January 27, 2009
"By 1938, I had read so many books that I wrote one."
Delmore Schwartz, The Ego Is Always at the Wheel: Bagatelles (courtesy of Paul Moravec)
Posted January 27, 2009 12:00 AM
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This is a blog about the arts in New York City and the rest of America, written by Terry Teachout, Laura Demanski (otherwise known as Our Girl in Chicago, or "OGIC" for short), and Carrie Frye (who signs her postings "CAAF"). Terry, who lives in New York, is the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal and the music critic of Commentary.
Terry's latest book, Pops: The Life of Louis Armstrong, will be published by Harcourt in the fall of 2009. One of his essays is included in Robert Gottlieb's Reading Dance, just out from Pantheon. He contributed an essay to Coudal Partners' Field-Tested Books (as did OGIC) and wrote the introductions to William Bailey on Canvas and the paperback edition of Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado.
To watch Terry's wsj.com review of Shrek the Musical, go here.
Terry is collaborating with Paul Moravec on The Letter, an operatic version of Somerset Maugham's 1927 play. It was commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera and will open there on July 25, 2009. Here is an ongoing series of progress reports on the writing and production of The Letter.
Lend me your ears (and eyes)
Men at work
Men at work (II)
Men at work (III)
Men at work (IV)
For better and worse
Men at work (V)
Men (and women) at work (VI)
Notes from an unkept diary
The case for lower-case opera
The envelope, please
Right turn at Albuquerque
Men at work (VII)
Scene stealing (I)
Scene stealing (II)
Becoming an artist
In one piece
Among the brethren
By the clock
No, but I heard the movie
The Doctor is in
A doll's house
Free at last
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Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life (Little, Brown, $30, out Feb. 25). The first full-length biography of Flannery O'Connor is now available for pre-ordering. Flannery is lucidly written, sympathetic yet detached, thorough but not overly detailed. Among Gooch's more startling revelations: "Good Country People" is autobiographical, more or less. Don't expect too, many shockers, but don't worry about it, either. Surprising or not, this is the book O'Connor's admirers have been waiting for, and it does her justice (TT).
Jim Hall and Bill Frisell, Hemispheres (ArtistShare, two CDs). An unprecedented collaboration between two guitarists whose sharply contrasting styles have more in common than you might suppose. The first disc is devoted to duets, the second to quartet performances featuring Scott Colley on bass and Joey Baron on drums. The fare varies from pop and jazz standards to challenging free improvisations in which Frisell lays down avant-garde "sonic landscapes" (his phrase) on top of which Hall soliloquizes with arresting eloquence. Rich, complex, involving (TT).
The Cripple of Inishmaan (Atlantic, 336 W. 20, extended through March 1). Galway's Druid Theatre Company brings its letter-perfect revival of Martin McDonagh's 1997 comedy to New York. What would you be waiting for? This soot-black portrayal of Irish village life at its most claustrophobic is immaculately cast and exquisitely staged by Garry Hynes. Yes, it's a comedy, and a touching one--but be careful where you touch it or you're liable to come away with burnt fingers. Anyone who's allergic to stage-Irish clichés will revel in the wildly funny savagery with which McDonagh skewers them through and through (TT).
Frederic Spotts, The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation (Yale, $35). New from the author of Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, the first book-length study of how France's culturati coped with the German occupation. The answer is in the title. Virtually all French artists played ball with the Nazis in one way or another, and some of the greatest (including the incomparable pianist Alfred Cortot) did their bidding with foul alacrity. Spotts' book is insufficiently detailed and lacks full source notes, but the story it tells is both true and compelling--as well as depressing. Anyone naïve enough to think of artists as a nobler breed should read it and weep (TT).
Schubert Piano Trios (ArtistLed). Magnificently played performances of Schubert's resplendent B Flat and E Flat Trios by Philip Setzer, David Finckel and Wu Han. It's all in the family: Setzer and Finckel play violin and cello in the Emerson String Quartet, while Wu Han, the brilliant pianist, is Finckel's wife. As for the record label, it's a mom-and-pop Web-based operation run out of the Finckels' New York apartment--but rest assured that there's nothing remotely amateurish about the playing or production on this must-have album (TT).
Out of the Past
The Man Who Came to Dinner. With one exception, Hollywood did poorly by the plays of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. This screen version of their most enduringly popular comedy, released in 1942, is the only Kaufman-Hart film that clearly suggests the theatrical quality of the play on which it's based, in large part because Monty Woolley, who created the role of Sheridan Whiteside on Broadway, repeated his justly celebrated performance for the cameras. Yes, it's stagy, but so was the irascible Whiteside, a (barely) fictional portrait of Alexander Woollcott, and Woolley played him with enormous relish and malice aforethought. Don't ask me why Bette Davis was cast as the good-egg heroine--she's soooo not the type--but everyone else is competent or better, while the script, by Julius and Philip Epstein, sticks surprisingly close to the play. Jimmy Durante, of all people, plays Banjo, a character based on Harpo Marx, and does it well (TT).
Rex Stout, Some Buried Caesar/The Golden Spiders. So you've never read a Nero Wolfe mystery and want to know the best way to make the acquaintance of the portly detective who raises orchids, never leaves his New York brownstone on business, and leaves the legwork (and narration) to his trusty assistant Archie Goodwin. What's your next move? I suggest that you order a copy of this double-decker Bantam paperback that reprints two of the best Wolfe novels, the first originally published in 1939 and the second in 1953. Rex Stout's witty, fast-moving prose hasn't dated a day, while Wolfe himself is one of the enduringly great eccentrics of popular fiction. I've spent the past three decades reading and re-reading Stout's novels for pleasure, and they have yet to lose their savor (TT).
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Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Rebuilding Gulf Culture after Katrina
Douglas McLennan's blog
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Martha Bayles on Film...
Drew McManus on orchestra management
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jerome Weeks on Books
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
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Archive 5570 entries and counting
A list of new things we've liked (subject to unexpected and wildly capricious updating).
Not new, but still worth a look or listen (and no less subject to change without notice).