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Poet of Loneliness

No writer understood loneliness better than Chekhov. People long for understanding, and try to confide their feelings, but more often than not, others are too self-absorbed to care. In Chekhov’s plays, unlike those of his predecessors, characters speak past each other. Often enough, they talk in . . . . Continue Reading »

Thou

One of the disappointing features of our controversies about biblical translations, the readings in the lectionary, the composition of our hymnals, sacred art in our churches, and gestures and actions in our liturgies, is that people in charge of things seem to be poorly versed in the humanities. . . . . Continue Reading »

Look Out, Ol’ Mackie Is Back!

When I first read Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind more than thirty years ago, amid the relentless polemic I was struck by one passage: his attack on Louis Armstrong’s version of “Mack the Knife,” a song I knew and enjoyed, albeit in the far superior version by Bobby . . . . Continue Reading »

Restoration and Desecration

In recent years, reports have appeared in the media of art restorations so appalling they produce howls of laughter. That these stories have focused on the mutilation of works of religious art is no accident: Ineptitude combines with sacrilege. The most recent atrocity was inflicted on a copy of a . . . . Continue Reading »

Venice Afloat

An observer of a Spenglerian bent might just write Venice off, taking the floods that afflict the city with increasing frequency as the finishing touches on a long-running spectacle of political, economic, and cultural decline. That decline, spanning half a millennium, has by now reduced the city to . . . . Continue Reading »

An Ordinary Life

The Old French word ordinarie, meaning “ordinary, usual,” derives from the medieval Latin ordinarius (“customary, regular, usual, ordinary”), which derives in turn from the classical Latin ordo (“row, rank, series, arrangement”). Originally, it had no pejorative . . . . Continue Reading »

Building to No Purpose

Architecture can reflect the progress of a civilization, but Hudson Yards is not about civilization. Its buildings reflect the futility of a “progressive” design sensibility cut off from the past and wedded to novelty and formal dissonance as ends in themselves. The mixed-use development rises . . . . Continue Reading »

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