In the Mood: Terry Teachout riffs on music and the pleasures of the flesh.
Was Louisa May Alcott infatuated with Hawthorne (“a rat with women”), Emerson — and Thoreau?
From a former Houghton Mifflin employee: “Even though the company dropped me like a creepy date when [expurgated], I feel a certain loss every time I see Hufty Mufty, Old Mother Mifflin, get passed around like some pimp’s tired goods.”
Phil Campbell, author of Zioncheck for President, contributes occasional Q&As to this site. Below he talks with historian Stephen Prothero, author of American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon, about Americans’ conveniently mutating interpretations of the Christian savior.
(I post this interview in the spirit of the barroom conversation, although I disagree with much of what is said toward the end of the exchange, particularly Prothero’s assertion that “one reason for the Democrats’ recent success is their newfound ‘godliness.’” I don’t believe this is true. And, on a side note, even if it were, it wouldn’t be something to embrace. Our government is designed to protect religious observance and belief while standing wholly apart from it. I’ll leave it at that. Your mileage may vary.)
The friendly Jesus lives on of course, in the hearts and minds of many an evangelical. But I remain convinced that, post-9/11, we are in an era of terror, and a more macho and militaristic Jesus fits that era better than the Mr. Rogers’ Jesus of times past. Lots of things could turn this around. In fact, one of the themes of American Jesus is that Our Hero is forever driven hither and yon by the cultural, political, and economic winds. Shift the circumstances, and Jesus will morph into something else. So, for example, if a real grassroots movement against the war in Iraq emerges, we might see Jesus in more of a pacifist mode. And if a dirty bomb explodes in an American city, we will become even more further entrenched in He-Man Jesus. Continue reading…
Man. I have gone through my periods of disenchantment with New York City, no doubt about that, but the visceral revulsion I’ve started to feel on waking and moving through my days is something new. Thus the quiet. Also, the redesign (a million thanks, Max), which hasn’t proved as motivational as I’d hoped.
I know it’s not just where I live — though a mushroom did spring fully-formed overnight from the bathroom wall this summer — it’s also what I’m doing. Namely: working the 9-5, avoiding TGBIW, and trying not to wilt like my hibiscus plant as the daylight hours shrink.
In the late poetry of Mark Strand, “The self is not unknowable and jettisoned, but unknowable and utterly present, which is worse.”
“Kingsley and Martin Amis once had a good row about the word ‘dilapidated.’”
Venezuela’s new electronic voting system involves paper receipts. Officials will count them and compare the totals against electronic results.
At The Elegant Variation, Jonathan Lethem talks Daniel Fuchs, Shirley Jackson, and “the utter and irreversible canonization” of Philip K. Dick.
I believe I’d flee the baronessa’s literary retreat/finishing school, too. That, or use the lobster fork to shove peas up my nose.
The Smart Set is a weekly feature, compiled by Lauren Cerand, that usually appears Mondays at 12:30pm and highlights the best of the week to come. Special favor is given to New York’s independent booksellers and venues, and low-cost and free events. Please send details to lauren [at] maudnewton.com by the Thursday prior to publication, with the eventÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s date in the subject line.
TUESDAY, 11.28: “The Yeshiva University Museum (YUM) invites you to an evening of readings by six emerging New York City-based writers who were commissioned to create original pieces of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry inspired by Orna Ben-AmiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sculpture, Roots, on display in the exhibition, Feminine Principals: Works in Iron, Fiber and Glass. The readings explore the contrasting experiences of rootedness and rootlessness and present personal responses to the sculpture.” 7:00pm, $8 museum admission (although entry is FREE for anyone who mentions the Smart Set!). And, “The Educational Alliance is pleased to announce that Clifford Chase (Winkie), Christopher Sorrentino (Trance), and Dana Spiotta (Eat the Document) will be appearing as part of our series, Writers at the Alliance… WRITERS, GUERILLAS AND BEARS: Three novelists read about homegrown radicals, underground moms, and fugitive bears.” Notes organizer Liz Brown, “Lingering at Bar 169 will be encouraged.” Highly recommended. 7:00pm, FREE.
WEDNESDAY, 11.29: Men love Amanda Stern, and women love happy endings…or wait, is it the other way around? Jet lag has me all mixed up, but I’ll be there to snag a front-row seat for a risky evening with writers Jennifer Banash, Alix Strauss, Robert Marshall, Mila Drumke, and musician Paul Brill [full disclosure, as always: it's been my pleasure to work with Robert to publicize his debut novel, A Separate Reality]. 8:00pm, FREE. Just prior, jen bekman hosts a talk on “Artists in the New World,” exploring representational art in user-generated landscapes, as “Moderator Marisa Olson of Rhizome will lead a casual conversation with James Deavin and Eva + Franco Mattes. The discussion will be about their respective projects documenting Second Life” [full disclosure, as always: I am the gallery's PR director]. 6:00pm, FREE.
THURSDAY, 11.30: My pal Katherine Lanpher reads from her debut, Leap Days, at the Pete’s Candy Store Reading Series. 7:30pm, FREE. And it’s hard to find something that doesn’t intrigue in Two or Three Things I Know About Her, of which Godard said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I wanted to include everything: sports, politics, even groceries. Everything should be put into a film.Ã¢â‚¬Â At Film Forum.
FRIDAY, 12.1: Says Steve Cosson, artistic director of politically-astute theater troupe (and perennial Smart Set fave) The Civilians: “Just wanted to let you know weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doing a reading at The Public this Friday of our play PARIS COMMUNE, new and improved. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the culminating reading of a two week workshop weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been doing with The Public. Great cast, all very exciting… if you can come just show up weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d love to have you there.” 8:00pm, FREE. And, Au Revoir Simone, my nomination for “band most likely to hang the moon,” plays Bowery Ballroom. 9:00pm, $18.
SATURDAY, 12.2: At the Museum of Modern Art, Manet and the Execution of Maximilian: “Abandoned by the French government that crowned him and sent him to Mexico, the Emperor Maximilian was executed by a firing squad of Benito JuÃƒÂ¡rez’s army at QuerÃƒÂ©taro, north of Mexico City, on June 19, 1867. News of the execution reached Paris on July 1, just as Napoleon III was inaugurating that year’s Universal Exposition. Ãƒâ€°douard Manet set to work almost immediately, and by early 1869 he had completed a series of four paintings and one lithograph of the subject.” Highly recommended. And, finishing off my idea of a perfect date, Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera: “Franco ZeffirelliÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lavish production provides the perfect backdrop for PucciniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s drama-filled Tosca, with its onstage stabbing, execution by firing squad, suicidal leap, and, of course, sublime score of abundant melody.” 8:00pm, ticket prices vary.
SUNDAY, 12.3: Pretend to be too focused on rolling that cigarette to notice the Fairway across the street, and amble on nonplussed down to the waterfront, my little bohemians, as Sundays at Sunny’s presents an afternoon of eclectic entertainment spanning “from skyscraper ledges high over Manhattan, to Uganda in the aftermath of Idi AminÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dictatorship, to the wilds of Maine…” 3:00pm, FREE.
UPCOMING: Lou Reed’s Berlin at St. Ann’s Warehouse.