Roving thoughts and provocations

The New Chartres: An Exchange

Madeline H. Caviness and Jeffrey Hamburger, reply by Martin Filler

Hubert Fanthomme/Getty Images

Contrary to Martin Filler’s assertion that virtually nothing remains of the previous painting at Chartres, beneath the grime not one, but two layers of false masonry were visible, one dating to the thirteenth, the other to the fifteenth century. If there is anything controversial, it lies with the restorers’ decision to use the thirteenth-century false masonry as their guide.

We’re Not Going to Stand for This Anymore’

Michael Greenberg

Andrew Kelly/Reuters

The decision of a Staten Island grand jury not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner has thrust the city into the center of a rapidly intensifying national debate. Many New Yorkers seem to be just becoming aware of the fact that a huge number of their fellow citizens live daily in a state of high alert, if not outright fear of the police and have been doing so for decades.

A Scandalous Makeover at Chartres

Martin Filler

Hubert Fanthomme/Paris Match via Getty Images

Apparently with the full support of the French state, restorers have set out to do no less than repaint the entire interior of Chartres Cathedral in bright whites and garish colors. Looking upward we saw panels of blue faux marbre; nearby were floor-to-ceiling piers covered in glossy yellow trompe l’oeil marbling, like some funeral parlor in Little Italy.

How ISIS Rules

Sarah Birke

Stringer/Reuters

To judge from images distributed by the Islamic State, the Syrian city of Raqqa, its “capital,” is an extremist hotbed whose inhabitants crave radical Islam, enjoy public executions, and fervently support their ruthless black-clad overlords. Yet there is little about this provincial center that might have suggested jihadist tendencies. In fact, Raqqa did not even enter the Syrian conflict until 2013.

Courts Without Reporters

Francine Prose

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC/Art Resource

It was only partly a coincidence that my students have been reading two essays about trials, when so much national attention was focused on the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions. I wondered how different things would be if a writer of Rebecca West’s or William Finnegan’s stature had been present to tell us what exactly transpired during the deliberations in both cases.

Poland’s Jews: Under a New Roof

Shelley Salamensky

Czarek Sokolowski/AP Images

Jews are famously scattered around the world. So, it seems in recent years, are Jewish museums: in Paris, Rome, Vienna, Berlin, as well as cities from Dnipropetrovsk to Shanghai, Caracas to Casablanca. Yet Warsaw—capital of the nation that once held more Jews than any other—was conspicuously absent from the list, until a few weeks ago.

A Weapon for Readers

Tim Parks

Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas

We have too much respect for the printed word, too little awareness of the power words hold over us. We allow worlds to be conjured up for us with very little concern for the implications. We overlook glaring incongruities. Learning to read with pens in our hands would bring huge benefits.

A Thieves’ Thanksgiving

Charles Simic

Joseph Keppler

It ought to be obvious by now that if we ever become a genuine police state, it will not arise from an authoritarian ideology necessarily, but as the end result of that insatiable greed for profit that has already affected every aspect of American life from health care to the way college students are forced into debt. No doubt about it, in the coming holiday season our crooks will have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to celebrate.