August 21, 2005
Perfectly entertaining

My latest Brainwash column is a review of El Crimen Perfecto, a pitch-perfect black comedy from Spanish filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia:

Rafael Gonzalez is incredibly shallow, exceedingly cocky, and an inveterate womanizer--but he’s strangely sympathetic anyway...

August 20, 2005
Thought for the day

"It’s been my experience over the years as a reader—and now even more so when I’m reading from the point of view of an editor—that even in the quite wild times we live in, not enough fiction is bold in its imagining of reality. The villains aren’t as villainous as real villains, and the lovers aren’t as overwrought as the lovers one meets in real life, and the people who do something that actually takes courage are not as courageous. The bloody-mindedness and the ruthlessness that one encounters in real life, the plots that one encounters as a reporter, the oversized, self-dramatizing characters, a kind of rawness and unsubtlety of expression, these things—they’re the raw material from which a lot of great fiction can come."

Philip Gourevitch, new editor of The Paris Review

August 18, 2005
On Books

My latest American Enterprise column looks at Growing Up Guggenheim, a memoir by Peter Lawson-Johnston, the reigning patriarch of the family that gave us the art musuem that bears its name. Lawson-Johnston doesn't spare any of the dirty details—except when they involve the museum's current director.

August 17, 2005
Compare and contrast

"Truly Nolen, the pest-control company with mouse ears on its cars, recently agreed to collaborate with the sheriff's office and police department and let its employees report suspicious activities.

"George Crossley, head of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Central Florida, said the ACLU will file public-records requests to find out whether police agencies have enlisted other businesses in a similar regional program begun last year.

"'This is a misguided attempt by the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the (Orange-Osceola) State Attorney's Office to intentionally turn neighbors against neighbors,' Crossley said in a news conference held on a sidewalk next to the Orlando Sentinel."

Associated Press, August 17, 2005
"The children, on the other hand, were systematically turned against their parents and taught to spy on them and report their deviations. The family had become in effect an extension of the Thought Police. It was a device by means of which everyone could be surrounded night and day by informers who knew him intimately."
—George Orwell, 1984

Thought for the day

"Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated."

—Alphonse de Lamartine

August 16, 2005
Vivaldi: Not just for concertos anymore

Think Vivaldi, and you'll probably think of the ubiquitous The Four Seasons. All the verve, the sweetness and the melodic invention that made Vivaldi an innovator in his day was lost in sugary mid-20th century interpretations and in its abuse as aural wallpaper.
The Australian reports on the Vivaldi Edition, a project to record some of the composer's most important works, particularly his operas.
The Vivaldi Edition is an ambitious project: dozens more discs are planned and it is expected to take at least another 10 years to complete. By the time it concludes, the collaborations between musicologists and conductors will have completely revised Vivaldi's place in music history.

August 15, 2005
Thought for the day

"In a land which is fully settled, most men must accept their local environment or try to change it by political means; only the exceptionally gifted or adventurous can leave to seek his fortune elsewhere. In America, on the other hand, to move on and make a fresh start somewhere else is still the normal reaction to dissatisfaction and failure."

—W. H. Auden in the Introduction to The Faber Book of Modern American Verse

August 07, 2005
Thought for the day


"As every one has some particular object of supreme interest to himself, so I have music. It is almost my inner world; without it, I miss much, and with it I am happier and better...

You will ask, 'What is to come of it all if successful?' I do not know. But this is clear. I have then improved my own powers, which is every man's duty. I have a resource to which I can always turn with delight, however the world may go with me. I am so much the stronger, the wider, the wiser, the better for my duties in life. I can then go with satisfaction to my business, knowing my resource at the end of the day...

My money may fly away; my knowledge cannot. One belongs to the world, the other to me."

—Henry Lee Higginson, age 23, in a letter to his father, as quoted in Joseph Horowitz' Classical Music in America

August 03, 2005
Thought for the day

"It is the sheer rareness of uninterrupted speech which makes it so powerful, and which accounts for the recent, modest revival in the fortunes of the lecture. Like poetry, the lecture has come back into favour by its very dissimilarity from other more heavily promoted forms of communication. In Britain, we have long lived with the conventions of adversarial politics. The prevailing wisdom is that enlightenment may best be reached through argy-bargy. And yet in practice how infrequent it is, on television or radio, that the Socratic equivalent of men's tennis - massive slams hit back and forth from the baseline - actually illuminates anything at all. Panels are even worse. Taking part frustrates me as much as listening. What's the point? Why attend a forum in which as soon as anyone says anything interesting, somebody else has at once to be encouraged to interrupt, supposedly to generate conflict, but more often to dispel the energy of the previous speaker?"

David Hare in The Observer

On Books

My latest American Enterprise Online column examines an age-old practice:

As Montaigne said, “To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it.” The newly released 120 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature (Checkmark Books) provides ample evidence for this maxim. Controversy after controversy has resulted in increased sales for the book in question, from The Grapes of Wrath to Peyton Place. Censors, it seems, never learn...
Thanks to R. for bringing the book to my attention.

August 02, 2005
Thought for the day

"The great ambition of women is to inspire love."