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Thursday October 31

HOW TO WRITE BOOKS AND INFLUENCE GOVERNMENTS: Greek author Vassilis Vassilikos may be the embodiment of the old literary cliche about the pen and the sword. He may just be the only author on earth who can claim that one of his books helped to bring down a military dictatorship. And yet, Vassilikos, who has penned 98 books over a career which spans a half-century, does not get caught up in the power and glory of it all. "I am known as a political writer but I think of myself more as a writer of erotic novels." Toronto Star 10/31/02

Tuesday October 29

JOHN LAHR REMEMBERS ADOPH GREEN: "He could sing a symphony—or, literally, throw himself into song. Head bobbing, voice croaking, arms pinwheeling, Green whipped himself up until he attained full dervishosity. A sort of prodigy of playfulness, he was unabashed by silliness and quite capable of pursuing frivolity to zany heights. In his version of Flight of the Bumble Bee, for instance, he would start as if he were playing the violin, only to end up flitting and buzzing like the bee." The New Yorker 10/28/02

Monday October 28

SO WHO IS DANA GIOIA? Nominated by President Bush to be chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia is "a writer with a background as a businessman. He is a registered Republican who voted for George W. Bush and for his father before that. His poetry is not political. His criticism, essays and reviews are not polemical. Rather, Mr. Gioia appears to be someone with a wide range of artistic and intellectual interests who is passionate about making poetry more accessible to the public. Yes, his essay Can Poetry Matter?, which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1991 and then in a collection of his essays, angered academics because he accused them of making poetry an insular enterprise." The New York Times 10/28/02

MARTEL'S 'OVERNIGHT' SUCCESS: Last week Yann Martel won the Booker Prize. Not many had heard of him before that. He got only a $20,000 for Canadian rights to Life of Pi, US$75,000 for US rights and was turned down by five UK publishers before getting $36,000 for the UK rights from a struggling publisher. For four years those advances were his only income. "I could only do it because I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't have a car. I have roommates. I wear second-hand clothes. I have no TV. I have no stereo. My only expenses are my notebooks and my computer." National Post (Canada) 10/28/02

Sunday October 27

VIDAL SAVAGES BUSH ADMINISTRATION: "America's most controversial writer, Gore Vidal, has launched the most scathing attack to date on George W Bush's Presidency, calling for an investigation into the events of 9/11 to discover whether the Bush administration deliberately chose not to act on warnings of Al-Qaeda's plans. Vidal's highly controversial 7000 word polemic titled 'The Enemy Within' argues that what he calls a 'Bush junta' used the terrorist attacks as a pretext to enact a pre-existing agenda to invade Afghanistan and crack down on civil liberties at home." The Observer (UK) 10/27/02

CAMELOT'S KING PASSES: "Richard Harris, the voluble Irishman who starred as King Arthur in the film version of "Camelot" and more recently played Albus Dumbledore, the wise, magical and benign headmaster in the first Harry Potter movie and its forthcoming sequel, died yesterday in London. He was 72." The New York Times 10/26/02

BELLESILES RESIGNS FROM EMORY: "Historian Michael A. Bellesiles, author of a controversial 2000 book on gun ownership in early America, resigned from Emory University in Atlanta yesterday after a devastating indictment of his research was made by an outside committee of scholars... Mainstream scholars raised questions [in 2001] about research Bellesiles did into probate records. His credibility problems were compounded when he said that he had lost all of his research notes in a flood at Emory." Boston Globe 10/26/02

THE NEW WAVE: "Every half century, history rolls at us another wave of composers who will change the way music is heard and played. At the beginning of the 20th century came Debussy and Schoenberg, soon joined by Bartok and Stravinsky. In the 1950's, those arriving ranged from John Cage to Milton Babbitt. Now it is time for another great sweep, perhaps going in even more diverse directions and prompted from farther out on the periphery. The 20th century's revolutions were led from Europe and then the United States; now may come the turn of China, Australia and Latin America." Exhibit A may be Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov. The New York Times 10/27/02

Friday October 25

ADOLPH GREEN, 87: Adolph Green, half of a songwriting team with Betty Comden, has died. "The best Comden and Green lyrics were brash and buoyant, full of quick wit, best exemplified by New York, New York, an exuberant and forthright hymn to their favorite city. Yet even the songwriters' biggest pop hits - The Party's Over, Just in Time and Make Someone Happy - were simple, direct and heartfelt." Nando Times (AP) 10/24/02

  • REMEMBERING COMDEN & GREEN: "They represented the ultimate New York chic in a downtown way, with a rollicking playfulness and perhaps just a touch of sweet-yet-sophisticated sadness." Hartford Courant 10/25/02

