From The Literary Saloon, a Brief NYTBR rant hits the target with deadly accuracy, in our opinion:
We've pretty much held our tongues about The New York Times Book Review, waiting to see how the new guy in charge settles in, but, faced by another disappointing issue yesterday, we have to rant a bit. [...]There is little more embarrassing to the United States, in my opinion, than our cultural jingoism, in film and literature, especially, and also in music and art. This is why I read as many foreign newspapers as I can, to try to take myself out from behind the America-only lens. My next point may not be related to this question, but I would really appreciate it if venerable institutions like the New York Times would stop considering reports on television programs as "Arts coverage." See link above for what could take the space used up by that fascinating information on the latest reality television drivel. (See Mark Sarvas at The Elegant Variation for some other good ideas for what the NYTBR should and should not be reviewing.)
And -- ah, we can't help ourselves -- foreign literature ? We had to go back four issues, to that of 4 July, to find any review of a book originally written in a foreign language (in the "Books in Brief" section) -- and back another two issues, to the 20 June issue, to find a full-length review of any book originally written in a foreign language (there were two; predictably, they were both works of non-fiction).
Blake Gopnik's review (How Grotesque! How Grand!) in last Sunday's Washington Post is an account of a new biennial show at Site Santa Fe, a place I somehow missed on my last trip to New Mexico:
Ask around at art schools and you'll hear that a good many of their prospective students submit portfolios of wacky doodles. The grotesque has clearly trickled down so far that it's become the norm when art is meant to impress. Weird and comic transformation is the order of our day, right across the spectrum from art school to art gallery.Because you just can't have enough coverage of the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, you should be reading Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise every day for some great photoblogging. In response to my survey of reports on the audience's reception of the Schlingensief Parsifal (see post on July 26), Alex says the booing beat out the ooing. The critics at Le Figaro have turned in long reviews of the festival's Parsifal (Jacques Doucelin, «Parsifal» : polémique rentrée, July 28):
It was no longer a question of pink slips, trials, excommunications, since the aborted scandal of Parsifal: no one had lost face—especially not the proud and vindicative director—but Wolfgang Wagner had won. One more time, for the more than half-century that he has ruled with an iron fist over his grandfather's heritage, like the dragon of the Ring over the Nibelung's gold.In another article the day before (Wagner et le petit lapin, July 27), however, the same critic made clear his disdain for Schlingensief's production:
As far as causing a scandal, it was a rabbit's fart. Let's just say that it was less provocative than it was shaggy and clumsy. Anyway, who can say that those rumors of scandal had not been shrewdly orchestrated by one certain Wolfgang Wagner, Richard's grandson and current director of the Festival, who is about to celebrate his 85th birthday in August?The same critic also wrote about the Tannhäuser production (Jacques Doucelin, Wagner retrouve ses droits, July 28). No confusion about the audience's appreciation for this production, which was a rousing success, according to Doucelin.
If you want to see what would happen if you put a dozen music critics in a room, with nothing but one of those "big topics" to chew on for a couple days, you should check out Critical Conversation: Classical Music Critics on the Future of Music, the latest brainchild of Douglas McLennan at ArtsJournal (the experiment will continue through August 7). If there is indeed a "future" for classical music, these people will know. I will be teaching a course on opera in the 20th century this fall, so I am thinking about this question in the context of opera history these days. When you have to choose a syllabus of operas to represent the last century, you look at this question in a rather different light. What 20th-century operas do you just HAVE to discuss in a course on the subject? I will be blogging about that course this fall, so you can follow along with the students. I have fifteen weeks, and I look forward to see what Ionarts readers think about my choices.
A little article (Bulgarie: une maison de 8.000 ans, July 26) from France 2 says the following:
Bulgarian archeologists have discovered an 8,000-year-old house near Veliko Tarnovo. The archeologists found a wall, chimney, and ceramic utensils that were in this house of about 50 square meters [538 square feet], dating from the 6th millennium B.C. An altar made of ceramic plates bearing signs, before which the house's residents prayed to the forces of nature, is apparently the "most precious discovery."Another interesting archeological find is described in an article (Gerard Seenan, Dig hits rich vein of medieval history, July 29):
The jewelled cross pulled from an archaeological dig in rural Aberdeenshire does not, admittedly, look like much. Caked in heavy mud and withered by age, it could easily be overlooked. But the cross is the latest piece in a jigsaw puzzle that is casting new light on the remarkable life of a medieval community. "It promises quite a lot," says Penny Dransart, who is leading the dig at Fetternear. "We don't clean items like that on site so we can't say too much about it yet. But, at the very least, it will add to the cumulative knowledge we are building about life at Fetternear."Finally, it's not just the Elgin marbles anymore, as the list of disputed art treasures gets longer (Countries battle over artefacts, July 27, from BBC News): the Rosetta Stone, the bust of Nefertiti, the Lindesfarne Gospels. Where will it all end? Museums are becoming afraid to lend artwork for fear they will never see it again, as happened recently to the British Museum (UK exhibits seized in Australia, July 27, from BBC News).