The Obama administration’s announcement that it is reviewing US hostage policy has brought fresh attention to what Simon Critchley has called “The Case for Paying Ransoms.” But the brutal executions of US and UK hostages should compel us to the opposite conclusion: that ransoms are a terrible idea, and that by contemplating paying them we are risking a kidnapping pandemic.
Western leaders have until now avoided directly confronting Russia about its part in the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine. But a growing number of unofficial investigations show unambiguously that a Russian missile system was used to down the passenger jet, killing all 298 people on board.
The Met’s notes describe it as “towering tragedy,” but Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is equally a grotesque vaudeville, and Graham Vick’s intensely inventive production (which premiered in 1994 and is now revived for the first time in fourteen years) pays due attention to the grotesque component.
Beyond launching Robert Mapplethorpe’s career, Sam Wagstaff was a prescient curator of contemporary art, all-purpose tastemaker, and pioneering collector of photography. Now we are given a closer look at one of the most remarkable artist/patron relationships of the late twentieth century in Philip Gefter’s new biography, Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe.
At sixty, Turner was both admired and ridiculed, his work leaving critics and spectators baffled and sometimes angry. Many saw his shimmering canvases as a crazed denial of familiar rules. Was his eyesight failing? Was he going mad? Tate Britain’s Late Turner: Painting Set Free is a fittingly autumnal show. Seeing the exhibition with Mike Leigh’s film Mr. Turner is like watching a strange, exhilarating conversation.
Is it better to remain morally consistent and refuse negotiation with an allegedly evil organization, but watch your citizens get beheaded? Or sign up to a principled agreement not to negotiate with “terrorists,” but then negotiate nonetheless, pay a large amount of money to release your citizens, and simply deny the fact publicly?
Virginia Woolf thought one of the pleasures of reading contemporary novels was that you have to decide for yourself if they are good. This uncertainty of ours, as we tackle, say, our first Eggers, our first Pamuk, our first Jelinek, our first Ferrante, or as we switch from an early Roth to a late Roth, is actually part of the pleasure.
In speaking of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as good foreign policy, Russian President Vladimir Putin has violated both a long Soviet taboo and revised his own prior position that the agreement was “immoral.” What it is about this alliance with Nazi Germany that is so appealing just at the present moment? In fact, Putin’s rehabilitation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact follows other recent moves by Moscow to revive the idea of a division of Eastern Europe between Russia and the West.
Never in memory has a midterm election been turned against a president so cynically as it was by the Republicans this year. Scott Brown was among those who made the comprehensive and efficient charge that ISIS was bringing Ebola into America over the Texas border. In exit interviews voters told pollsters that ISIS and Ebola were reasons they voted for Republicans.
“Rembrandt: The Late Works,” an exhibition now on view at London’s National Gallery, will linger long in the mind of anyone who has the pleasure to see it. Bringing together approximately ninety paintings, prints, and drawings Rembrandt made at the end of his life, it reveals a great artist working with unprecedented technical command and emotional power, even as the world closes in around him.