Yale University Press
In his long poem The Bridge (1930), Hart Crane balances the breadth of his epic vision against a compressive energy, a ballistic sort of expression: ‘So the 20th Century – so / whizzed the Limited – roared by and left.’ Since Crane worked in an American tradition of poet–prophets that includes Walt Whitman and the undersung H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), it is tempting to grant him that. The twentieth century did roar by and go. And the 20th Century Limited, the luxurious passenger train connecting New York to Chicago, furnished it (and him) with an expression of the century’s quarrelsome momentum, its loud, emblematic modernity.... (read more)
In Future Proof, Jon Coaffee, professor in urban geography at the University of Warwick, asks readers to imagine ‘a typical day’: radio reports of an impending cyclone; public-transport posters encouraging the reporting of ‘suspicious activity’; the path to an office (especially in a CBD) protected by hostile-vehicle-mitigation bollards. At work, computer systems will be tested for security from cyber attacks. The train home will be delayed due to a network complication, and the evening’s television will show the cyclone’s impact, discussing the relative ineffectiveness of hazard mitigation.... (read more)
Charles Osborne, who was born in Brisbane in 1927 and moved to London in 1953, is a prolific writer, broadcaster and opera critic. His latest offering, The Opera Lover’s Companion, sets out to guide its reader through 175 of the world’s most popular operas. Osborne correctly states that ‘the staples of the operatic diet today are the major works of five great composers – Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, and Strauss’ – and certain works by other luminaries. The operas of sixty-seven composers are included, but that core quintet gives us almost a third of the operas in this volume. Interestingly, in opera’s four hundred-year history, the vast majority of the most frequently performed works fall within the period between Mozart’s first featured opera, Mitridate, rè di Ponto (1770) and Strauss’s last, Capriccio (1942).
As with The New Kobbé’s Opera Book (1997), the list reveals a re-evaluation of many previously neglected operas, in particular some lesser-known works of Handel, Rossini, Donizetti, Massenet, and Strauss, which have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Doubtless this also reflects the dearth of modern operas and the scarcity of contemporary composers who know what their audiences want. Any opera company ignoring box office appeal does so at its peril, and a book such as this should be mandatory reading.... (read more)
Kári Gíslason reviews 'Henrik Ibsen: The man and the mask' by Ivo de Figueiredo, translated by Robert Ferguson
As the old saying goes, one should never judge a book by its cover; however, the instantly recognisable iconography on the cover of A Little History of Archaeology does provide an insight into this book’s content ...... (read more)
Rémy Davison reviews The Lessons of Tragedy: Statecraft and world order by Hal Brands and Charles Edel
'History repeats itself,’ Karl Marx wrote presciently in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. ‘The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.’ The central themes of Hal Brands and Charles Edel’s The Lessons of Tragedy are clear. In the developed world, we are complacent about world order, democracy, and civil society ...... (read more)
Joseph Stalin wanted this wartime correspondence published, and one can see why: he comes off best. As the authors comment, ‘the transcript of the Big Three meetings demonstrates Stalin’s careful mastery of the issues and his superior skill as a diplomatist, regularly keeping his silence but then speaking out in a terse and timely manner at key moments’. He is ...
Alex Tighe reviews Delayed Response: The art of waiting from the ancient to the instant world by Jason Farman
‘A book about waiting’ was perhaps a hard sell for Jason Farman to make to his publisher. Waiting, so the consensus goes, sucks. It is the elephant graveyard of time, the dead zone between something and something else. Who would want to spend more time on waiting? It helps to clarify that Delayed Response is not ...... (read more)
Ian Donaldson reviews 'In Pursuit Of Civility: Manners and civilization in early modern England' by Keith Thomas
‘Civilization’, a seemingly tranquil notion, has always somehow managed to start quarrels and divide the room. In the classical world, where the concept was largely shaped, it managed, more startlingly, to divide the human race itself. On the one hand, so the notion appeared to imply, were people whose speech you could more or less understand ...... (read more)
A million people thronged the streets of Barcelona on 11 September 2012, clamouring for liberty. This had been their special day long before 9/11. Like Gallipoli, it commemorates a defeat: the rout of the Catalans and their Austrian Hapsburg allies by the Bourbon monarch Philip V of Spain on 11 September 1714 ...... (read more)