Wednesday October 23

HOUELLEBECQ CLEARED BY FRENCH COURT: French writer Michel Houellebecq has been cleared of inciting racial hatred by saying Islam was 'the stupidest religion'. A panel of three judges in Paris declared that the author was not guilty after he was sued by four Muslim groups. He made the comments in an interview with the literary magazine Lire in 2001. The case was seen as an important battle between free speech and religious conservatism." BBC 10/23/02

DRABINSKY CHARGED: Theatre producers Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb have been charged with 19 counts of fraud in Toronto arising from the loss of half a billion dollars to his investors. "One thing even his most unforgiving foes would have to admit is that unlike, say, the disgraced executives in the Enron scandal, Drabinsky was never primarily motivated by an appetite for personal wealth. Throughout his spectacular rise and fall at Cineplex Odeon in the 1980s as well as his tragic second act at Livent in the 1990s, it was always clear Drabinsky was chasing a much bigger dream than money." Toronto Star 10/23/02

THE MAN CHALLENGING COPYRIGHT: Eric Eldred is a quiet, unassuming man. But his case before the US Supreme Court challenging the 1998 copyright extension law could change the course of creative history. "At 59, he is unassuming, shy, and soft-spoken. Yet his passion for publishing on the Internet is unmistakable. He envisions a society in which literacy and democracy are advanced through the online dissemination and discussion of great literature. Literature, he says, should not be 'locked up in a library and accessible [only] to high priests of academia ... People have as much power as a printing press' in their own computers." Chronicle of Higher Education 10/25/02

SD GLOBE THEATRE HIRES SPISTO: Louis Spisto has been named executive director of the Globe Theatres in San Diego. Spisto is former exec director of American Ballet Theatre and the Pacific Symphony. "Spisto resigned from ABT under pressure in 2001, after several staff resignations, rocky relations with some board members, and an ousted employee's claim of sex and age discrimination."But the Globe says: "The controversy "doesn't say as much about Lou as it does about that organization, which has a history of dysfunctional situations with its leaders."
Los Angeles Times 10/23/02

Monday October 21

KEITH JARRETT'S NEW STYLE: Pianist Keith Jarrett became ill six years ago, and during the long rehabilitation when he didn't play, Jarrett re-evaluated his art. "I didn’t like a lot of my long introductions, and there were lots of things I wasn’t happy with about my touch. My illness gave me an opportunity that very few musicians have, to re-evaluate everything. I wanted to reconnect to the idea of sounding like a horn — a trumpet or saxophone." The Times (UK) 10/21/02

GREATEST BRITON EVER? Who is the greatest Briton ever? The BBC is taking a poll. Of the finalists, "only three of the top 10 are from the 20th century - John Lennon, Winston Churchill and Princess Diana. Three are scientists or engineers - Brunel, Darwin and Newton - and three are national leaders - Cromwell, Elizabeth I and Churchill." BBC 10/20/02

Sunday October 20

THE DAVE EGGERS PUZZLE: Dave Eggers' new book is being self-published and he's giving away the money earned from it. With the success of his last book he could have done anything he wanted. "He's so averse to promoting himself that it is the canniest act of self-promotion. He really doesn't care - really. But that's hard for anyone in the frenzy business to believe." Los Angeles Times 10/20/02

RUNNING ON ABOUT RENEE: Renee Fleming is the diva of the moment. She's a breakout artist who's fame surpasses the concert hall. "One measure of her special hold on the American public is the constant stream of feature articles that have brought her personal history into the household of anyone who watches television or subscribes to magazines. Her girl-next-door upbringing. Her initial uncertainties in finding her direction as a classical musician. Her seemingly picture-perfect marriage.. The New York Times 10/20/02

Friday October 18

SCHAMA COMES OUT: Simon Schama is the most popular TV historian in Britain, a star who gets recognized on the street. "He is an intellectual superstar, a professor at Columbia in New York, where tickets for his lectures on art history and history are traded by touts. Last year, his colossal popularity helped sales of history books in Britain exceed, for the first time, those of cookery books, and applications to study history at university are increasing." The Telegraph (UK) 10/18/02

Thursday October 17

BUFORD TO LEAVE NYer EDITOR JOB: Bill Buford, who has been The New Yorker's fiction editor since 1994, is leaving the job to be the magazine's European correspondent. "In a way, it's going from the best editing job in town to the best writing job in town-except it's not in town." New York Observer 10/16/02

Wednesday October 16

MORE AMBROSE DEBATE: Some critics felt that obituaries of the historian Stephen Ambrose glossed over reports of his plagiarism, but Tim Rutten detected the opposite bias, singling out the Boston Globe as the most egregious Ambrose-basher, and pointing out that paraphrase (and footnoted paraphrase, at that) is very different from plagiarism. "All synoptic, narrative historians, which is what Ambrose was, paraphrase from other sources. If the standards laid down by his most rabid critics were applied to the four Evangelists, the three Synoptic Gospels would have to be denounced as acts of plagiarism--as would a substantial and revered part of the extant medieval corpus." Los Angeles Times 10/16/02

