In the Review Archives: 1969–1971

The Editors

A still from Easy Rider, 1969

“In 1969, the Year of the Pig, participants in what is known as (descriptively) youth culture or (smugly) hip culture or (incompletely) pop culture or (longingly) the cultural revolution are going through big changes,” Ellen Willis begins, writing at the end of that year on Dennis Hopper’s film Easy Rider and Arthur Penn’s Alice’s Restaurant. Willis identifies “a pervasive feeling that everything is disintegrating, including the counter-culture itself.” Her essay is at once a contemporary report on the state of American culture and a retrospective look at the Sixties, grappling with what she calls “the overpowering sense of loss, the anguish of What went wrong? We blew it—how?

Leon Golub’s Men Behaving Cruelly

Zack Hatfield

Leon Golub: Tete De Cheval II, 1963

“Raw Nerve,” which spans seven decades and comprises mostly lesser-known paintings, drawings, and lithographs, shows the Leon Golub’s affinity for antiquity, juxtaposing his tableaux of soldiers, mercenaries, and other powerful men with the traditions of ancient Roman and Greek art, as well as other classical genres. Although their scale references early history paintings, which typically sought to heroize characters from a specific past, Golub’s works repeatedly portray men enacting violence in settings mostly stripped of period detail, as if to suggest that history itself can be reduced to men behaving cruelly.  

Germany: With Centrists Like These…

Madeleine Schwartz

Supporters of Germany's far-right AfD party holding a banner that reads,

Pundits often marvel at how quickly Germany’s far-right AfD has acquired power. But if the party has gained prominence, in some polls even surpassing the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), it is because the anti-immigrant sentiment it represents has, in fact, been present as an undercurrent in German politics for years. Even if the AfD, constantly beset by internal conflicts and scandal, implodes, he says, “there will be another right-wing populist party” to take its place.

Do Flashbacks Work in Literature?

Tim Parks

Max Ferguson: Time (oil painting), 2006

Is there no merit or sense in the flashback as a literary device? Didn’t Joyce use it? And Faulkner? Or David Lodge, for that matter? Or John Updike? Or going back before Austen, Laurence Sterne? In which case, can there really be, as Colm Tóibín appears to suggest, an association between the flashback and “our unhappy age”?

Rebuilding Mosul, Book by Book

Shawn Carrié and Pesha Magid

Mosul residents meeting at the Book Forum café, January 6, 2018

Fahad couldn’t stop ISIS burning books and libraries, but he dreamed that once the war ended, he could do something to bring books back to his city. Through them, he dreamed of creating a place where people could discover and share ideas that would change Mosul’s future. Today, that dream has become a reality. Down the road from Mosul University on Majmou’a Street, in a busy East Mosul shopping district, is the Book Forum. Part library, part café, it is a space where people can sit and share coffee and conversation at communal tables, or curl up alone with a book.

A New Dawn in Uzbekistan?

Ahmed Rashid

Tashkent, Uzbekistan, October 5, 2017

After spending decades as a pariah state, feared or at best ignored by even its near neighbors because of its reputation as one of the most repressive and closed nations in the world, Uzbekistan is slowly emerging from the shadows. Along with other Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan is worried about the expansion of the Taliban and ISIS into Afghanistan—and, under a new president, is for the first time taking the lead on making peace in the region.

‘Così’ in Coney

Larry Wolff

Ben Bliss as Ferrando, Amanda Majeski as Fiordiligi, Serena Malfi as Dorabella, and Adam Plachetka as Guglielmo in Mozart's Così fan tutte, 2018

There are few operatic works so cheerfully indifferent to morals as Così fan tutte, and it was largely deplored and rarely performed through most of the nineteenth century. Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, Jewish by birth, became a Catholic priest and then caused scandal by his libertine love affairs before leaving the priesthood; he was having an affair with the soprano who created the role of Fiordiligi. As for Mozart, he was the man who knew all about the serial courtship of sisters, since he first fell in love with Aloysia Weber and then married her younger sister Constanze.

Renoir’s Onions

Christopher Benfey

Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Onions, 1881

Emerson, our cultural founding father, thought that the major contribution of the art of his own time was a new understanding of ordinary life. I am reminded of Emerson’s admonition whenever I make a pilgrimage to see one of my favorite paintings in all of New England: Renoir’s group portrait of six onions and two bulbs of garlic, painted in Naples in 1881. In them, one can see in a flash what Meyer Schapiro meant when he called still-life painting part of “a democratizing trend in art that gives a positive significance to the everyday world.”

Marching for Our Lives

Liza Batkin, Lucy Jakub, and Lucy McKeon

Young people dressed in bright puffer jackets and pom pom hats were accompanied by older chaperones, some wearing buttons and stickers, and holding signs that conveyed simple messages of urgency: Protect kids, not guns, Books not bullets, and Arms for hugging, not for killing (in the uneven crayon scrawl of a seven-year-old named Henry).

German Art, Out of the Rubble

Claire Messud

Louise Rösler: Frankfurt in Rubble, 1947–1948

Many of the artists here will be relatively new to American audiences, who are likely more familiar with pre-war German names—Beckmann, Dix, Grosz, Klee, Kandinsky—and contemporary ones—Baselitz, Richter, Kiefer. The exhibition features German art from 1943 to 1955: late works by Otto Dix, as well as by Fritz Winter (including that first acquisition), and an exhilarating range by Willi Baumeister, with exuberant large paintings such as Growth of the Crystals II (1947–1952) and Large Montaru (1953). The energy, colors, and lines of these later Baumeister works, recalling Kandinsky and Klee, delight—but more unexpected are the small early lacquers he produced, along with Oskar Schlemmer and Franz Krause, in Wuppertal during the war. Their ethereal beauty in the face of such destruction is itself a type of resistance.