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New Criterion May 2020 Notes

Three articles from Kimball, Bowman and Hanson better at eviscerating the media than honest reflection of the deeply un-New Criterion-like president at the helm of the grossly mismanaged disaster. The chains of causality are broken in Hanson, still such a favored historian:

The media hyped models that showed biblical plague rates of death in teh coming weeks, never returning to such prognostications when they were proven fallacious if not hysterical a few weeks later.

Victor Davis Hanson, The Scab and the Wound Beneath. May 2020 New Criterion.

The models showed biblical plagues outside of taking the lockdown actions. This tree could have grown to the sky and maybe it will again. The reasoning is beneath him, decidedly unscientific.

Charles Cooke of the National Review has been much more focused, judicious, and useful on where the media has overstepped, in The Editors podcast Episode 216 for example.

Bowman’s Experts in Spate did hit a chord:

“America was unprepared for a major crisis. Again.” So wrote Dan Balz in The Washington Post as “the first in a series”—how the heart sinks at the words!

–James Bowman

Robert Conquest’s Open Eyes by Dick Davis opened mine to another aspect of the famed historian and was an enjoyable read. In particular his poetry-as-lit-crit. E.g., on Ezra Pound:

Said Pound, “if one’s writing a Canto // It should be a sort of portmanteau// Full of any old crap // That occurs to a chap // With patches of pig esperanto.”

–Robert Conquest

George Will’s Conservatism by Jame Piereson was solid, examining the tension between Burke and Locke in American and Willian conservatism. Spoiler alert, Will is more of the latter.

How to Wage War by Barry Strauss contained an interesting thought:

If the appeasers didn’t have their eye on the ball, it wasn’t only a matter of misjudging Hitler and of underestimating the Wehrmacht but also of overestimating the benefits of the Empire. Colonial troops had helped Britain and France in the First World War, but Britain would have been better off in the 1920s and 1930s if it had focused on European defense.

–Barry Strauss

Anyone for Peter de Vries? by Jonathan Leaf puts Updike in his place and illuminates a mid-twentieth century writer I’d heretofore not heard of. His witticisms were great, including:

A suburban mother’s role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car forever after.

The murals in restaurants are on par with the food in museums.

Those who have heard Santayana’s comment about history are doomed to repeat it.

The value of marriage is not that adults produce children but that children produce adults.

Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us.

There are times when parenthood seems nothing more than feeding the hand that bites you.

–Peter de Vries

What to read of de Vries? The Blood of the Lamb, Sauce for the Goose, Consenting Adults, Slouching Towards Kalamazoo, Peckham’s Marbles

The Art reviews were thoughtful — Cezanne at Princeton the best — but better to read online. A cri de coeur about the PCization of art hit the spot.

Plague life in for Tintoretto in Venice and Pepys in London covered! Nordlinger performance reviews generous and accessible – took me to listen to Bach’s Art of the Fugue.

Book reviews covered intriguing works: Ice by Anna Kavan, Paul Lynch’s Beyond the Sea: A Novel. Neither enough to jump many on to read list. An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent might, from Daniel Johnson’s review:

…infuses this biography with a pathos quite unlike the countless other books about Soviet spies. Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt, Buy Burgess and Donald Maclean — none of them could compare with Sorge’s courage, cunning, and nobility.

–Daniel Johnson

Interesting title in a review on the Scythians: Naomi Mitchison’s The Corn King and the Spring Queen (on Scythans); Paul Cartledge says it is brilliant.

Vocab words: suppurating, vatic, bibelot

Published inSummaries

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