The poet Bill Knott always had some eccentric stunt, like the time he walked out on stage at the Guggenheim Museum carrying a brown paper bag, from which he’d extract a poem written on a small notebook paper, hold it up to the light, read a few marvelous lines of poetry and then stop, telling the people this poem is complete shit—and then go through the same routine again and again before deigning to read an entire poem.
On the European left, criticism of the purported fascism of the post-revolutionary government in Ukraine has been de rigeur. It can only be hoped that the Europe’s electoral results will open some eyes. The European left has a real problem, and it is not the Ukrainian far right. It is the European far right, which happens to be popular, and is supported by the Russian far right, which happens to be in power in Moscow.
As Ukrainians go to the polls to elect a new president, something strange is happening in the east. Its rebels, who a few weeks ago were triumphantly wrenching the region away from Kiev, now seem stalled; but without much sign that the government in Kiev is recapturing its lost authority. Rebel control is partial, but few are ready to risk being beaten, kidnapped, or worse to help run polling stations—or vote.
Ukrainian elections mark the eastern boundary of European democracy, which is why they are so threatening for Moscow. With a regularity that is clearly unwelcome, Ukrainians stand up for their rights. Ukraine has deep problems, which can best be addressed by fresh elections—the presidential ones on Sunday, and hopefully parliamentary elections this fall. Ukrainians should be allowed to get on with it.
Today’s successful author will sooner or later be invited to sell personal papers. Not just manuscripts, typescripts, notebooks, but electronic data too. Your emails to your children, your ex-wife or husband, lovers, ex-lovers, dying parents, estranged cousins, needy friends, your fencing with would-be publishers and agents, your self-promotional lobbying for the Pulitzer or the Booker.
A few days before the killings in Tiananmen Square, thousands of unarmed soldiers marched towards the square only to be scolded by elderly women and shamed into turning back. A column of tanks had been stalled on the edge of the city, where young men urinated on their treads while local women offered the crews cups of tea. Now we really thought the Party was finished. How wrong we were.
Julien Sorel’s grudge bred that peculiar amalgamation that was the tragic experience of all the revolutions of the twentieth century. A begrudged rebellion and the need for vengeance changed a rebel into an executioner—the heirs of Robespierre and Danton, Julien Sorel and Auguste Blanqui, taught us that. We listen very carefully to the words of the rebels who wish to turn everything upside down. And we closely watch their hands. We know all the sins and villainies of this world of ours. Sometimes Stendhalian fury grips us.
Paolo Veronese’s prodigious facility, love of magnificence, and untroubled service to the dreams of wealthy clients were all counted against him for much of the twentieth century. Few great artists have seemed less radical or rebellious. But this reaction overlooks his own ambitions as a painter as revealed in The Family of Darius before Alexander. He worked with breathtaking dispatch and unerring certainty, and was able to create almost any effect.
It is crucial to understand what happened to Cao Shunli, a Chinese legal rights activist who had a chronic liver condition when she was detained last year. She died on March 14 after being denied treatment in prison—a pattern that has emerged with other Chinese detainees.
When you head for the exit in the cinema, something I do fairly often, you possibly bother the person next to you for a few seconds, but you can’t upset what’s happening on the screen. As for a book, no one will be disturbed or offended when you send it off with the old newspapers for recycling. The theater is quite different, especially the small, intimate stages where experimental material first gets an airing.