Tuesday October 15

YOUNG AT HEART: Two weeks ago Simone Young was fired as general director of Opera Australia. But not right away; she'll stay on running the company until her contract is up next year. Isn't it awkward working for the people who just fired you? Sure. But in the meantime there are operas to be produced, audiences to be made happy... The Age (Melbourne) 10/15/02

FRIDA FETISH: Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is "currently the height of radical chic, and is likely to be even more in vogue when Julie Taymor's movie Frida, starring Salma Hayek, opens next year. But it is hard not to feel that there is something distasteful and unhealthy about the way we like our artists - particularly if they are women - to suffer. Would there be half as much interest in Kahlo's paintings if her life had been half as colourful and tragic?" The Guardian (UK) 10/14/02

THE HIDDEN AMBROSE: Why did obituaries of author Stephen Ambrose gloss over his plagiarism? "Ambrose's pilferage was much more than a slip-up in a 'couple of books.' As the Weekly Standard,, and New York Times proved in one damning week last January, Ambrose plagiarized all the time." Slate 10/14/02

Monday October 14

COVENT GARDEN'S NEW MAN: Anthony Pappano is Covent Garden's new music director. It's a big and controversial position, the kind of job you have to grow into. But Pappano has confidence. "I think the house feels a new energy because I am always here and going to rehearsals and sort of going at 100 miles per hour all the time. And this opera house has needed that kind of investment." The New York Times 10/14/02

THE TRUTH ABOUT MARIA: A doctor who treated Maria Callas for dermatomyositis, a degenerative tissue disease, is speaking out about the famed soprano's illness more than 25 years after her death because, he says, he has been incensed by ongoing portrayals of Callas as a disturbed prima donna who retired from the stage as a result of mental instabilities. The doctor further asserts that the diva's death in 1977 came not as a result of heartbreak (her husband abandoned her to marry Jacqueline Kennedy) but from a heart attack brought on by her disease. Andante (AP) 10/14/02

DEFINING MOMENT: Connecticut arts leaders were surprised when Kate Sellers resigned as director of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art earlier this month in the middle of raising $120 million for an expansion. "Sellers' walking away from what would have been a career-defining moment, at one of the most pivotal periods in the museum's 160-year history, makes one wonder what was going on..." Hartford Courant 10/14/02

ARCHER ESCAPES PUNISHMENT: Writer, former MP (and convicted felon) Jeffrey Archer has escaped punishment for breaking prison rules and publishing a diary he wrote while in his cell. "Archer, 62, had his £12-a-day prison earnings stopped for 14 days and was banned from using the prison canteen for two weeks. The punishment was suspended for six months" if Archer doesn't break the rules again. The Times (UK) 10/11/02

  • ARCHER'S BANAL DIARY: What about Archer's "literary" impressions of prison life? "Completely worthless from the literary point of view, and relentlessly banal in thought, observation and analysis, they are nonetheless revealing: of Lord Archer's mind and personality rather than of the prison system. And to be privy to Archer's mind in full cry is a depressing experience indeed." The Telegraph (UK) 10/14/02
  • Previously: LETTER FROM PRISON: Jeffrey Archer's diary from prison describing his life there is being published and serialized in the Daily Mail next week. But prison authorities say the diary may break prison rules. "He can't make money while he is a serving prisoner from publications and I have a duty to protect the privacy of other prisoners and members of staff. He has to respect that." If he has broken rules, time may be added to his sentence. The Guardian (UK) 10/05/02

Sunday October 13

BEVERLY'S BACK: Was it really only six months ago that Beverly Sills resigned her post at the head of New York's Lincoln Center, following a contentious debate over the complex's impending expansion and renovation? At the time, Sills said that she was retiring, and wanted to "smell the flowers a little bit." But apparently the quiet life wasn't all it was cracked up to be for Sills, 73, who has just accepted the chairmanship of the Metropolitan Opera. The Met is, of course, Lincoln Center's most powerful tenant, putting Sills smack in the middle of the same debates she so recently bowed out of. The New York Times 10/12/02

STEPHEN AMBROSE, 66: Stephen Ambrose, the eminent historian whose colloquial style made him a bestselling author as well as a respected researcher, has died at the age of 66 after a long battle with lung cancer. Ambrose had lately been battling charges of plagiarism in several of his works. The New York Times (AP) 10/13/02

Thursday October 10

THE RADICALIZATION OF LARRY LESSIG: Lawrence Lessig is taking on the business that controls big entertainment. This week he's arguing his case before the US Supreme Court. "The entertainment industry, Lessig believes, is locking up old movies, books and songs that long ago should have transcended private ownership and become the property of the people. At stake, he says, is not only our common cultural heritage, but also the freedom that writers and musicians and filmmakers must have to interpret, reinterpret, adapt, borrow, sample, mock, imitate, parody, criticize - the very lifeblood of the creative process. But Lessig doesn't merely want to free the past. He wants to free the future as well." Chicago Tribune 10/10/02

