I’ve been piling up interesting links for the past month, but was too busy to spin them into a posting until now:
– As I expected, The Rest Is Noise, Alex Ross‘ Web site, has evolved with startling rapidity into a must-read blog. See, for example, this characteristically smart comment about the use of Anton Webern’s Piano Variations on the soundtrack of a Sopranos episode. To me, of course, Alex’s posting merely offers further proof of my own unswerving conviction that atonal music, be it twelve-tone or freelance, requires the superimposition of some exterior form of logic in order to add up to something more than just a nonsensical succession of non-random sounds. (I’ve never forgotten the day that my old piano teacher David Kraehenbuehl, a Hindemith pupil, announced to me midway through a lesson that Webern wrote “cocktail music.”)
I once went so far as to suggest in print that it would someday be proved scientifically that atonality contradicts the natural law of music–or, to put it another way, that the human brain is hard-wired to comprehend and appreciate tonal music–and sure enough, studies suggesting as much are now starting to turn up in the scientific literature. Courtesy of artsjournal.com, our invaluable host, here’s a summary of the latest evidence.
– Another of my favorite new blogs, Jaime Weinman‘s Something Old, Nothing New, reports on the contents of the next Looney Tunes Golden Collection. Alas, it won’t be out until November, but at least you can start drooling. (By the way, Jaime is Sarah‘s brother, which speaks well for their shared gene pool.)
– Erin O’Connor, who blogs at Critical Mass, recently posted a list of “history books, historical novels, and biographies that meet two essential criteria: they are well written, and one does not need to have a lot of prior background in order to enjoy them.” I approve wholeheartedly, as that’s the kind of book I like to read and try to write. The list–together with comments by Erin’s readers–is here. No less intriguing is another list of “words I sincerely dislike, in no particular order,” which happens to include a half-dozen words that also figure prominently on my list.
– The unnervingly well-read Gwenda Bond thoughtfully responded to my pair of postings
about my new Max Beerbohm caricature by linking to a delicious 1997 Atlantic essay about Beerbohm, written by none other than Teller (of Penn &). Her post will steer you to the essay in question.
– I never knew that Ed was a John P. Marquand fan. I wrote an admiring critical essay about Marquand’s novels for Commentary back in 1987, but wasn’t quite satisfied enough with the final product to include it in the Teachout Reader, though I did make brief mention of Marquand in “Seven Hundred Pretty Good Books,” my essay on the Book-of-the-Month Club, calling him “a sharp-eyed observer of American manners…unquestionably ripe for revival.” Maybe I’ll try again someday.
In the meantime, the Marquand novel I usually recommend to curious first-timers is Point of No Return, an elegiac study of suburban alienation whose opening chapters Walker Percy once compared in all seriousness to Kafka.
Incidentally, you’ll also find an unexpected reference to Marquand in this February posting about the jazz saxophonist Paul Desmond, to whose exquisitely melancholy music I’ve been listening ever since my reluctant return (nudge, nudge, Ed) from Cold Spring. Right now, for example, my iBook is playing “Audrey,” the delicate minor-key blues dedicated to Audrey Hepburn that Desmond recorded in 1954 with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. (It’s on Brubeck Time.) Very Marquandian, that.
While I’m at it, I should also note that one of the best pieces in the Library of America’s endlessly rereadable Reporting World War II: American Journalism 1944-1946 is Marquand’s “Iwo Jima Before H-Hour,” a piece of on-scene reportage at least as good as anything that A.J. Liebling or Ernie Pyle ever filed (which is really saying something).
– Felix Salmon dined at La Caravelle a week before it closed, subsequently posting this thoughtful mini-essay about changing fashions in cuisine–and art:
The patrons of La Caravelle were definitely of a certain age: I’d say there were more facelifts than there were people under 40. And it’s hard to see how the restaurant could attract a younger crowd without betraying all its finest principles of proper French haute cuisine. So it is destined to close, along with Lut