brought to you by the wee hours of Monday morning.
Probably my favorite essay this week is Adam Kirsch’s piece in The New Republic on today’s bestselling book in France. That would be Indignez-vous!, a manifesto on political engagement by Stephane Hessel “explicitly designed as the deathbed charge of a World War II hero to today’s youth, urging them to cast off their feckless indifference and reclaim the righteous indignation of the Resistance.” Hessel is, in fact, a concentration camp survivor and former member of the French Resistance, and after the war he served on the commission that produced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Kirsch critiques Hessel’s call to arms – anger may have a clarifying effect, but it also obfuscates critical debate. Or, as Kirsch puts it: “the compromises and uncertainties of ordinary politics are abolished… For the attractive thing about anger is also the dangerous thing about it: It turns concensus, the basis of democratic politics, into a vice.”
Also on TNR: a review of a new book called Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper, by Alexandra Harris. Those who know me know that I moonlight by day as a curatorial assistant at an art museum – when books get together with art, and Romantics get together with Moderns, I am very excited. But the fact that this book was written for me aside, it sounds like a fascinating and complex study.
I really enjoyed this piece called “In Search of Lost Paris” on The New York Review of Books – Luc Sante reviews two new histories of Paris. I love stories that act as a maps of urban spaces – and maps of urban spaces that act as stories. The review deals with that dual unfolding of cities and fictions.
Five new Borges books were released in the U.S. in 2010 by Penguin – “spinoffs” of Penguin’s major Borges compendiums. This is a good overview, and Words Without Borders is a good site to check for news on and reviews of international literature.
In brief: theater that asks the audience to interact with the performance by sketching the actors on stage; Van Gogh’s yellows turn brown but scientists are on the case; rare film clips of Anne Sexton.