THINK OF IT AS A HIGH BUDGET LOVE-IN: Yoko Ono has never shied away from controversy. That much can be agreed upon by all. And Ms. Ono has come a long way from her days staring down the TV cameras while lying naked in a bed with John Lennon. This week, Ono, now a successful artist in her own right, "bestowed the first Lennon Ono Grant for Peace to Israeli Zvi Goldstein and Palestinian Khalil Rabah on Wednesday at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, for their efforts to remain "creative and inspirational" amid the tensions of war." The grant is US$50,000, and was presented on what would have been Lennon's 62nd birthday. BBC 10/10/02

Wednesday October 9

BACK TO TELL ABOUT IT: "Gabriel García Márquez, the 1982 Nobel laureate from Colombia and the foremost author in Latin America, learned in 1999 that he had lymphatic cancer. He promptly cloistered himself with a single-minded pursuit not seen perhaps since he wrote the 1967 masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, in a little more than a year, his only vice a steady supply of cigarettes provided by his wife, Mercedes." Now he's about to release "what may be his most-awaited book, Vivir Para Contarla, or To Live to Tell It." The New York Times 10/09/02

Tuesday October 8

OHNESORG RESIGNS BERLIN: Deutsche Presse-Agentur is reporting that Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, general manager of the Berlin Philharmonic, will step down from the job January 1, 2003. The orchestra says he's leaving for personal reasons. Before going to Berlin Ohnesorg had a short and stormy stint running Carnegie Hall in New York. Andante (DPA) 10/08/02

Monday October 7

LEONARDO'S HUMBLE ORIGINS: Was Leonardo da Vinci the son of a Middle Eastern slave. After 25 years of research the director of an Italian museum located near the Leonardo's birthplace in Tuscany has concluded as much... Discovery 09/26/02

Sunday October 6

LETTER FROM PRISON: Jeffrey Archer's diary from prison describing his life there is being published and serialized in the Daily Mail next week. But prison authorities say the diary may break prison rules. "He can't make money while he is a serving prisoner from publications and I have a duty to protect the privacy of other prisoners and members of staff. He has to respect that." If he has broken rules, time may be added to his sentence. The Guardian (UK) 10/05/02

Friday October 4

20 SHORT YEARS WITHOUT GLENN GOULD: "If you're reading this at 11: 30 a.m., it is precisely 20 years since Glenn Gould left this life... Gould must be seen as Canada's greatest contribution to classical music, as his work continues to inspire a seemingly endless stream of books, films, documentaries and miscellaneous other monuments and remembrances in all corners of the world. He once said that be didn't believe anybody would come to his funeral. Three thousand people did, and every day many thousands more continue to pay homage to the man by listening to his music over and over again." Ottawa Citizen 10/04/02

WHERE THE SNOBBERY IS: Maurice Sendak's illustrations are unmistakable, and his drawings for such children's classics as Where the Wild Things Are made him a legend to generations of young readers. But like so many popular artists before and after him, Sendak has some trouble being taken as a serious artist. "Snobbery is the biggest obstacle to him being recognized as a fine artist," says Nichols Clark, director of the new Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. "And it's not just Sendak. There are many illustrators who are far better artists than those who consider themselves fine artists." The Christian Science Monitor 10/04/02

Thursday October 3

BARENBOIM THE PEACEMAKER: Israeli conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim, who has made waves in the Middle East twice in recent months, has co-authored a new book with Palestinian intellectual Edward Said calling for peace in the region. "The book, titled Parallels and Paradoxes, grew out of conversations between the two friends, both prominent cultural figures who first met a decade ago by chance at a London hotel... Last month, [Barenboim] and Said were named the winners of Spain's Prince of Asturias Concord Prize for their efforts toward bringing peace to the Middle East." Andante (AP) 10/03/02

Wednesday October 2

DEUTSCHE OPER DIRECTOR TO QUIT: Deutsche Oper director Udo Zimmermann is quitting the company after his contract expires next July. Zimmermann says he "found himself unable to continue 'his sophisticated artistic concept in the Deutsche Oper beyond the 2002-3 season,' in part because of the Berlin's poor financial condition and the opera's $1.7 million deficit. Washington Post (AP) 10/02/02

Tuesday October 1

RUSH TO RELEVANCE: Salman Rushdie has, "in the last few years, fallen from vogue, but the events of the world have conspired to prove his enduring relevance. If Rushdie has yet to develop a specific American aesthetic, his career has nevertheless given him a special understanding of the challenges this country is currently facing." Salon 10/01/02