I loved this piece by Martha Nussbaum in The New Republic, called “A Liberal Education: Should Academics Join the Government?” Nussbaum teaches law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, but instead of writing about her own experiences she discusses a new memoir (published last year) by Abbott Gleason called A Liberal Education. Gleason is a historian who spent his career at Brown and then did a two-year stint in Washington, working for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The essay is less a personal vindication, more of a homage to Gleason – his decisions, his integrity:
The tale Gleason tells is, ultimately, one of patient self-unmasking and self-recreation, as his radical effusions gave way to a cautious and deeply unfashionable liberal individualism with conservative elements (the love of community attachments that he depicts historically in his best known book, Young Russia).
This week on the NYRBlog: modern architecture and the sanitorium. In particular, Holland’s Zonnestraal Sanatorium, “a white-framed assemblage of low-slung, flat-roofed pavilions that seem to be (as was famously said of the Elizabethan stately home Hardwick Hall) “more glass than wall” [that] exemplifies the daring structural advances of modern architecture.” If you like long European novels, you are no stranger to the sanitorium – typically, I’d thought about their place in literature but never their architectural significance. How cool.
A recommendation from the archives of those purveyors of excellent storytelling at This American Life – part radio journalism and part radio drama. This show is on parenting, and the particular story I loved (Act II), borrowed from Radiolab, is about a chimp named Lucy who was raised by scientist parents as a child – and a science experiment – and then deposited into the wild. The recommendation was made to me by my friend Lise, who had me in delicious narrative thrall last week when she told me a long, dramatic, editorialized version of the Lucy story on my living room couch – but as I don’t have audio archives of my best conversations, Radiolab will have to do. We spent a while afterward trying to find the right literary analog for a story that seemed to demand an epic frame – is it a Gothic tale, like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, about a monster who becomes all-too-human? Is it a Sophoclean tragedy about about fatal human flaws?? You decide. (We couldn’t.)
This is a lot of fun: the literature blog Bookslut does literary birthdays. March features Elizabeth Browning, Nikoli Gogol and Ralph Ellison in a charming quartet of essays about their work, and what these disparate writers have in common.
Briefly, in visual art: David Cohen’s obituary for the eminent Renaissance art historian Leo Steinberg; the AIPAD photography show in NY opened this week; an essay on the photographer Eadward Muybridge.