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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Both Janet Malcolm’s writing and her collages are preoccupied with what happens on the margins of knowing, or in its wake. Malcolm has always had great confidence in what she’s come to know—she writes with such a sure hand—yet at the same time she is well aware of the limits of what we might ever feel assured in saying. In “A House of One’s Own,” her essay on Bloomsbury, she writes that “we have to face the problem that every biographer faces and none can solve; namely that he is standing in quicksand as he writes. There is no floor under his enterprise, no basis for moral certainty.” The abyss is there and she nods at it and goes about her business.
While Sherlock continues to be exceptionally entertaining, I can’t help but wonder if it has grown a little too self-aware and too reliant on punning riffs for its titles, plots, and in-jokes. Even “The Giant Rat of Sumatra”—the most tantalizing of those untold cases for which the world is not yet prepared—is repurposed in this episode. Every element in “The Empty Hearse” feels a bit overstylized, artificial, almost going beyond the tongue-in-cheek. At regular intervals, too, the action actually pauses so that the camera can linger on the Byronically handsome Cumberbatch, brooding Batman-like over the city of London.
Youths of my generation learned about Brassaï from his eye-opening Secret Paris of the 30s (1976). There were pictures of thugs, bums, prostitutes, brothels, drag balls, lesbian bars, interracial dances—who knew such things even existed forty years earlier? But then our fascinated naïvety was rewarded by further contemplation of the photographs, which were humane, sympathetic, endlessly inquisitive, beautifully composed, and drew every possible bit of poetry from the enveloping cloak of night—not more than half a dozen pictures were taken in daylight. Brassaï: Paris Nocturne is the first major book on the photographer since then.
If animals are not only bons à manger but also bons à penser (good to eat, good to think with), according to the celebrated dictum of Claude Lévi-Strauss, then monsters, while perhaps less inviting to the palate, make even better food for thought. Themselves the direct and fanciful products of attempts to understand phenomena, they appear in a wonderful variety of forms on the maps drawn up by medieval and Renaissance cartographers, as Joseph Nigg and Chet van Duzer show in two resplendently illustrated and thoughtful recent studies. Scylla and Charybdis, sea serpents and pristers offer a range of explanations for natural phenomena, such as whirlpools and reefs; indeed the abundant stories that Homer and Ovid tell draw up a wonderful narrative geography as much as a mythical history.