From What’s Probably an Afterword to Andrey Platonov, “The Foundation Pit”

this book looks super All these works appear at first glance--especially to a reader unversed in Soviet history--to be highly surreal. This impression, however, is misleading; they contain barely an incident or a passage that does not directly relate to some real event or publication from these years. Platonov's focus is not on some private dream world but on political and historical reality--a reality so extraordinary as to be barely credible. buy book here; cf also my constant refrain, … [Read more...]

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I Review “Russian Modernism: 1907 – 1917”

for AmCon: The first room of the Neue Galerie’s “Russian Modernism: Cross-Currents of German and Russian Art, 1907 – 1917” (on view through August 24), takes us back to a vanished world. This is a world of silk stockings and fiacres, cavalry officers, and the Woman Question: the modern world. It’s a cosmopolitan world, alive to the distortions of human perception, and an international world in which Russian artists looked West and Western artists looked to Africa for inspiration. It will not las … [Read more...]

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Tenderness, Penitence and Estrangement: I Review the El Greco Show at the National Gallery of Art

for the Weekly Standard:The nickname “El Greco” reveals two things about Doménikos Theotokópoulos, the weird and sublime painter of the Counter-Reformation: He was Greek, and he was a stranger. When everybody around you is Greek, nobody is “the Greek.” El Greco’s vision reflected the second part of his identity even more than the first.more … [Read more...]

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No Werewolf But the Class Werewolf: Short movie reviews

The Anniversary: Bette Davis as hell-matriarch in red eyepatch shaped like a teardrop. Swings wildly from ultracamp to the sort of thing you'll instantly recognize if you or a friend had a narcissistic parent. An example of my thing* about how "'Realism' only works for people whose worldviews are already accepted as realistic. The rest of us must make do with genre"--the parent's narcissism distorts the whole family's sense of what is real, so the most outrageous acts and statements seem … [Read more...]

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From “Graham Greene on Film: Collected Film Criticism, 1935-1939”

During the conferences [with David Selznick] which followed I remember there were times when there seemed to be a kind of grim reason in Mr Selznick's criticisms--surely here perhaps there was a fault in "continuity," I hadn't properly "established" this or that. I would forget momentarily the lesson which I had learned as a film critic--that to "establish" something is almost invariably wrong and that "continuity" is often the enemy of life. Man, that is great advice, especially the bit about … [Read more...]

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“Hideous Strength”: I review “Degenerate Art” at the Neue Galerie

for AmCon: Leave it to the Nazis to make charity posters into advertisements for power-worship.In the late 1930s the Nazi regime created a traveling exhibition which contrasted Fuhrer-approved artworks with “degenerate” works produced by modernists, New Objectivists, and other riffraff. The exhibition was a bizarre contrast to the book-burning and art-destroying we might expect from a totalitarian regime. Instead of preventing people from seeing the art at all, the Nazis encouraged them to v … [Read more...]

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“Flying Camels, Butterflies, And Twizzles”: I report from US Nationals

for AmSpec. (Which Nationals? you ask. Men's figure skating obviously. There is only one sport.)In early January, I attend my very first professional sports competition. The U.S. National Figure Skating Championships have already been going on for four days; the event sprawls over four disciplines and five age categories. I’m at Boston’s TD Garden to watch the senior men, including the two men we’ll be sending to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.Sport, like art, uses the limited body to hint … [Read more...]

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