How to Write a Letter

Muriel Spark

Max Beerbohm

In the middle of a house-move I came across many books I didn’t know I had, among them pamphlets that I had picked up for their curiosity value as long as twenty years ago, and tucked out of sight among the overpowering hardbacks. Busy as I was, now, in the turmoil, I couldn’t resist sitting down among the packing-cases to read How to Write a Good Letter: A Complete Guide to the Correct Manner of Letter Writing by John Barter, F.S.Sc., Revised and Enlarged by Gilbert Foyle (London, W. & G. Foyle, 135 Charing Cross Road, W.C., 1912).

Blasting Opera Forward

Seth Colter Walls

Mite Kuzevski/Demotix/Corbis

Though Anthony Braxton’s contributions to jazz have been substantial, he has spent the last three decades on the genre’s fringes. A MacArthur Award-winning saxophonist, composer, and teacher, Braxton has released a number of acclaimed works, and has for years been a leading proponent of merging avant-garde jazz with contemporary art music. Yet when I spoke to him in early April, Braxton told me he was surprised to be included on the list of “Jazz Masters” honored by the National Endowment for the Arts, in January. And, once again, he was already looking ahead: more eager to talk about Richard Wagner and Karlheinz Stockhausen, influences on his own opera-cycle in progress, Trillium, the latest entry in which will have its premiere this month.

Boxers and Ballerinas

Toni Bentley

Rick Wester Fine Art

Too often ballet dancers are paired with flowers and satin in a pastel romanticization of what is, in truth, an uncompromising art, the most demanding on the body of all artistic pursuits. Boxers, meanwhile, are reduced to their swollen eyes, flying sweat, pooling blood and heaving torsos. But in John Goodman’s first solo exhibition in New York, he juxtaposes beautiful black and white images of both—his photographs of dancers of the Boston Ballet taken in 2004 alongside his photographs of boxers taken at the famed Times Square Gym in 1996. We can now see the infinite similarities between these sylphs and gladiators—and each takes on a new clarity.

Enamored Magicians

Francine Prose

The M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco

Visiting “An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle,” it’s hard not to feel nostalgic…but for what? Perhaps for a time before young artists and recent MFA graduates were accustomed to droning on, with soporific self-seriousness, about their “art practice”; before the dictates of the art market had leached so much of the fun out of art; and before artists aspired to live in homes that closely resembled those of their wealthiest collectors.

Opera from the Other Side

Philip Gossett

National-Archive Und Forschungsstatte Der Richard-Wagner-Stiftung, Bayreuth

To write the history of opera production, not only must one know the repertory well, but one needs to understand the extraordinary work of the many people involved backstage who make an operatic spectacle function. Few people are as capable of writing such a history as Evan Baker, author of the new book, From the Score to the Stage: An Illustrated History of Continental Opera Production and Staging.

The Cradle of Soul

Andrew Martin

House Of Fame LLC/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Muscle Shoals tells the story of how a tiny Alabama town on the Tennessee River became the site of some of the best rock and soul music recordings of the 1960s and 1970s. Along with Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, Etta James, the Rolling Stones, and Paul Simon recorded some of their best-known songs in Muscle Shoals. It’s where Percy Sledge sang “When a Man Loves a Woman,” where the Staple Singers did “I’ll Take You There.”

Louis CK in Double Vision

Adam Thirlwell

Circus King Films

Tomorrow Night represents Louis CK’s provenance. It makes the sofa-bound viewer consider a constant artistic problem: How does a voice become a voice? And there are perhaps two elements to Tomorrow Night that offer a possible answer. There’s the plot—which manages by a series of dreamlike maneuvers to corral its characters into gruesome situations. Our masturbating hero, Charles Brown, after a failed date with a girl called Lola Vagina, ends up marrying an old woman called Florence, because of the orderly beauty of her housekeeping, and adopting a sullen teenager called Clean. And there are the details that are pure surreal digression: like that deadpan way in which Louis CK, hosing down the sidewalk, also hoses down passing pedestrians, with no comment from anyone. No one in this miniature sequence is ever seen again.

The Serene Beauty of Canova

Andrew Butterfield

Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Canova was the most celebrated artist in Europe in the early nineteenth century, and yet he has rarely been the subject of an exhibition in America, nor has it been easy to see many major works by him in this country. Until now. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is presently home to a small but serenely beautiful show, “Antonio Canova: The Seven Last Works.” The exhibition features the seven plaster models for reliefs, which Canova was working on at the time of his death in 1822.

Power, Privacy, and the Internet


On October 30–31, 2013, The New York Review of Books held a conference at Scandinavia House in New York City on the internet’s transformative effect on our lives. We are pleased to present the following recordings from the event.

The Hall of Horowitz

Tim Page

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Vladimir Horowitz Live at Carnegie Hall—some thirty hours of music—doesn’t include every performance the pianist played there (he made his house debut in 1928, more than a decade before the invention of magnetic tape would have permitted such sustained recording) but offers extensive documentation of performances ranging from 1943 through 1976.