I doubt any is more beautiful than Umberto Eco's History of Beauty (Rizzoli)...
If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
'I love her for her smile--her look--her way
Of speaking gently,--for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,--and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love, thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese, XIV
Another of my reviews appeared in The Washington Times' book section this Sunday. This time it was an appraisal of Anita Shreve's latest novel, Light on Snow:
Ms. Shreve's stories usually involve tragedy of some sort — a husband's death in a plane crash, a 19th-century girl impregnated by an adulterer, a photographer investigating a century-old double murder. "Light on Snow" is no exception. On a late afternoon walk in a snowy New Hampshire wood, Robert Dillon and his 12-year-old daughter Nicky hear the cries of a barely-breathing newborn baby.
"I find [the French] a most amiable nation to live with."
My first book review in The Washington Times appeared today. I examine Mary Eberstadt's Home-Alone America, which is a refreshing look at the almost-overdone "mommy wars" genre:
It is when she leaves the numbers behind that Mrs. Eberstadt transcends this overworked genre. Her chapter on music approaches a revelation. You are prepared for yet another socially conservative, pro-censorship, ineffective rant on how rock music is killing our youth. But she surprises by asking a different question entirely: "What is it about today's music, violent and disgusting though it may be, that resonates with so many American kids?"
My latest Brainwash column takes the form of a gift-giving guide. If you're stumped for ideas this Christmas, take a look.
Meghan O'Rourke at Slate examines Sylvia Plath's "restored" Ariel and tries to rehabilitate Ted Hughes' reputation:
The real problem with Hughes' interference is that we can't separate the emotional relationship from the intellectual, artistic relationship—and we don't trust Hughes to, either. But from this distance Plath seems fortunate to have had his input. It's easy to forget now how radical Plath's poetry—with its elemental female anger, its sexual voracity, its self-loathing knowingness—was in 1963.
Hundreds of single women over the age of 25 likely shuddered reading Maureen Dowd's New York Times column yesterday. "If I hear 'Frosty the Snowman' one more time, I'll rip his frozen face off," it began. Miss Dowd proclaims that she "can't stand Christmas":
I think it has to do with how stressed out my mom and sister would get on Christmas Day when I was little. I remember them snapping at me; they seemed tense because of all the aprons to be sashed and potatoes to be mashed. (In our traditional Irish household, women slaved and men were waited on.)No, girls, we don't have to end up like this.
It might be exacerbated by the stress I feel when I think of all the money I've spent on lavishing boyfriends with presents over the years, guys who are now living with other women who are enjoying my lovingly picked out presents which I'm no doubt still paying for in credit card interest charges.
"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."
"Beauty is the battlefield where God and the Devil war for the soul of man."
An inventive look at "The Decline and Fall of the American Teenybopper" by the always-interesting Steve Sailer:
For about a quarter of a century in the middle of the last century, adolescent girls had a superb sense for recognizing the next big thing in pop musical greatness, going crazy over Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Michael Jackson long before any other demographic segments did.No longer.
A band like The Clash, which has the #8 album on Rolling Stone magazine's Top 500 albums of all time, with London Calling, has a very specific market niche -- high IQ males interested in politics as well as music, which pretty well defines rock critics. But it's hard to get girls interested in The Clash. The gender divisions have only gotten deeper since then."